There are so many great reasons to travel — language, food, culture, the open road. I did plenty of traveling when I was young. Flying solo, a girl can learn a lot about herself, about what she wants out of life.
It made me happy, until one day it didn’t anymore.
Then I got married and travel became a part-time hobby. Life took the reins, while work and other personal goals (like buying a house) pilfered our time and money. I don’t say that with any measure of bitterness or regret. Life is about making choices and I chose family — a decision that would have found me running for the hills as a young college grad, but now had me eagerly embracing a world of possibility.
Next came the wee ones —tiny humans who changed me in the most profound way. Life was no longer about what I needed or wanted. It was about keeping my babies safe and healthy. I did my due diligence as “mom,” a person who puts everyone else’s needs before her own to ensure the safety and sanity of her entire family. My life revolved around work (outside the home), followed by more, very rewarding work (inside the home). It was enough to keep me busy through the toddler years, until the day I realized my babies were not babies anymore.
That was about the same time I realized I was no longer me.
I used to think the frantic search for self-awareness was only for the young and confused. Now, verging on forty, as a wife and mother I find I rely all too much on the old adage “fake it ’til you make it.” My identity that was so self-evident in my mid-twenties had somehow disintegrated between the time I made that first mortgage payment and giving birth to my first-born.
Now I’m just mom.
Travel has always been a huge part of my identity. I’m not as well-traveled as some but, for me, it was never a numbers game. It‘s about the journey — the experience of being someplace new and different, and making the most of every opportunity to become a better version of myself.
Once I had kids, I lost touch with that inner drive to be better and the traveling took a backseat. All of my time and attention was now focused on them — on raising them to be the best people they could be. It felt unreasonable (unfair even) to expect that I could have my cake and eat it too. After all, I was mom first and foremost. I couldn’t leave my kids behind to venture out into the world alone.
And the truth is, my situation isn’t all that dire. I am so happy to be mom. It is the most fulfilling role, most days. Perhaps I should be content to live out my days as “just mom.” After all, there is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved — isn’t that right?
Flash forward to present day and I’m at home raising two very impressionable, school-age kids who believe I have all the answers. The pressure is on — if I do my job well, there is a good chance they will grow up to be well-rounded, discerning adults. Fail and, well, let’s not go there.
I stop to consider the disservice I’d be doing my children by sending a message that anything less than pure, unadulterated passion is acceptable. Yes, I’m content, but what about that passion — that zeal for life I felt once upon a time when I was so busy circumnavigating the globe that I didn’t have time to fake it?
So it’s time to embrace my inner nomad and lead by example. I don’t ever want my kids to feel anything less than whole. That means I can’t be anything less than whole.
Slowly but surely, I am finding my way back to my former self — the person I was before I became mom. The road is a bit different this time around. I am a bit different this time around. Stronger, more decisive, and a bit of an overachiever, I am determined to show my girls that I (and they) can be so much more than just mom.
I take a trip alone now and again, but more often I travel with my family. That way my kids get to experience the travel version of me — a playful, adventurous risk-taker, quite different from the reliable, daily-grind mom they know all too well. We are building an unbreakable bond, exploring the unknown together. They have become my superpower.
It turns out you don’t need to leave anyone behind to “find yourself.” To the contrary, it helps to have the support of those who know you best. I should really thank my kids for giving me this opportunity to see the world through a fresh set of eyes. It is already making me a better person, and that is making me feel whole again.