How Soon Is Too Soon To Vacation Without Your Kids?
Not long ago I found myself sharing an elevator at work with a woman who had recently had a baby. Being a relatively new mother myself, we always chatted in passing about breastfeeding, no sleep and the joys of motherhood. This particular elevator chat, however, left me a bit unnerved. My colleague seemed excited to share that she and her husband were going to Mexico for a much-needed vacation. When I inquired as to what kind of accommodations the resort had for children, she quickly replied, “Oh, we’re leaving the baby home.” I think the look on my face made her a bit defensive. “I need a break! My parents are watching her,” As we stopped on my floor I said “Well, have fun!” I stepped out of the elevator in disbelief.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I believe all parents need a break from the kids. Being a parent is a full-time job that can be stressful and exhaustive. I feel like I’m in a constant state of sleepiness. Although I love my son dearly and enjoy spending time with him, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days I look forward to going to work to spend some much-needed time AWAY from mommy duty. The first day I dropped him off at daycare I cried like a baby. Now…sometimes I’m looking for his daycare provider in the daylight with a flashlight. So I get needing a break.
But I guess what stunned me was that she was leaving her BABY – her daughter is only 5 months old. I couldn’t imagine leaving my son with anyone for a weekend, let alone a week. Not that I don’t trust my caregivers…I just would miss him too much. I had a hard enough time dealing with separation anxiety by putting him in his crib in a different room, so I know I’d be a wreck if I left him while I got on a plane to Mexico. I secretly judged my coworker and admired her at the same time. I wish I could say I’d be strong enough to go on vacation without my son…but I’m not.
I tried to think of an age when I’d feel comfortable leaving him, and all I could really come up with was maybe when he was a teenager…when I’d probably WANT to get away from his smart mouth and raging hormones. Other than that, I think I’d want my child with me to experience all the fun that comes with vacation. Disney, Jamaica, Morocco – you name it. I don’t want to have fun without him! But then it occurred to me that what my coworker was doing was putting her husband and her marriage before the kid, even if only for a week – and it was necessary.
Most times, people forget what it was like to be a couple before being parents. I was reminded a couple of weeks ago how fun it was to hang out at the movies and eat dinner in peace when my husband took me out to celebrate my birthday while we got a sitter. We held hands, laughed, enjoyed a great movie and had an amazing dinner…and our son was still in tact when we got home. We both agreed that we needed to do that more often. But that was just one night…
Could I leave my toddler with my sister and brother-in-law? They are the only real options we have for too many reasons to get into, so we lack a real support system we trust to leave our child. But if we had one, I wonder would that make the difference? My guess is it would to some extent, but how do you get over the “missing him” part? I’ve never spent more than a few hours away from my son since he was born, and at 14 months I don’t see that changing any time soon. As much as I’m sure my husband and I could use an adult vacation, I don’t think either one of us is ready yet.
So when is too soon to go on vacation without the child(ren)? Clearly there is no right or wrong answer, but I do believe that at whatever age you feel comfortable, the child and your marriage will inevitable benefit from it. Time away gives you a chance to reenergize as parents and rekindle the romance as a couple. It’s a win-win, and you become a better spouse and parent because of it. I’m looking forward to the moment I feel comfortable going on a childless vacation – but I know it’s not any time soon.
Besides, not everyone actually needs a childless vacation. If you and your spouse are lucky enough to make enough time for each other on a regular basis, and your child enjoys traveling the world as much as you do, then by all means bring them along! After all, quite possibly the best moment of your lives is when your child(ren) was born, so why not share all of the greatest memories with him? Sounds like an awesome vacation to me. Get his passport ready!