And Just Like That, I was Crying Uncontrollably

Judgemental Expression - Stockphotos

People judge. They judge others every day, haphazardly. It’s like a plague that eats away at you. Today, I judged myself and just like that, I was crying uncontrollably in crowd of people. I couldn’t stop but I was in the city and I couldn’t hide. So I cried and rather than people judging, a friend, in the guise of a stranger, was there. Kind, considerate, understanding. I wasn’t alone.

It started yesterday. I was feeling sick about leaving Athena home for 2.5 weeks. It was a bad decision. I got caught up in it. She was going to join me and we’d spend the time visiting Latvia and Austria together. It was going to be beautiful. A bonding experience that I’d never forget. Something that would make me stronger as a mother, and I knew I was capable, but was it good for her? People started to judge. Asking me if I thought it was too far or too long of a flight. Asking me if she was too young. Asking me…; you know… just asking and asking. It ate away at me until I was consumed with it. Was I being a bad mother for dragging her on flight after flight for a trip that she’d never remember?

My mother-in-law offered to take care of her while I was away and I said ok. I convinced myself that it was best. She did it out of kindness and love and I even thought it would be good for Athena to spend the time with her grandmother, but deep inside I knew I would be the one to break. The daily moments are special because I share them with her.

In Latvia, I managed. I was touring regularly with a representative from Live Riga and she was more like a friend or even family member. It made it easier. Bearable. Even fun.

Then, I arrived in Austria and I was feeling more uneasy. It was a new city with new people and new experiences. Vienna is one of the places that I had on my list since I was a child. History, culture, beauty, music, palaces, and charm; I longed to experience it.

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

I visited Schoenbrunn Palace yesterday and it was filled with gems for the entire family. As I strolled through the zoo, I saw a hippo and I remembered Athena’s reaction to the hippo at San Diego Zoo. She couldn’t stop laughing at the hippo poopies (the hippo’s tail). I laughed at first but quickly fought back tears because she wasn’t at my side to see the new hippo. I shook my head. Shook it off. I would see her in less than a week. She was fine.

Palace Paths, Vienna

Again at the Children’s Museum, I fought back tears as I watched little girls trying on real princes dresses and exploring the children’s rooms in the palace. It was only a matter of time before I lost it. There was so much that Athena would have loved. The zoo, the dresses, the horses, the real carriages that looked like something from Cinderella.

Palace Paths, Vienna

Carriage, Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

There was so much that I loved. The palace, the zoo, the gardens, the traditional dinner, and the Mozart concert. It was more than I ever imaged. I was in the pages of royal history and walking their paths. I managed. Then today came.

I visited Prater Amusement Park and I sat down to eat kasekrainer, a sausage with cheese. (It was absolutely delicious by the way.) I was the only one sitting in the out-door dining area but I could see people walking by. In that moment, my mind was still. I wasn’t thinking about where I was visiting next or what train I had to catch.

Those judging demons crawled through my brain like a spreading virus. Why did you leave her home? Why did you listen to others? You could have managed. She’s home without her mother. She’s going to remember that you abandoned her. And just like that, I was crying uncontrollably.

The tears rolled down my cheeks. I turned my head away from people passing by but they were on both sides. I held my breath and counted to five. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Think of something else. Get control. Salzburg tomorrow. What time am I getting the train? When should I pack my bags? More tears. More people noticing. Less control. Damn it! I could feel my face getting red. Blotted with marks.

Then a woman, alone, sat down at the table with me. Something in German. “I only speak English; I’m sorry.” Calmly, she said, “It’s a cold day, isn’t it? Can I help you?” I shook my head and said, “I’m sorry. I’m just visiting and I’m away from my daughter. I just miss her. Everything is fine.”

We chatted for more than 30 minutes. She said that she didn’t have somewhere that she needed to be, other than there. She’s a mother too, although her children are grown.

She said that while my daughter may remember me being away, she will also cherish all of the worldly stories that I have to share with her and all of the future adventures that we will have together. She will know that she is loved and I am a good mother.

I came to Vienna for the culture, the history, the sights, the sounds. Not once did I think I was coming for the people. It never crossed my mind. Yet there she was.

Not judging.

