For the first time since Ira’s birth, I’m on my way to a professional conference. For five days, someone else will do the cooking and I won’t have to clean up after anybody (well, other than myself a little bit). I can easily take a shower every day if I want to (without any children asking to get in), and sleep past 5:00 am every single day! I’ll also get to stay up late talking science and drinking wine with my colleagues, with no worries about leaving work in time for dinner or daycare pickup. I get five whole days to focus on science that I enjoy and hang out with grown-ups. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy almost everything about taking care of my kids (I even enjoyed waking up with Ira very early this morning. He was very snuggly.), but still, this is a treat.
Even better, I get to do this without one shred of guilt. Because Gail and I have always made sure we each participate in all aspects of caring for our kids, I may be missed, but my absence won’t cause a huge change in routine for the kids. There will be fewer piggy-back rides for Leigh, and maybe a bit more rough-housing for Ira without my constant reminders of “be careful!”, but by and large, their days will be as usual. Gail will certainly be tired when I come home, but my mother-in-law has stepped in to help (and she’s the kind of mother-in-law who actually helps), and Gail knows I do the same for her (and I did, just a couple weeks ago, when she went to a conference). In fact, we both find we enjoy extended time on our own with the kids in a lot of ways. Life is a little simpler, even if a bit more grueling. We get into a nice rhythm, enjoying a feeling of general competence at this whole parenting gig (some of the time, anyway).
Upon return from her travels a couple weeks ago, Gail reported that upon hearing the ages of her kids, many folks would exclaim “Oh, it must be so hard to be away!” Never one to play the maternal martyr, her answer was an unabashed “Nope! I’m loving it! This is great!” I intend to take the same attitude, confident that my wife and kids are sailing along just fine without me, and profoundly grateful that we are both able to enjoy these work obligations and opportunities with relative ease.