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A weekend trip brings a new respect for motherhood

Dixie Dew and I went away for the weekend to visit our friends, Stevie and Darrell, in Nashville. It was actually Dew's invitation, but I was allowed to tag along.

Their family loves animals, evidenced by the two basset hounds, one loveable mutt, two cats and an albino rabbit that reside in their house. This is a downsizing from what they normally have, which usually includes another rabbit, another dog and sometimes another cat.

Usually their invitation arrives by phone and goes along the lines of, "Could Dixie Dew come to visit? She's so precious. Would you mind bringing her?"

Dew, for her part, is ecstatic to hear me ask, "Do you want to go to Darrell and Stevie's?" She loves them and their daughters, Jessica and Sarah, very much. She picks up her ears, wags her tail frantically, runs around in circles then heads to the door, where she plops down her hefty butt and prepares to wait until I say, "No, we're not going today. We're going on Friday." Disappointed, she'll lie down and heave a heavy sigh.

Once, I was planning to visit the family without Dew in tow until Sarah, the youngest, called. "Miss Ronda, could you please bring Dixie Dew with you? I love her and I want to see her."

Dixie Dew rarely gets to travel with me. Usually, she goes to her Maw-maw's, where she is content to eat nonstop until I return. But when she does get to go, it's as good to her as a big, juicy pork chop. Not that I give her pork chops, mind you. However, someone I know well does.

But after packing her up and taking her away for the weekend, I have a question: How do you mamas do this all the time?

Honestly, I was exhausted by the time I got her packed up and ready to go. There were clothes to choose, leashes to pack, bowls to gather up, food and water to load, snacks and toys for the ride and, of course, she wasn't leaving home without her favorite blanket. Her travel bag bulging, I placed it by the door, where it was quickly joined by Dew in her favorite hot pink, hooded sweatshirt. She plopped down and waited impatiently, whining under her breath until we finally headed to the garage.

I sat down in the car and pulled the seat belt across and snapped it. "Whew. I'm tired." I threw a glance over at the enthusiastic Dew, who was sitting up, alert and ready to go. "You're a lot of trouble."

Dew tilted her head and looked perplexed. "Yes, you. Do you think that all this stuff just jumped in the bag and packed itself? It's a lot of work being the mommy." She stuck her head over and licked my hand. At least she appreciates it.

I have a new respect for motherhood after this last trip. Usually I just drop her at her grandmother's, where there is a separate supply of toys, blankets, leashes, T-shirts and food so nothing has to be packed. It's a walk in the park.

Once we arrived, there was the issue of the children playing well together. They didn't. Or rather, Dixie Dew didn't. She was intimidated by the bigger dogs and wanted to snap at them.

"Trusty and Olivia won't hurt Dew," Darrell promised.

"It's not them I'm worried about." I tossed my head toward Dew. "My child is the troublemaker."

It was a great deal of stress all weekend, worrying about Dew's manners and behavior. Once the visit ended, I had to pack up all that stuff again and load it back in the car, then unload it at home. I'm used to being completely self-absorbed on trips, without worrying about someone else. Motherhood isn't easy.

Maybe next time I'll travel alone.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)" and "The Town That Came A-Courtin'."