Dispensible Me

Turns out the household doesn’t fall apart when I’m away.

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Published in Parents Canada in July 2012

The email message landed in my inbox like a gift from the gods…a weeklong yoga, meditation and writing retreat in the quiet mountain village of Tepoztlan, Mexico.

“There’s room for 10 women and one just dropped out,” wrote Alison Wearing, an award-winning Canadian playwright who was leading the trip. “Interested?”

Was I ever. I had never been away from home without my husband, Jeff, and daughters, Ruby, 14, and Lucy, 11, for more than a weekend. Since leaving the corporate world a decade ago to run my home-based writing and editing business, I juggled the demands of work deadlines with the whirl of daily domestic duties - packing lunches, prepping dinner, keeping the fridge stocked, the dog walked, the laundry folded, the bills paid and the school trip forms signed.

When my girls came home from school at 3:30 p.m., I turned from the computer to make them a pot of tea and hear about their day. Most of the time I was content tending the home fires, but sometimes it felt like my own light was getting a little dim.

I was always on the move, to-do lists swirling in my mind. Stories I wanted to write were percolating in my head, but I couldn’t find the time to get them down on paper. I longed for some adventure, to visit a place I’d never been before, an opportunity to meet new people, for time to be alone to read, daydream, to be still.

This trip promised all that. “Think of it as your get-out-of-jail-free card,” quipped my husband, who urged me to go on the trip. I hardly thought of my domestic life as one lived behind bars, but I did want to break out - just for a little while.

I’d been saving up for a mini bathroom reno but the fancy new low-flush toilet and state-of-the-art rainfall showerhead would have to wait. I prepared to pack my bags.

Perhaps it was maternal arrogance, but some part of me wondered how they would all possibly survive without me. As the sole cook in the house, I didn’t want them subsisting on TV dinners and take-out. So I packed the fridge and freezer with labeled meals and filled the cupboards with snacks. I enlisted friends to have my family over for dinner.

For the first time ever my girls would come home from school to an empty house until my husband got home from work. I asked a neighbour to check in on them periodically.

After all, I was the one who kept the household engine running smoothly. Would it fall to chaos and ruin while I was away?

Turned out my family didn’t just survive, they thrived.

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