All of this made me cry more because I knew it was true. But now I was crying for a different reason and I wasn’t alone so I didn’t care.

Vienna, you have everything I dreamed you would have but you have so much more. Clara, you have revived my view on strangers, who are not so strange.

We are all alike and never alone.

I am a good mother and I love my daughter with every ounce of my heart. She brings a light into my life that burns so bight it can be felt and seen from all corners of the world. These next few days will be filled with new experiences and I will share them all with Athena when I return home. She will always know that her mother loves her and every precious moment spent together.

Share this post as a reminder that we all need a little less judgement in our lives and enjoy the blessing that we are given.

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96 thoughts on “And Just Like That, I was Crying Uncontrollably

    • I’m still torn with my decision. So many parts of the trip would have been very difficult for Athena yet there are so many things she would have enjoyed.

      How many children do you have? Boys? Girls? Both? Congratulations on being a mother; as all parents know, it’s not a simple task but the rewards are endless. 🙂

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      • I have two girls, they are 19 and 18 now, I have been thinking about you all morning, and while it is a heart wretching decision, we have to remember that children are adaptable, they adapt to everything. They will suffer through or go through things that us adults can’t endure.
        I just think, do you want Athena to grow up saying, my mum took me everywhere, she never left me out of anything. Some was hard, but I had great adventures, or do you want her to say, my mum didn’t take me places, I missed her a lot when she was away. I say, if you are this torn about it, then maybe next time you will think differently about it. Mums always know what is best (most of the time), I can’t stress that enough.

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  1. Hey.. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Being judged is what most of us fear yet we can’t help it. Whether you do things right or not, or you are being nice or mean, there are people who will readily judge, question you or undermine your decisions. It’s human nature to question the others as an affirmation that one is superior. An ego boost if you will.

    Just take pictures and write down your thoughts or experience of those photos at the back of each of them and your daughter will soon see them and will appreciate you regardless if you brought her along or not. 🙂

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  2. Beautiful and inspirational. Your story really restores my faith in humanity–both through Clara, a perfect stranger, comforting you and your desire to be a good mother.–I see kindness and selflessness here–two attributes that are exceedingly rare. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I remember the first time I left my daughter overnight. I cried, too. It was so hard.

    Like your new friend, Clara, I once made a friend with Grace, who was Chinese. She and her husband came to the US to make a life for themselves and a better life for their daughter. But after six years in the states they were still struggling and had not yet been able to send for their daughter in China. When Grace told me the story we cried together – strangers in so many of the ways of culture and language, but bound by motherhood.

    Your daughter will be back in your arms soon, and she’ll hold nothing against you. She will only be happy to see you.

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  4. Hi, once I wrote to you that my happiest time of traveling was coming and sitting on my couch. That’s my shorthand. For those of us who constantly travel to make a living, we know that it is very hard. Yeah, sure. There are the usual travel complaints… things you aren’t used to – food, water, language, customs and on and on. That’s nothing. Your get over them. Or, you don’t go out again.

    But, there is also the knowledge of what you are missing at home. A friend of mine — one time drummer in one of Bob Dylan’s touring bands — said that it wasn’t the changes he missed, but the context between the changes. It took him weeks after returning home to figure out what he missed. Me too. Even in this world of constant communication, you aren’t there to see it with your own eyes.

    I’m a guy. I can’t know what a mom feels being away from her child. But, it must be very intense. I have very little advice to offer except for one thing. It’s about the same thing I tell young photographers on their first location shoot and who have seemed to have built their own mental block. Get out of your hotel room, get out of your head and do what you went there to do. Get into it as deeply as you can. Yeah, I know. It’s those midnight hours that get you… just know that your readers are with you. — Ray

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    • Thank you, Ray!

      My complete outlook on life and people has changed because I am able to travel and experience new countries and cultures. I always want that to be part of my life. I’m grateful for the opportunities.

      Being away from Athena is difficult beyond words. I don’t regret my decision but it has made me look differently at traveling with her. We are capable of making anything work as a team. If I have the opportunity to bring her next time, she will be at my side.

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      • The thing to think about for the future — it is very positive if you work it — is about her education while you travel. When you’re ready we can talk about it. But, my God daughter’s mom is a very well thought of school teacher and she truly believes that children can and should skip school in order to travel… as long as you can teach Athena about where she is and what she is seeing and how it relates to her “normal” life.

