From one parent to another, can I take a moment and confess something absolutely horrible that I have been thinking lately in regards to my precious little babe?
As in, I haven’t told anyone this because I am afraid I am the only mother who has ever thought this about my child before.
We are going on our first baby-free vacation
Do you know how many articles I have read that talk about the guilt of leaving their kiddos for their first ever child-free trip? How many social media posts from friends have I seen where they weep that their hearts were being torn out as they left their crying child so that they could be selfish and have some adult-only time?
And then here I am, packing my bags and already dreaming of all the endless tacos and margaritas I’ll be consuming next to Mr. EE while in Puerto Vallarta. I’m happily going over the run-down list of “must knows” for the Grandparents, who will be taking Lil B for the week and I secretly have a mental countdown of when we get to board the plane.
Which then THAT makes me feel horribly, horribly guilty.
Not because I am leaving my baby, but because I don’t have the same guilt that every other parent apparently has when they leave their child for the first time.
So then I am left wondering to myself, “Does this make me a horrible parent????”
Honestly, I don’t know. But, let me at least tell you WHY I don’t have the guilt.
Couple Time Is of the Utmost Importance
I will NEVER forget at our weekend marriage prep retreat the speakers asking the audience, “What comes first; Your spouse or your children?”
My evolutionary (pre)maternal instinct went straight to screaming, “THE CHILDREN!” I mean, my husband is a grown-ass man and can take care of himself, but children? They are helpless little creatures that I chose to bring into this world and therefore have a responsibility to! So yes, I decided right then; my future children would always and forever be the first priority in my upcoming life!!!
And then, what they said next floored me.
In fact, I have taken what they said with me for the last 8 years since that retreat and truly cherish it as one of the best pieces of advice for any married couple wanting to create a family over time.
You guessed it. They waited a moment and then responded, “Your SPOUSE!!!!”
You see, the way they explained it was that those beautiful little babies of yours wouldn’t even be here without your significant other and, hopefully, the love and support of that person. Those little ones that you are so desperately trying to raise as decent human beings soak up every little thing that they see and hear from the models in their home: YOU. If you want your children to know how to treat their future spouse, you need to model it. If you want your son to know that it’s manly (and pretty damn sexy) to make his girl a good dinner, then Daddy needs to do this for Mom. If we want our children to know and see first hand that it’s ok to not always agree with your husband but to know how to come to a compromise, they need to see this all in action. If I want my children to know that hand holding, kissing and PDA is normal, then I need to be in the mood to do those things with my husband.
And quite honestly, the only way to have that kind of relationship is to put that exact same relationship at the top of your priority list.
And folks, I get it! It is EASY to let your children become your top focus. I mean, When Andy gets home at the end of the day and I’m lying on the floor crying because I am just so done (that may or may not have actually happened) and haven’t felt like anything outside of a “Mom” for months, it is REALLY easy to let adult time dwindle away as all of your focus and attention is spent on, well…not letting your children DIE. (Dramatic Much?)
- When you go to bed at 8:30pm because you are utterly exhausted, the idea and thought of anything romantic happening can become laughable
- When any spare moment when you are both home is spent getting a bit of cooking or cleaning done, since that is the only time that you can actually step away from the baby without fear that he is going to chew on a cord, pull down the blinds or knock his head out on the hearth, those moments that you used to be able to laugh, sit and watch tv together, make a meal together or just where you can sit back and relax with one another seem like long, lost memories.
So, even if on a daily basis you are forgetting to put your significant other at the top of your list, doing something like a vacation where you can focus JUST on the two of you, is pretty monumental in keeping that spark and love alive!
Remember the above comment about not feeling like anything other than “Just a Mom?” Lil B was 6 months at the time of my first little “Mommy mental breakdown” and for the last six months, I had done nothing but “Be Mom.”
- Due to scheduling issues and horrible nap timings, the gym, which was once my daily therapy, was something of the past.
- Long dinners sitting out at the Bier Garten with Andy (we were living in Germany at the time) while we ordered “Ein mal Bier, Bitte” and chatted about an upcoming trip or even just the day’s previous musings never happened since we could no longer just “sit” for more than an hour before Lil B was done for.
