Identity, part 1: Traveling
I’m traveling alone. The last time I flew, I met Elise in Denver and we drove to Aspen to visit Paddy and co. There were so many joys of that trip, and sadness.
Traveling alone is weird. I’m used to running an odd errand alone, or commuting alone, or even from time to time connecting with a friend without my kids in tow. But flying alone feels a little like missing a limb. My carry-on backpack is so empty without the three days’ worth of snacks and books and extra-things-just-in-case.
When I was a new mom, other new moms would tell me they felt weird going out without their babies. They were so used to having to check on or hold or address the needs of their babies that when going solo, these moms felt like something was missing.
I felt guilty, sure, but also free. Like my old self.
Becoming a parent rocks one’s world in a way I could not have anticipated and still have trouble describing. Yesterday I met my college friend Pete and his wife and their eleven-month-old (super incredibly adorable) baby. Pete and I connected briefly about the weirdness of getting up in the morning and having one’s child dictate the routine, rather than having our old adult agenda.
When I went back to work, there was so much chaos around my new job: crammed into the only available office space, lacking a phone number (or phone), starting a week into the school year. Still, the instant I set up for my first class, I had an overwhelming sensation of being home. Where I am meant to be. Where people know me as a professional and not as “the mom of triplets” (which of course I am proud to be, but it’s odd to have that become my defining quality after over a decade of teaching).
Now my identity is so bound to my kids that I miss them like crazy already, and I haven’t even gotten on the plane yet.
My mom identity also has helped me look at others differently. More compassionately. Last weekend, we went to the crowded Tulip Festival and people-watched. Today I walked the length of the airport to get to an empty security line, and noticed. The people I used to silently mock for their pretension or their disorganization or their tackiness.
I mean, how do people look at me, corralling my troupe or in my Value Village playground-friendly fashion?
My new identity has become, simply, my identity. More complex than it used to be. At first it brought confusion and instability; now it is its own stability and comfort.
I’m glad I miss my kids now. It makes me appreciate solo travel and people-watching and working. And flights without negotiations over Mommy time are refreshing when they happen.