Setting Sail, and Throwing Guilt Overboard

I keep trying to think of a clever start to this post, and all I can come up with is this:

Tomorrow, I’m off on a cruise, without my husband or the boys, I will be gone a total of four days, and I don’t feel guilty.

Sailing away, sans kids.

Sailing away, sans kids.

At least, I don’t feel guilty any more.

The trip was organized by a writer’s community I belong to — it was decided that in a down economy, trying to pull together an honest-to-God conference with speakers and editors (you know, the kind of business trip you don’t feel guilty at all about, because it’s bound to boost your bottom line, and it’s tax deductible — it’s work) seemed like too much. So a cruise plan was hatched, and if you’ve checked cruise prices lately, you know that a three-day trip to a sunny locale can be cheaper than taking a family of four to Yankee stadium for a game. Seriously.

When the cruise came up as a possibility, my first reaction was, no way can I go! My husband had just started his new job, the one that rescued us, in the nick of time, from scary scenarios like choosing between cashing out our retirement savings and losing our home. But I did the math, and since as I mentioned the trip is almost insanely inexpensive, and because it is going to involve at least a little conference-y work (and so will be at least in part a tax deduction on my business), and because I’d be paying it in small installments over the several months before the actual cruise, I could actually swing it.

So here I am, less than 24 hours to go until I get on a plane to Miami to meet the ship, and I’m guilt free. (I’m also not packed yet, but that’s another story.)

When I was struggling with guilt over this, it was not because I felt bad leaving my boys with their dad for four days. It was that whole, “does Mama deserve this” thing. And hells yeah, she does. I’ve been running on every available cylinder for … um, let’s see … seven years? Since I became a mom? Even moreso in the last year and a half, when my husband was out of work and my up-today, down-tomorrow freelance business supported us. I freely acknowledge that I’m a mess inside. I need that sun, that lounge chair, that endless ocean view, and the nurturing company of like-minded friends and fellow writers. My batteries are long past needing to be recharged.

And frankly, my children need a break from me. I know, in my mean-mother-heart-of-hearts, that this is good for them. I can envision my super-sensitive Daniel’s giant eyes filling up with tears now and then while I’m gone, wondering when I’m coming home (as easily as I can imagine James shrugging off my absence from his narrow little shoulders). But even a few moments of mommy-missing is going to be good for them. They don’t get nearly enough of it.

I’ve always said I suck at taking care of myself. (I am bad at pampering, I hate massages and dread pedicures and only like the end result of getting my hair colored and cut, not the “oh, just relax” salon vibe before that.)

But my sons actually need me to take care of myself better. And I’m determined to do just that.

So here’s my postcard from almost the edge:

[I plan to be ] having a great time! Wish you were here…

P.S.: With cruise prices this good? Oh, yeah, I’m doing this again. With the whole family. I hear they have unlimited pizza and ice cream!

[photo credit:]