When I accepted an out-of-state position, I automatically assumed it would include an in-that-same-state home and school for my children--particularly for Kyra to have the traditional first day of kindergarten send-off. Despite my relative silence in recent months, most any post I've written has referred to the selling of our home....more aptly referred to as the marketing of our home that still refuses to sell. "No worries," we told ourselves earlier in the summer. "It's new to the market, and no one is buying on the 4th of July....or in early August....or in late August....or despite the drop in interest rates." Would I have accepted this role if I had known it would mean a sojourn of yet-to-be determined length away from my best friend and partner, and more gut-wrenching still, my two and five year olds? Could I have accepted this role if I had known how it would feel on Sunday evening to face the prospect of days and nights away from their sticky fingers and slippery soft tub-time skin? It's hard to say....
A colleague and friend at the Women at Work Museum in Attleboro, MA debuted a new documentary in January to honor the 20 year history and legacy of the Challenger mission and tragedy. Centered around the life of Christa McAuliffe, the documentary brought back to life my image of the woman chosen to be the first teacher in space. The image from the documentary that caught my eye and mind, however, was that of Christa McAuliffe as mother. Believing herself to have the opportunity of a lifetime, Christa not only took a year long leave of absence from her school in Concord, NH, she also took leave of her family, moving to Houston and relying on phone calls and too-infrequent visits to connect with her children and husband. Her kids were young--six and nine, I believe--and they were swept along, willingly or not, on their mom's mission and ultimate loss.
I don't for an instant pretend that my pioneering move to Connecticut resembles Christa McAuliffe's move to Houston and eventual goal of space travel, but I suspect seeing her sacrifice, and the sacrifice of her family, created the foundation on which I could make this decision. Though the job I now have wasn't yet crafted, and I wasn't yet certain I would search my way into a new role, the seeds of possibility and progress were planted. Whereas centuries have passed with men leaving their families behind for days, weeks, or months on end, it still feels new to much of the world for mothers to have anything but a part-time role out of the home and in the world. Christa's tragic death can detract from her courageous choice, sometimes bringing me too close to the risk and the "what if?" worries as I pull out of my driveway. More often, though, I am reminded that mothers are mothers both in and out of their homes. I set aside the "what if?" worries, and I drive to a decision I believe will ultimately be right for me and my family both. Along the road, I take comfort in knowing there are many others like me--mothers who are full-time students, mothers employed in full-time plus roles near to home, mothers blazing a trail to a new family destination and opportunity, and mothers serving overseas in lands and circumstances that make my two hour drive home seem like heaven on earth. Last night--that infamous Sunday evening--the progress that brought me the opportunity to work and live away from my children felt like anything but. Today I'm trying to relish in the joy of where I am and what I'm doing, while still sitting with the sadness of the temporary separation.
I was speaking with a new colleague on the phone the other day. Realizing as though for the first time that I spend my weekdays away from my children she asked, "And who is mother while you're here?" Foolishly I answered, "Their father, and aunt, and day care teachers, and friends." I wish now I had paused with the question and answered with confidence, "I am."