“American girl seeks friend. If interested, please meet at Piazza […]
“American girl seeks friend. If interested, please meet at Piazza Della Scalla at 7 p.m.” My hopeful words went onto a Facebook page for au pairs living in Milan, and then I tip-toed downstairs to prepare cappuccino for my employers.
As a teenage rebel, I knew a thing or seven about maneuvering quietly (err getting in-and-out of the house without waking my parents), and that information served me well as I found cups, measured grinds, and prayed someone answered my Facebook ad.
The Italian family that I worked for treated me like a designer-handbag. (The mother praised my ‘fine American accent and excellent schooling’ whenever her friends came to call, and she demanded breakfast be prepared without waking her.) I ached for someone to share a bit of conversation with—and, just maybe, a laugh. A potential friend felt like a lifeline.
That night, circa 7 p.m., the Italian gods did me a solid by sending a bibliophile with a love for dance floors to my fountain-side table. Kindred spirits, we both believed in reading all day, dancing all night, and traveling whenever and wherever possible. Fast-forward six-years, and the girl who answered YES to my Facebook ad is now saying YES to her high school sweetheart. Her man put a sparkling diamond on her left-hand, and so I helped plan a Las Vegas bachelorette party to shower her with love. Unfortunately, the fun destination required traveling up-and-away from my darling baby boy in Minneapolis.
After I planned the trip, a friend told me about a bachelorette party where a newly-minted mother missed her child so badly that she broke into tears on the dance floor. Oy vey: I felt the new mama’s pain, and I imagined myself crying while sipping champagne poolside and/or sobbing while eating Kobe-sliders on a rooftop.
My baby boy is my mini-me/sidekick/itty-bitty-partner-in-crime, and we’d spent 24/7 together for 158 days. I boarded a plane to Las Vegas, without him, on day 159. I felt acute separation-anxiety the moment I stepped on the flight, and I kinda-OK-actually daydreamed about running back home to coos and kisses and epic cuddles.
So why did I stay firmly strapped in to my window-seat? The answer is part confession: I’m a mother who doesn’t believe in always doing what’s best for her child. My boy is laughter and joy and curiosity and determination; he exceeds every hope and expectation I had for my son. And the only thing I love more than him? Us. Sometimes, instead of doing what’s best for him, I do what’s best for us.
‘I love us’ means valuing the family and friendships that my son was born into, and repeating the mantra ‘I love us, I love us’ reminds me to consider those relationships when making parenting decisions. For example? Staying home with my 5-month-old, rocking and nursing and cuddling, was probably the best thing for him this past weekend. The best thing for my friendship with Emily, however, was going to Las Vegas to celebrate her impending marriage. So what to do? Max would be more than fine staying home with his loving father and doting grandparents, and Emily needed me. Vegas it is.
I felt real pain on the airplane. The pilot happily announced an early arrival into Las Vegas, and I nearly cried for the ache. To counter the hurt, I reminded myself that the only thing harder than a two-day-separation from my son would be missing my best friend’s bachelorette.
I was, without a doubt, a mama in the club this past weekend. And you know what? The mama in the club missed her little cub. And yet, I put that pain aside in order to honor my friend. It wasn’t ‘best’ for my son or easy for me, but I did it because I love her and care about our friendship.
Babies are bliss, and friends are love, and we all need support and strength. I believe in finding balance as a mother, and, as my family grows and changes and develops, holding on to and honoring the friendships that made me the woman (mother, wife and friend) that I am today.