Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Passengers with small children may now board. Without me.

“Boarding is now open for families traveling with small children.”  

Normally this would be go-time. The shot gun at the start of an exhausting and anxiety-ridden marathon.  But I let the message wash over me with a “see later suckers” smile on my face as I sit in the departure lounge reading an embarrassingly stupid escapist novel hidden by my kindle cover.  The other travelers shift impatiently and uncomfortably in their seats.  I exhale, relishing in the prospect of child-free travel.

This was my first work trip on my new job. 2 weeks in and I was jetting off to Bangkok for a conference.  There were a lot of mixed emotions here – excitement about the new job and opportunities for engaging in topics I feel passionate about.  The thrill of a free “work-cation” in an exotic location.  But also the worry about leaving my children (one still nursing) wondering night after night where their mother went.

But there were no mixed emotions about the flight. The flight was a veritable mom spa day.

Instead of being woken from a half-sleep haze to comfort a travel weary toddler, making a game of running down the narrow aisles and dodging irritated looks from newly woken passengers, I can read a book.  And stop when I’m tired.  I can watch a movie. The whole way through.  Someone brings me food and no one throws it in my hair. I can cocoon myself in blankets and wine and wake to people pouring me coffee and politely calling me “maam,” instead of screaching “MOM!!” and pouring multi-colored liquids on my lap.

All of which makes me realize that solo flying is.. um…  amazing. I mean, what do lone business travelers really have to complain about?  Too much sitting?  That’s like a problem royalty complain of. 

Just being on my own, making my own decision on no one’s schedule but my own feels like a sweet and guilty pleasure.  I can barely wipe the smile off of my face.

But then, as I slurp down the final sips of my coffee before our descent into the sun-drenched Asian capital, my breast start to swell with milk intended for a baby now thousands of miles away.  My body is reminding me of my duty, my primal biological imperative that no modern, flying, time-traveling bird can erase. And I feel every single mile of the half a planet that now separates us. 

Still, I know my boys are well cared for. Their father and second mother of nanny are showering them with love and keeping them safe.  The older boy will remain focused on the promise of a present upon my return.  The younger will likely forget the days apart after a few moments reunion. 

“They’ll be fine!” everyone tells me. And so I tell myself the same. And I’ll keep telling myself it all the way through the trip until I can return to my “mama spa day” flight home, with all the comfort and me-time made that much sweeter by the promise of wrapping my arms around my little solitude busters.