When I went away the first time, I made the trip as short as I could. The opportunity to connect with people in the allergy community and the knowledge I could gain from them was something that I really wanted, but it meant leaving the kids for the first time for more than an evening out. It meant making sure there was food for the kids while I was gone. I had all the “what-ifs” running around in my head. What if TealKid had a reaction while I was gone? What if they didn’t have enough of a certain food, and TealHubs didn’t know where to find it? What it my plane went down, and I was gone for good? Yes, I said it: my mind went there. (This is the point in the story when TealHubs would point out that day-to-day car travel is more dangerous than flying, but I don’t listen because I have issues!)
I’ve been planning a little trip which includes a conference about food allergies. As I was driving, thinking about what I need to do to prepare, it took me back to the first time I left the kids with TealHubs. I thought of the anxiety it produced, and the lessons I learned from that trip. It’s been four years since then, and I’ve gone on many more trips. While there may be a bit less anxiety, it’s still there.
In the wake of my far-fetched fear of never returning, I started planning. We allergy parents always have a backup plan, and this seemed like the time it would really be helpful. Here are a few things I did to help my anxiety, and it created a backup plan for our family. There are more common problems too: perhaps I get delayed home, or I need to be away for a few days unexpectedly. Having a plan in place is a great idea for all families, allergies or not!
I went through my recipes, which I keep in an online filing system. I flagged them as “TealKid Safe” if they were. Ensuring access to recipes in case he would need to cook for the kids is something that I should have done sooner, but hadn’t. Having them marked as safe means that he could easily access recipes that are tried-and-true in our house and get by on them for a while. While he doesn’t care for some of my notes (he like measurements and such, but that’s not how I cook – it’s a pinch of this and a dash of that, which drives him crazy!), it’s a place he can go to start the process.
Next, I made a general list of products that are staples in our home. I will be the first to say that I am NOT a fan of lists for classrooms or schools, as things can get outdated quickly, as we all know. How many times has a staple changed and is no longer safe in your home? I’ve lost count. So I have a list of things that are generally safe, WITH the usual caveat: read every label, every time. Also, since I started traveling more often, I’ve had TealHubs shop more (with or without me) so he can get a better feel for how to shop for food allergies. He’s not much of a planner, and doesn’t pay as much attention to price as he should ($6 for raspberries is NOT acceptable!), but he’s learning. It’s a work in progress.
I don’t usually travel longer than five days at the most. I will typically make a large meal before I leave, something they all like that will last the better part of my travels. This frees up time for TealHubs, and I know it’s something the kids will eat. Beyond those first few days, I usually choose something easy like pasta that I know TealHubs can manage. I’ll pre-cook the meat so he can pull it out of the freezer that morning, add a salad and garlic bread, and they are set for another few days. I like to remember to KISS (keep it simple, supermom/dad). It doesn’t need to be gourmet food, it just needs to be good and keep tummies full.Having these things in place definitely helped me feel more at ease with going out of town.
I still have general anxiety about traveling, but it’s not as much about the “what-ifs” anymore with the kids and food allergy management. I’m just an anxious person in general. Having a supportive and knowledgeable partner helps keep the ship running while I fill up my knowledge tank on trips away. So, I’m going to be off soon on a Mom and Me trip (with MY Mom) and I’m sure we’ll make great memories. Meanwhile, everyone at home will be safe, fed, and ready for a refreshed Mom at the other end.