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  5. I had to push back my tears for this. It’s so bittersweet, I’m not a mother, but I have learned from my mother that you can multi-task (of course she didn’t travel the world like you) but she was married, had a disabled child who could hardly do anything for herself, and had another child that she had to take care of as well. Somehow she got through it…later on she went back to college and got her degree and got a job, while one daughter stays at home and the other is away at college. You have to do what you have to do. Athena is still young enough that she can be easily distracted by anything, so I’m betting your mother-in-law is having so much fun with her. That lady was right, Athena will LOVE your stories when she’s older, you’ll inspire her to go out and explore the world too one day. That’s what you should be keeping in mind. By the way, love the pictures! 🙂

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  6. Thanks for sharing this…sometimes the easiest of things (sitting down with a stranger and just being there for them) is the most meaningful. Good to remember that. And from your reaction, I see a visit to Austria for BOTH you and Athena in the future…and now you will know all the best things to do! 🙂

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. There was a much-needed reminder to myself to stop judging myself so harshly. I can guarantee you, even without ever knowing you that you are and will continue to be a fantastic mother. And that woman is right, your precious little girl will cherish all of the things that you have to share with her as she grows. Continue being amazing

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  8. Yes, you are a good mother and no, I would never judge you for traveling without your child. Such life you now have to share with your child one day! A tender and lovely story you write. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Hi Lesley,
    I kept wondering where you were in your Latvia posts. I missed seeing you!
    Thank you for sharing yourself with us. To me it sounds like Austria being somewhere that you had dreamed of visiting since you were a little girl, was something you wanted to experience with your daughter? How wonderful. What a lucky little girl, to have a mum who wants to experience seeing the world with her and I’m sure she will be at your side in the future, as and when you are able to share your adventures with her. Being a Mum pulls out of a woman so many different emotional experiences and challenging thoughts which we learn and grow from, both as a person and a mother. It helps you become aware what is important to you in your life and how you will manage and make decisions in the future with regards to your family. Its all part of growing up I think. 🙂

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  10. As the mom of three, now grown up, I think you made the right decision. Children need the experience of being cared for by other family members. It is part of French culture and African culture. My children didn’t get that chance. But children need to see the world through the eyes of more than two grown-ups (mom and dad). When mine were little I finally had to hire some help even though we didn’t have much money because I had no family here to help out. It was a good decision for everyone. And now you can go home and tell her everything you saw in bedtime stories at night and both of you will look forward to come back together one day when she really is old enough to travel on a trip like this and enjoy it. And I so understand your tears. I had them, too, in the rare times I left mine behind. It just says how much we love them!

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    • I remember being left with my grandmother to watch us while my parents went on a trip. It is full of great memories with my grandmother and brother that I think about often. I know it was difficult for my mom but they enjoyed themselves and we did too. Thanks for sharing your experience, Lesley. I’m glad you had someone to talk with when you needed them. 🙂

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  11. My children are 10 and 12 and I STILL find it difficult to leave them for very long. My Love summed it up best, however: “They will appreciate you all the more when you return, and love the stories you have to tell them.” Your independent and loving spirit will cultivate the independence in your daughter, too. You’re both strong enough to be “okay” without the other precisely because you’ll both be reunited again soon. 🙂

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  12. Honey, she will read this blog when she is older and cry happy tears for this beautiful demonstration of love for her. Yo were am awesome mother indeed!

    When you get to Salzburg, you will be amazed at how small the church is where the wedding took place in “The Sound of Music”. It looks huge in the movie by comparison. Be sure and check out the pianoforte that Mozart learned to play on as well.

    Have fun. Enjoy your tears and smile through them!

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  13. Speaking as a mother of two, one of which has autism, I have heard so much judgement from every corner. It’s so easy to judge our fellows that I think sometimes we forget that they probably judge themselves more harshly than we ever could. So, speaking as a self judgemental mother, thank you for posting this. I know I’m too hard on myself sometimes. Thanks for helping me remember.

