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In order to hone my craft, I am starting to participate in a writing challenge offered by Mama Kat, a blogger and social media expert with more followers and experience than I can fathom at this point. One of the writing prompts she offered this week is: what does the word passport mean to you?

Last year, as the Big 4-0 loomed closer, and the loss of a friend my age from cancer sunk in, it seemed time to start attacking my bucket list. Although I have travelled extensively throughout North America, I had never been abroad.

The timing just never seemed right. I had a new job. My dad was fighting lung cancer, and I didn’t want to leave the country. I was going through fertility treatments, and subsequently had three kids as a result.  Then, who could I leave three toddlers with for eight days?

But I finally felt like the time was right. Or as I looked at it, now or never.

As someone that lives for history, food and wine, Italy seemed like a natural choice for my first adventure overseas. After securing a doting grandmother to watch my children and enlisting an army of friends to taxi them to and fro various activities, it was time to make it happen.

I talked about my trip all the time and tried to garner as much information as possible from people that had travelled to Europe recently. While most people were extremely excited for me, interestingly enough, not everyone seemed as supportive of my trip.

“I could never be away from my kids for that long,” one mom told me. “I just wouldn’t enjoy myself.”

“Don’t you feel bad that you’re not taking your kids,” said another friend.

And my personal favorite: “What if something happens to you while you are over there? What will they tell your kids?”

While all these statements initially provoked some guilt and second guessing (and yes, also made me a little angry), it also helped me realize what type of parent I wanted to be — one that showed my kids that they should follow their dreams, be adventurous, find their passions and live life.

When I was over in Italy, I spoke with a beautiful woman who showed us around a winery. During our conversation, I mentioned that I felt badly because I was over in Italy and my kids were back home with their grandmother.

“When I was growing up, I spent entire summers with my grandparents and only talked with my parents a few times,” she told me. “I loved every second of it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I bet your kids are loving it too!”

A view of the Chianti countryside.

A view of the Chianti countryside.

I thought about what she said later that day. As Americans, we do put enormous pressure on ourselves to constantly be there for everything when it comes to our kids. We feel guilt if we miss a new milestone or a soccer game, and because of this, we often miss out on doing the things that we love.

I think it is great that as parents we give all of ourselves to our kids, but sometimes I wonder about the cost. We forget about focusing on other things that matter, such as our spouses, health, interests or dreams until sometimes it’s too late. I believe it’s important to grow with your children, not sacrifice yourself because of them.

My new Italian friend was right. My children loved spending time with their grandmother and the extra attention they received from my friends. When we returned home, they were happy to see us, but no worse for the wear. And I found a new passion in traveling abroad that I can’t wait to share with them (after they get a little older!)

My passport helped me take the trip of a lifetime. The word passport, to me, means living life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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