Last week, my 14-month old twins attended their first pool party without me. Their father and grandmother (my mother-in-law) went with them. It was a luau-themed party, and they wore these fabulous grass skirts courtesy of one of my husband’s cousins. They enjoyed swimming at the pool with their Papa, and when they were taken out of the water after about 20 minutes of splashing about, they were kicking and screaming and pointing to the pool, wanting to go back in even if their tiny baby teeth were practically chattering from the cold. Good times, all in all.
So where was I during this fun milestone? Where’s Mommy?
At around that time, I was off on a trip gaining firsts of my own. First time to travel to Central Mindanao, or the SOCKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) area. First time to work with a certain organization and the new set of people that comes with it. First time to take on fieldwork since I started to freelance/work at home when I got pregnant. First time to be away from the twins for as long as one week (the only other time we were apart was when they were around four months old, for five days).
Needless to say, it was hard. I was thinking about them every day, and every night I would still wake up several times, in sync to their feeding schedule. Fortunately, during meetings/interviews, my brain cells would kick in and I would be able to participate as I should, but in a lot of times in between—when I would see a little toddler at the airport, during the frequent van rides as we went from one interview to the next, when I would wait for sleep to overtake me at 3 am—I would be thinking of them, and missing them. FaceTime helped a little, although oftentimes the connection would be poor.
“It’s okay,” one of my new colleagues soothed me, when I told her that this would be my longest separation from my babies so far. She said something like “you also need to be away from them to love them better.” Because of course, nobody blames me for having to go, but still it seemed that there is a need to justify it.
Much as I found it difficult to be away from them, however, I really did want to go, and was happy for the opportunity that came my way. I used to do this sort of thing before I became a mom, and of course I would still continue to do it even after, even though it is true that my world’s axis has somehow tilted and everything looks and feels different since my babies arrived. Aside from the sheer practical need of having to earn income, I think I still need to work or to have some other preoccupation other than playing with the twins or changing diapers or whatnot. Because honestly, I think that sort of thing day in and day out would drive me mad.
I do sometimes ask myself why—why am I not like those moms who are really, really ok going at it full time even if it is very challenging—but if there’s anything I’ve learned since getting into this whole parenting thing, it’s that every mother/parent/family—every child!—is different. What works for one may not necessarily work for the other, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the one or the other is doing it wrong. It’s just different, period. And we are all doing the best we can.
And so, while my twins spent the week going about their routines without Mommy at her usual perch in front of her laptop at the dining table, Mommy was hopping from place to place in SOCKSARGEN, Dumaguete, and Siquijor, seeing new sights, revisiting some familiar places, meeting new people, growing bored at ferry rides, getting frustrated with some work stuff—basically doing other things. And when I came back home, there were hugs and smiles and kisses, and it seemed that neither one of the babies nor Mommy suffered any major trauma from the separation. They are still my babies, and I am still Mommy, albeit an occasionally distracted or absent one. And we are still all doing the best we can. And one hopefully not too distant day, we will all travel together.