Traveling Without Kids

Traveling without your children seems as though it should be 100% spectacular. A gift from the heavens. And it is. Before kids I never understood why mothers would hesitate to take advantage of a kid-free trip. Your children are still there when you get back- what a great break! Enjoy what I have- freedom!

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But once your children enter your life, that’s it. I’ve heard many people say that having children is like having your heart outside your body. It’s wonderful with all that extra room to expand, with so much more capacity to love and be loved but it is now exposed, vulnerable, hard to protect.

Last week I was in Vancouver to see one of my best friends get married. I declared Anita my platonic soulmate when we first met (perhaps to her dismay or discomfort!) 12 years ago and to see her marry her romantic soulmate is not an occasion I would miss. It was my 4th time away from Austin overnight and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been away from Haines. While I’ve had to turn down both work trips and fun trips because of the babies (or the lack of money also due to the babies- pricey!) I don’t avoid traveling altogether. The time away resets and refreshes me. The infrequent work trips are valuable, and I try not to miss milestone moments with friends, just as I try not to miss them with my family.

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But the reality is it’s a struggle. It’s tears (mine) putting the babies down for bed and tears (mine again) before my first flight has even taken off, the anticipation of missing them already strong. It’s constantly wondering what they’re doing. When will I get an update, a photo, a Facetime? It’s wanting to hold every baby in the airport to smell their little heads and talk about my own cuties. It’s draining my phone battery looking at their photos.

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Travel does mean reading uninterrupted!

Travel is where Kat and Mama face-off. Part of me wants to go everywhere and do everything. Spend the money! Take the time off! Experience freedom and adventure! Tyler will hold down the fort at home- you deserve it. But the part of me that answers to Mama (or more often “What doin’ Mama?”) just wants to be at home reading Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too?” on repeat and feeling the tug on my pant leg as a baby pulls himself up to greet me.

And so it’s both. It is the occasional trip to a bachelorette or a wedding or a work conference that I try to squeeze every last drop out of before I go home and return to the world of both the routine and the sweet. Cuddles and chaos, diapers and bath time, playgrounds and teething, I miss you too.

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Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

Becoming My Parents

Growing up I couldn’t have been more embarrassed by my parents. It sounds silly but I know we can all relate to this feeling. It wasn’t my dad’s spandex bike shorts that really got to me or my mom’s cheesiness. It was the small talk. My parents are small-talkers. It didn’t matter where we were they would strike up a conversation with the nearest stranger. In line for the grocery store my mom couldn’t resist commenting on a cute baby or an usual food in their cart. My dad would always ask the server where they were from or talk to store owners about their business. Every time I would duck my head down low trying to hide from the strangers they were talking as well as possible onlookers. I did not want to be associated with these crazy, over-friendly people.

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Don’t be fooled- they’re very friendly. 

As luck would have it now I’m a dang small-talker myself. I should have known it would happen eventually, but I spent so much time being afraid of strangers that I hadn’t even noticed the change. Before I studied abroad my junior year of college my mother secretly got her passport because she was convinced I wouldn’t make it a whole semester away. In her defense, it did seem pretty unlikely. Raising my hand in class made my heart race. Walking a different path around the school filled me with anxiety. I went out of my way to never have to initiate conversations with people I didn’t know. Honestly I preferred not to initiate conversations altogether.

My semester abroad ended up being a wonderful experience but I was surrounded by people in the same situation, looking for friends. It wasn’t until I backpacked alone for a year that I truly put my fear of strangers to the test. This was hard. This was lonely. Some days I had to admit I didn’t have the energy to introduce myself to someone new. I didn’t want to ask them the standard backpacking questions (where are you from, where are you going, how long are you here, are you alone, are you working here, blah), but most days I got over it. If you want conversation over dinner or someone to explore a beach with you have to introduce yourself when you travel alone.

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These are total strangers I traveled New Zealand with. 

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It’s important to have these people to travel with otherwise you have to ask random people to take ridiculous photos of you.

Still it’s not backpacking that I have to credit my small-talking abilities to. It’s the traveling that gave me the practice but my parents showed me how it’s done. As the saying goes, they’ve never met a stranger. At my last Toastmasters meeting I was asked to give a short, “impromptu” speech on whether or not I was the type to talk on an elevator ride. The answer was pretty obvious and the club did not hesitate to tell me so after I spoke. That’s a wonderful feeling to know that I’ve come far from my social anxiety but also that others see it too.

Small-talking is sometimes painful and I just can’t handle it. Sometimes I still struggle when I have do a networking event or introduce myself to others. But I can’t deny that being a small-talker has gotten me travel tips, free drinks, friends and even the occasional job. For all those opposed, I highly recommend you give it a try.