Monday, January 15, 2007

Fear of Flying (and motherhood, too)

Originally uploaded by katebunge.
So today begins the culmination of several months of planning
and preparing for four nationwide training events that are being
hosted over the course of the next 5 weeks. When I started my new
job in early October, I have been doing close to nothing but planning
these events on a daily basis. So in the next 5 weeks, I will be
traveling to the central, midwest, south and northeast regions.
Outside of the fact that I am nervous as hell about the success of
these events, I am scared out of my wits of flying.

At the risk of sounding like a hermit, I have not flown in an
airplane since 2002. And I am not a flying novice (up until recently
of course). My first trip on an airplane was when I was five
years old, and it was by myself. Back then in the 70s, parents
could feel safe and secure about passing their kids off to
the nurturing female flight attendants. It was a quick flight from
New Jersey to Ohio, but I did that every summer to spend fun
times wth my cousins in the midwest. And didn't think anything
of it. In fact, as I got older, I used to time special music to the
takeoff and landings. Then, when I was about 19 years old,
I visited a friend in L.A. The transcontinental flight was about
5 hours, much longer of a flight that I had ever taken before.
But on my way out, I was lost in the scenery below, and again,
had no fear of flying at all. Until the return flight home.

On the return flight home, about midway, I suffered a
severe panic attack. I began wondering how we could keep
this huge jet up in the air for so long, how do we have so much
gas, are the pilots sober.... all sorts of things were running
through my head. And it didn't help that I was sitting next to a
kid that wouldn't stop kicking his seat. And it was nighttime.
I had never flown at night before. I didn't like it. Needless to
say, I kissed the ground like the Pope when the plane landed
and I have never flown with much frequency before. And without
a shot of bourbon and a valium.

This first leg of my next 5 weeks, I can drive to the first training
event. Next week, I've got a 3 hour flight first thing in the morning.
And I can't take a shot of bourbon and a valium, because I need
to work. And stay awake. I might just become a religious
zealot on the plane, as I grip the arm rests when the plane
takes off, revisiting my inner Catholic school student by
reciting the rosary.

So I've been a little stressed lately. Thinking about the
impending plane rides, the events themselves, making sure
I haven't forgotten anything, etc. My head has been completely
into my work since the new year. So imagine my ire when my
husband has the nerve to say to me yesterday that he thinks
I act "helpless" with our kids sometimes. This coming from
someone who recently couldn't muster up the wherewithall
to sign up for his own drawing class at the local art college.
But it got me thinking - does he have a point? It's a fact that he
stays home with them on a daily basis, and knows what
they like to eat, when they eat, what they like to play with. But is
he right? It's been flustering me ever since.

I think it's borne out of the fact that I no longer share that
habit with him any longer. He used to work part time and we
shared the responsibilities a little more , but now, I'm all work
and he's all stay at home. But is this such a terrible thing?
Is it so bad that I have my head in my job - I mean, the weight
of providing for the family rests on my shoulders, so how can I
possibly be everything to everybody anymore? Our daily
duties have been flipped by traditional standards, but it
became quite apparent to me that the knee-jerk reaction that
"mom is supposed to know best", has not gone away. And
what a double standard on working women like myself. It's
disdainful for women to not know their children inside and
out. Most people, including my husband obviously, are appalled
by a mother's bumbling attempt to get 2 kids out of the house
effortlessly. But what about his inability to function in the real
world and manage a checkbook. Needless to say, we've since
made up, as we always do, and this wasn't meant as a post
to bash my husband. But I couldn't help but think about how
we've comfortably we've settled into our roles.

But it's forced comfort.

Deep down inside I envy the stay at home moms. And he didn't
grow up dreaming about becoming a stay at home dad.

When I go to Target at lunchtime and I see a mom in jeans
toting two kids in the cart, I can't help but feel jealous. The grass
truly is greener on the other side, because I know some of the
SAHMs look at me with envy, but I think raising your kids is by
far the most important job in the world.

We should all live in each other's shoes someday. Problem is
if I traded shoes with a SAHM, I might not want to give them back.

Don't get me wrong, I do like my job. In fact, I love my job. And
when I was a little girl, I always dreamed of having a glamorous
job. Thing is, when I had my kids, my dreams changed and
the glamour job I longed for was a SAHM. But it never happened
and it never will. I've accepted it. So I live with the fear that I
will lose touch with my kids. Just as bad as I fear flying.


Blogger Mayberry said...

Probably I shouldn't have read this post on the morning of the day I am off on a 4-day business trip ... by plane. So you have my sympathies. And I always like to remind friends struggling with guilt and what-ifs that my mom worked full-time and then some from the time I was 3 months old until this past summer--and we are very close to this day.

11:12 AM

Blogger Christina said...

Oh, I'm terrified of flying, which is why we drive anywhere in the eastern half of the US. Flying to BlogHer last year was the first time I had been on a plane since 1996, and during each take off I got weird looks because I was practicing deep breathing and probably looked like I was practicing Lamaze breathing. I've never been able to get over my fear of flying.

As for the mom thing - like mayberry, my mom worked all the time, and I was with a babysitter most of my young life, but we're still very close. I'm lucky that I can work part-time, but I'm still jealous that I have to work at all. But that's what I get for marrying someone in the arts, right? ;) Although he would also love the chance to stay home and not work.

Oh, and not only am I the child-expert, but I also have to pay the bills and balance the checkbook, because he's not all that good at that, either.

12:40 PM

Anonymous L.A. Daddy said...

Oh, so many things in this post. But, being a man - and men don't like to just listen, they like to solve problems - I'll try to give some helpful advice about the fear of flying:

Here's what I do. I change fears. I know there's a chance the plane could go down in flames, but I also know there's more of a chance that I'll develop of blood clot and die from an aneurysm or heart attack from sitting on the plane seat. So, I focus on making sure I get plenty of circulation. I ball up my toes repeatedly, making little feet fists. Doing this over and over is supposed to help keep blood flowing in the legs. And I get up and walk around the plane whenever I can.

All that activity usually helps me forget I'm hurtling through the air in 30 tons of steel and wire.

12:41 PM

Blogger soccer mom in denial said...

You are a terrific mom! And try to enjoy the fun away from them - the hotel room (oh those sheets and towels!) and maybe a nice, strong beverage without having to rush.

Good luck! I hope your travels go well. Any chance the Northeast trip takes you to MA?

7:07 PM

Blogger creative-type dad said...

Flying freaks me out. I still don't understand how the thing stays up no matter how many times I've read about it.
I just leave it at magic.

As for SAH-moms/dads. One can't help but envy that. Everytime I see my daughter I get to urge to drop everything and stay home with her.

4:07 PM


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