Why Being Honest About Your Limits Can Be Productive
This past week we were in Palo Alto, California visiting my parents. They immigrated from India in the '80s to a quiet suburb outside of Massachusetts which they chose based on proximity to my dad's work and the quality school system (how did they know without the internet?). They moved from studio to apartment to condo to Colonial while I went from K-12. Eventually, when they got comfortable in the States, they got a summer home in Cape Cod that had weathered shingles, a peanut shaped pool and space to build a bocce court. It wasn't until they moved to Northern California and bought a Spanish style home with a little garden with an orange tree that I felt like their house felt like them.
I know I've become a bit of a grown up when I admit California is better for my parents. Truly - they walk six miles every day and twelve on the weekends. They detour through the farmer's market and buy fresh for every meal. All reason points to them staying on the west coast (best coast?). But it's hard to raise Bodie far away from my parents. I know a lot of women in this community may be further from theirs or worse, have lost one or both, so I can't complain.
Nothing gives me more relief than when Bodie beams when he sees them and grows obsessed with them over the course of a week. It soothes any worry that he'll grow up, like I did, without seeing his grandparents often enough. He asks for my dad every time he sees a plane and my mother is the only person besides Dan that he'll be handed off to without a fuss.
But it sucks to say, visits out to the Bay Area haven't been a total joy for us as a little family. It isn't because of the jet lag, which actually Bodie seemed to handle well. It isn't because of husband/in-law dynamics - they get along easily which makes my heart happy. And it isn't because it's work for me - my mother is a saint so I don't wash a single thing or cook a meal for the entirety of our stay. It's just because of me.
After a handful of passive aggressive quips, Dan and I sat down to figure it out by the end of the week. It turns out when I'm away from New York - I'm away from Bodie's routine activities, playdates and the park where we get to be social and without our sitter, I lose my two days when I get to write, go to my work place and mingle. And because Dan has to operate on East Coast time, he starts work there at 6am, cutting into the time I most love with just the three of us when we're home. He's driving into San Francisco for the days so we're literally in different places. Because my parents are there, Dan takes more of a back seat. Because I want to be with my parents, I don't take time for myself, away from Bodie. So I am fully mothering, and Dan is fully working, and that grey space in between where I remain creative and connected feels more black and white. The distance between Dan and I feels more extreme. And that makes me very, very cranky, which isn't good for anyone.
In calling it - calling my jealousy of Dan's days in San Francisco, my need for routine and breaks with a toddler, or my want for Dan's involvement, we were much more able to address my mood in a way that felt productive. We got to a plan moving forward to avoid unnecessary friction. My parents will keep coming here more often. They do it happily and that lets them see us in our element. When we visit them in California, we'll only do it at a time that is planned as vacation for Dan so that it's a time for both of us to enjoy together.
As mothers, it can be easy to write off moods as tiredness. Unpacking a bundle of nerves can be tricky when you have to admit you're not totally happy being somewhere you love with people you love. Visiting grandparents should be an amazing thing but if it comes with travel, a break with routine, and a change in dynamic, wrinkles are to be expected. As much as I felt guilty to admit my twinges of angst, doing the digging means the next time we can even more so appreciate the time we have by trying tiny adjustments and thoughtfulness.
Who knew something as benign as a trip to my parents could justify this long of a post? Everything's a work in progress with little ones in tow. Have you had a similar situation? I'd love to hear. xo