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  14. I might as well cry some more today…feeling your pain as you shed your tears…I was feeling sad this morning …and later found that a fellow blogger (Terry)…you might know her…anyway… her brother passed…I had visited them …and felt like they were part of my family…Across the miles…one visit…I’m blubbering like a baby!… YOU are a great Mom…and don’t you forget it!… we sometimes make decisions we regret…but, I feel you chose wisely!

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  15. We all have those moments. I have to travel often for work and leave my little ones home with their dad. We Skype every night and there little voices pleading me to come home kill me each time. But I also know if they came with me they would be spending all day in a hotel room with a nanny instead of at their school with their friends. Other times you just need a break. Other times you give into peer pressure and do or don’t bring them when you wanted to do the opposite. But a good mother is the one racking their head over the decision and weighing the pros and con’s. And a good mother is the one crying on a bench missing their child 1/2 way around the world. There is no doubt in my mind your a good mom. Because a bad one wouldn’t even have thought twice.

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  16. You are most definitely a Wonderful Mother. Although I have never had children I can imagine how much you miss her. So glad that the woman sat down and talked to you. That is wonderful. Thanks for opening your heart ♥

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  17. You are a good mother, you love your daughter and you are both very blessed to have each other. A bad mother would not care at all. Your feelings are natural. Lovely story….

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  18. I went to Ireland for a couple of weeks when my brandbaby was about Athena’s age. I cried like a baby when I couldn’t talk to her via Skype like we had planned. I literally sat on a wall and balled. Poor husband ran all over the town trying to find an internet cafe that was working. I felt horrible for leaving. And I wasn’t even the mom! Don’t let anyone else put those doubts in your head. You going on a trip (work or vacation) does NOT mean you don’t love your child. And wanting your child on a trip with you???? Certainly does not mean that either. I’m glad you found a new friend. 🙂

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  19. Lesley there is no perfect answer other than the fact you clearly are a good Mom. There are parts Athena would have liked and parts that she would have been miserable. As much as it is important to spend time together, it is also important for each of you to have time alone. It allows her to grow in other ways and build relationships with the very special people in her life.It is definitely okay to cry and to miss her desperately. My baby will be turning 30…I swear its still hard to turn the maternal instinct off. 🙂

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  20. I once left my 2 sons – Alex was 1 and Chris was 4 – with my husband while I went to Malaysia and Singapore for 10 days. I called everyday worried that they were missing me. It was like a bachelor fest for them without me on the scene making sure they ate a decent breakfast. They did not miss me. Today they are 15 and 19 and don’t remember me being gone that long but they remember all of the presents. I brought back a separate suitcase full of stuff for them. It was like Christmas all over again.

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  21. Being a mother means always being in two worlds and never feeling like you’re doing enough in either one, wherever you are. But how amazing that Clara helped you realize that you don’t have to feel guilty and you can gain so much to share with her!

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  22. There is lots and lots of times you will travel with your daughter. She is little now and some of her new experiences may be forgotten because she is so young. On the other hand, as a mother, listen to your own gut but I’m sure she’s having a wonderful experience with her grandmother.

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  23. Thank you for sharing your story. Yes indeed … we need to judge less. And btw, I don’t think anyone who reads your blog can ever question the love you have for your child. If they do … they’re nuts. I guess I just judged huh?!!! LOLOL! But you know what I mean. 😀

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  24. Lesley, I just had “girl’s weekend” with several of my “besties” from Santa Cruz. They all left their kids to see me in Arizona for the weekend and each one felt this same struggle. Yet, each of them know (now after the third annual girl’s weekend) that each of them returns a better mom and their kids, husbands, (and even the dogs!) miss them so much that it gives them all a deeper appreciation. And I concur with “Nicky” above–there is no doubt about the love you have for your daughter! So glad this country had a beautiful, kind soul to be with you during your dark time.
    hugs,
    Julie

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  25. What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing it. For your daughter, she has a win-win deal – she would have liked the trip, but she probably also loves her grandma time. But as moms we never stop with the second-guessing. This was a lovely reminder to trust ourselves and then let it go!

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  26. Thanks you I got weepy reading. Icried a lot today bc my son didnt do well on an aptitude test on.writing and here Iam.trying to be a blogger & writer so somehow I turned it into all bout me failing as a parent . So I appreciate your honesty, I get it whenever I leave them I feel it. Have fun. Enjoy it. U r good mom! Glad someone reached out to you.

