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A Mom Traveling Without Kids: Going to Vegas (And Cleaning My House)

Vegas, baby! My husband must have said this a dozen times in the last week. Vegas—a place my husband LOVES, despite his unanticipated “contributions” to the Nevada economy over the years.

“Hon, you should join me,” he said, casually, one day back in January. He had a business trip scheduled for a few days in February, THE worst month in Cleveland.

“It’ll be great. You can relax while I am in meetings, read your book, sit by the pool, exercise…”

I held up my hand to stop him. “You had me at hello.” I booked my flight the next morning. One week later, arrangements were made for the children. Check.

Two weeks later, the phone calls started—the dentist appointment that I’ve been putting off for months, the veterinary checkup for the dog, the jeweler for those necklaces I’ve been meaning to repair, etc. I can’t stop the sudden urge to plan out the next year—or five.

One week later, I typed up the schedule for the children. Three days before the trip, I tucked each child’s medical card into the side compartment of their overnight bag.

“Just in case,” I told my middle one.

“In case I have to go to the hospital?” he asked with that look of his.

“Well, sort of—don’t worry—just for precaution.” I looked at him as though seeing him for the first time and finally understood why he’s a worrier.

Vegas, baby! The morning finally arrived. Kids were sent off with notes for teachers and big hugs and kisses. The heat was turned down, the light timer set, the dog taken to the kennel. Check, check, check, check, check. With one hour to go until I needed to leave for the airport, I began the mad dash around the house, putting things in order that haven’t been in order in months, no years—okay, never. I made piles, organized the junk drawer, checked under the beds, organized the children’s rooms, threw out pens that don’t work, folded clothes in the dresser drawers. I could hardly breathe, but such is the life of a contestant on The Amazing Race.

What was I doing? I am never like this. Sure, I like my house clean as much as the next person. Actually, that’s not even true—I like it organized, uncluttered. I could care less about dust and my dog’s nose marks on the glass. But, 31 minutes to go, and I couldn’t stop myself. Why now? Why at this moment was I making like my mother? It’s because even though I feel it is 100% safe to fly, I was sure I was going to die.

There—I said it.

My House Is A Mess And I’m Traveling?

But, it’s not just that fear. It’s also the fear that follows death, the oh-my-god-they-are-going-to-discover-my-house-wasn’t-perfectly-in-order-and-I-wasn’t-perfect fear. If I die on this plane, it will all be out in the open—my messy junk drawer, Ethan’s shorts mixed up with his shirts, pens that don’t work, and yes, the biggest crime of the century: two-week-old leftover chicken in my refrigerator. Oh, the shame my family will feel; the horror it will bring my loved ones, the whispers about my lack of housekeeping skills.

I can hear them now: “Yeah, she always seemed so organized, so together.” They continue with a “Tsk tsk” followed by that awful clicking sound people make with their tongues when they are disgusted with something. All of it just out there, waiting to be discovered. The thought kept me racing with only 22 minutes to go.

I was never like this. I used to leave my house with the newspaper open on the table, some dishes in the sink (who was THAT woman?), drawers open and lifeless pens abounding.

I’m not even sure I verified that the doors were locked.

Is it age that is starting to redefine me or is it just being a mom? What am I really afraid of? I couldn’t help but wonder if my housekeeping frenzy was a cover-up for what I was truly afraid of. Eleven minutes to go with no one to save me from myself.

I looked around—pretty good, I thought. I straightened the children’s cubbies, lined up the boots on the rug and cleaned out my coffee cup. Whew. Ready to go.

As I pulled out of the garage, I realized how excited I was to go away for the weekend.

I pressed the clicker and backed down the driveway. Buh-bye snow.

It wasn’t until I arrived at the airport that it dawned on me—I forgot to organize the papers—all facing the same way—in the recycling bin. There goes perfection.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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