Despite this still dreadful economy, my company is sending me to my favourite conference again this year to present some data. Thirty or so years ago, some genius decided that a great way to promote scientific interaction would be to hold meetings at ski resorts. The Keystone Symposia in Molecular and Cellular Biology hold several conferences every winter and spring in all of the North American ski Meccas including Keystone in Colorado, Snowbird in Utah, Lake Louise in Canada and Whistler in Vancouver. This year the symposium on Diabetes (my area of research) is at Whistler, the fantastically beautiful resort that just hosted the winter Olympics.
There are not all that many people in the world who devote themselves to the understanding and treatment of diabetes. I know quite a few of them, many from connections made at conferences like these. The meeting is a geeky science delight, everyone brings their best new research, and over dining, skiing, seminars, poster sessions, and late nights in the bar we learn, debate and share. It is wonderful for me as a scientist to join with members of my "tribe" from all over the globe. I will get to reconnect with old colleagues from my past, I have some exciting data to share myself, I will get to ski at one of the premiere resorts in the world, enjoy some nice restaurant meals and maybe even get a luxury spa treatment. I am very excited.
I'll be gone for 6 whole days, Monday though Saturday. Geekydaddy is no stranger to taking care of the kids, but a four year old and a two year old are hard work on ones own, and I consider him a superstar for taking on the challenge. He's going to have some help at least, my mum and dad arrive on Thursday to help out, and will stay on for a couple of weeks so we can all enjoy time together. I'm hoping the excitement of having the grandparents arrive will help alleviate the stress of mummy's absence. It will be easier on Geekydaddy than last year, when the kids were three and one and even more dependent than they are now, Geekyboy needing bottles and spoon feeding. This time I won't be lugging my breast pump along either, and I'm glad to be free from it. Time marches on, and when I look back from there to now I can feel the relative freedom of having slightly older children.
Even so, I feel horribly guilty about going.
I"m worried that the children will miss me too much, will be bereft without my hugs and kisses and songs. Will Geekydaddy and the Grandparents remember that when you sing "Old MacDonald' to Geekyboy after his bath, and he suggests "apple trees" as something he has on that farm, that the apple trees must go "Juggle Juggle"? -( I have no idea why they say juggle juggle!). I'm afraid that they will worry that I don't care about them, and will not understand why they can't come too. I"m worried that something will happen to one of them and I won't be there. I'm worried that something will happen to me. I never finished their baby books, so if they never see me again there is little physical evidence left of how much I love them.
I confessed my guilty feelings to Geekydaddy, and he, usually quite unflappable, got mad. "You are going to have a good time. What is the point of me taking care of everyone like this if you don't even have a good time?" He said.
I took his point and promised not to feel guilty.
I will of course, but I won't tell him. Shh.
I have strategies in place to help the kids cope while I"m gone, they have a little card to open each day containing a message from me and a sticker to put on a chart, counting down to the day I return. I will bring them a lovely present. Last night I asked Geekygirl if there was anything else we should plan. Sheepishly she asked me "can we have one of those special dinners?". I wasn't sure what she was talking about at first, but then remembered the last time I went on this trip, over a year ago, I had left a couple of 'ready meals' in the freezer. Horrible synthetic things, but one of them came with a side of warm chocolate pudding to which you added sprinkles. Geekygirl adored this meal. I'm stunned that she still remembers it. Maybe they put something incredibly addicting in them.
I enthused over her idea anyway, and have bought two of the offensive items, complete with the sprinkly pudding. I recognize that there is a certain irony in heading off to a conference about the prevention and treatment of diabetes while leaving my vulnurable children with such trash to eat, and I'm hoping that I'm not setting them up for a lifetime addiction to fatty sugary food as emotional solace.
Do you ever leave your kids? How do you and they cope?