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  27. Lady, you are one helluva mom. I am sure Athena had the time of her life with gramma and she will tell you all about it. And as she gets older, you two will travel the world together.

    But right here right now, you cry when you want to. Mom law says you can and I will punch anyone who judges you in any way negativly! By the way, hippo poopies stil makes me laugh!

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  28. Awe! I don’t know how old your daughter is, but I agree with the German speaking woman. She will remember the stories you share with her, not the time you’re away from her.

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  29. Wow what an incredible story… I’ve had similar experiences, and whether or not you believe in divine happenstance, this kind of stuff definitely reminds all of us exactly that… That we are not alone and that we are loved beyond measure. Your softening story is so heartwarming, it made me tear up!

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  30. I think you are being way hard on yourself. You don’t have a full-time 9 to 5 job and you get to be with Athena nearly all the time. Most mothers would kill for that! My mother always felt guilty she couldn’t be a stay at home mom for me and my my sister but I never felt less loved or less appreciated than other kids (if anything, I thought my mom was more kick ass while my dad played the role of Mr. Mom in a away) And I am sure Athena feels the same way about you with your sense of adventure and fun. Sure, being away for 2 weeks is a long time but you can take her on the next trip. Traveling with a small child is definitely not the same, but you can still do it. 🙂 My parents managed with me and my sister for many, many years on trips to France every summer and always found fun things for us to do, even when we could barely remember it. You can do it too! And Athena will love you for it. I’m speaking from personal experience. 🙂

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  31. Lovely post Lesley. I can relate! You are going to have plenty more times when you’ll be forced to make difficult decisions like this. And it’s easy to criticise your decisions afterwards. You’ll also have plenty of people eager to tell you what to do! You made the best decision you could for Athena, you regretted it, although on balance you know a lot of the trip would’ve been hard. This will help inform future decisions… Chances are you’ll take her on another trip sometime and think she might’ve been better at home:)
    Don’t worry about Athena, she’ll be happy enough sharing happy times and making memories with her Grandmother. She’ll miss you but she’s not sitting home thinking of you all the time and about how you abandoned her!! I remember bawling as I headed off on my first business trip after having my first child. He was about Athena’s age – I bawled in the taxi, I bawled when we took off from Heathrow. He was just fine and it was a wonderful experience for my husband and mother in law to have him to themselves!

    Later I took our second child on a business trip to Phoenix with me, and a colleague’s wife took care of her during the daytimes! She was really hard work, fun, but hard work – wide awake and excitable on the plane when I hopes she’d sleep and I Could work, jet lagged and wanting to play at 3am…when we has to be up at 6am and I had a day of meetings ahead:) And coming home in Business Class the look of horror on the business man’s face next to me (there’s a baby in Business!!! And it’s next to ME!!!) was one I’ll never forget. I discreetly let her nurse non stop the whole night and he congratulated me patronisingly on how quiet I’d kept her as we landed, but I was stressed and exhausted and the next trip I left her at home!!! There’s no absolute right answer if you made the decision with love for your child. But it’s great to try different things and learn what is best for you. Don’t have regrets. None of the kids remember me going on business trips, and none of them say ‘what? you left me!’ They love to hear the stories of being home with Dad, the antics they got up to as well as stories of coming along too. Athena already has stories of both! She’ll be remembering how she came along SO often. Kids thrive on variety, I think they thrive on experiencing different carers too and building those other important relationship. Also important, I thrived as a better Mum through not always being with them and being able to have times to reflect, learn, miss them, cherish them even more! You are so obviously a lovely Mummy! One day you will show this to Athena too and she’ll LOVE reading about how much you missed her 🙂

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  32. I loved this! I know the pain of being separated from your kids; how you know realistically that they are more than fine with grandparents, but it is still tough. You miss them like you never imagined possible. And I also know the kindness of strangers: I once missed a train I was desperate to catch, due to my own mistake (I’d been on the wrong platform) – I was so furious with myself, and for the fact that I would have to sit there for another hour, that I cried. A women next to me noticed, and asked me if I was okay. I felt foolish, but it was nice to know that someone cared enough to ask me!

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