Am I ready for this?

I have an opportunity to travel to Cleveland and do some work for my old laboratory. Specifically, I need to train someone in a technique I helped develop, as well as launch a project that will result in another first authored paper for me. My airfare, cushy hotel, and nice meals will all be paid for, and I’ll receive an honorarium on top of that (i.e. I’m getting paid for this).

I really want to do this, not just for the opportunity to see my old mentor again, whom I adore, but for the career aspects of it as well. I also admit that the idea of spending some time alone for a while is really appealing.

But I’m also totally freaked out about it. Boss wants me to be there for 2 working days, and it takes a whole day to get there (b/c of the time zone difference), so basically if I left here on a Sunday morning and left there Tuesday evening I would not come home until Tuesday at around midnight. That’s three whole days and two whole nights without my kids.

I’ve never spent any significant amount of time away from my children. I haven’t spent a night without at least one of my kids in my arms since my DD was born almost 4 years ago. And psychologically, the idea of going 3000 miles away from my babies feels….just wrong. Like you know that movie “March of the Penguins”, how the Emperor Penguins all get out of the water one day and start marching to their nesting grounds, hundreds of them all in a row, filing along? Well, for me the idea of going so far away from my kids is like being one of those penguins and deciding one day to just up and walk off in the opposite direction from all the other ones. It feels against Nature, y’know?

There’s the usual round of Maternal Instinct paranoia. The plane might crash. I might get stranded there for days (at least I’m still connected by land, and would walk all the way home if I had to). Or one of my children might fall deathly ill and I won’t be able to make it home in time. Yes, these things worry me. My absolute worst nightmare, hands down, is dying while my children are still young. Despite knowing the stats, my heart believes that the chances of being accidentally killed rises with distance from my children.

From a more realistic perspective, can my kids handle it? I know DD can. She is almost 4 and has been without me back when DS was born and it was fine. She can phone me and talk to me and have an understanding of when I’m coming back. DS, on the other hand, who is only 19 months, is not verbal enough to understand that I’m going for more than my usual 2 – 4 hours. He will have no way of knowing if and when I’ll be back. I worry about this causing insecurity in him. OTOH, he’s such a laid-back kid. I can see him weathering it just fine. But I just don’t know for sure.

Then there’s the fact that he’s a nursling. I will have to bring a breast pump to relieve engorgement, and it will be sad to pour that life-giving substance down a sink drain. I worry that not nursing for 3 days will cause him to wean prematurely, which would absolutely break my heart. Nutritionally, the kid eats anything and everything so I’m not worried there. And he doesn’t nurse alot during the day, and probably wouldn’t even ask if I was not there. At night he often wakes to nurse, but if I’m not there it’s not like he gets hysterical. He just wakes up and then it means he’s up for a while. DH says he’s totally up for the challenge. He thinks I should go.

I toyed with the idea of dragging everyone along with me. Fare/hotel deals are cheaper than I thought and it would be feasible, financially. But when I thought about the logistics of it all, I had to ask myself why I was doing this. Dragging two young kids across the country on a long airplane journey, switching time zones, and then doing it all again 3 days later would be very stressful for them. Not to mention how exhausted I would be. And although DH or my mother would accompany us, what would they do all day? I’ve lived in Cleveland and it’s boring. And without a car there is nowhere to go, no matter where you stay, and lugging two huge car seats so we can rent a car….considering all this I realized it would be selfish of me. It’s unfair to the kids, and unfair to our family to spend even a moderate amount of money and time off from work for a vacation in a place we disliked so much I left a faculty appointment offer to come home. Why? So I can feel less anxious about being away from my kids? No, it just wouldn’t be fair.

Finally, I have to consider that one day I am going to want to do some travelling for work and one day another opportunity like this will present itself. Even if my kids are older, I still don’t think it’s going to be any easier. I will miss my kids terribly. Terribly. But I have been told by moms of older children that that never changes. So there is going to have to be a first time, and this might as well be it. Frankly, I think if I said no I’d be really letting Boss down. He has been SO good to me. I really owe him so much.

I’ve never been so torn. I want to do this, but I know I’m going to miss my kids so much….still, a hotel and a big bed all to myself and a big TV and room service….wow…

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