- Girls nights no longer existed because as a first time mom who was also insistent on making breastfeeding work, damnit, I didn’t realize that it was completely acceptable to pump prior to leaving for the night and trusting that Da-Da had it covered.
- Lazy quiet afternoons with a good book and a hot chai tea latte? HAHAHA!!!!
- Even blogging, which had become “my thing” over the past few years was going down the drain because what time or mental capacity did I have to actually write thorough, well thought out, edited and valuable posts?
I had nothing for ME. It was all about “Mommying”
And so while I love my child fiercely and would never trade him for any of the things just mentioned, I also got to a point that I realized (after being told this by countless, strong mamas before me) that in order to be the best mom I could be to Lil B, I had to take care of myself first. That meant physically, emotionally and mentally.
Travel has and always will be therapeutic for me. Even on hectic trips where we “go-go-go” I still come home with a new sense of direction. And while we had traveled to 6 countries WITH Lil B before he was even six months, I was ready for some solo travel. I was ready to allow myself some guilt-free travel therapy!
Alternatively, I’ve heard many a mamas say that the guilt of going on a vacation without kids isn’t because they are OCD about routines and schedules and that it’s not even that they have anxiety about leaving their toddler for a trip. Instead, it is that these parents are hard working adults with jobs and that they already feel guilt about the (lack of) time they feel like they are giving to their children.
And if that is you, I still say that YOU need to be the best version of YOU. If you are stretched so thin between work, raising kids that aren’t jerks, and the chores of keeping a house at least give the impression that you have your stuff together, then you probably need a vacation without kids the most!
Again, a weekend away, or shoot….even a day away may be what you need to help you feel recharged and ready to take on the world (or at least any tantrums, loads of laundry and meal prep) that come your way!
Valuable Bonding Time (For Your Kids)
Whether you are going on a girls trip, a guys getaway or a couples only retreat, chances are, you are going to be leaving your precious cargo with a close family or extremely trusted friend. These are people in your life that are extremely valuable to you, and therefore are going to be valuable and important people in your children’s life.
For Andy and I’s “Just Us” trip, we were leaving Lil B with our parents. Gramma and Grampa would get some serious cuddle and play time with Lil B for the first half of the week and then he’d head over to Oma and Papa’s house where he would continue to get to bond with his Grandparents.
In fact, the ENTIRE reason why we moved back home from Germany was because the importance of a relationship with his extended family at this age was way more important than us constantly jetting off around the world.
The memories made and the bond that will be strengthened with your child and the person you are leaving them with can be just as valuable as you getting some recharge for your battery as well.
Developing Independent Humans
There is a MAJOR difference between leaving your child with a trusted and loved adult once in a blue moon compared to going out every Friday night, leaving them with a random teenage babysitter while you go get drunk at a club. One is borderline abandonment and the other is allowing your child to grow and develop in a loving and supportive environment, even when you are irregularly not there. While I still eat up every single snuggle opportunity that I can with Lil B because I know that day will come soon enough that instead of insisting I hold him constantly, he’ll be rolling his eyes (a trait he will surely get from me) and saying “Moooom, go away, your embarrassing me!” I want that soon to be young man to be an independent, confident person that can go off and explore without needing my constant approval. While I want my children to be able to come to me with any questions or problems they may have, I also want them to be problem solvers and go-getters. I want them to be independent and confident in their own abilities without needing constant affirmation from me. (Although, let’s be honest here, isn’t it also a mom’s job to praise her kids and think they are the best thing since Nutella Crepes?)
By allowing us to be separated (infrequently!) that is just one small piece to the whole puzzle that is creating independent children and one day, independent adults.
Tips To Help Your Guilt Free Getaway
Try to Give Up The Guilt
If you are one of the many that DO feel like your heart is being slowly ripped apart, then take solace that you aren’t alone and that what you are feeling is TOTALLY normal (unlike my cold, dead heart apparently??) but also know that you are an amazing parent, whether you take a few days off or not. So you might as well take those few days to make sure you are refreshed and on your A-Game.
Leave Momentos, Letters or Photos
If your child is old enough, consider leaving little notes for each day that they can read and know that they are still in your heart and mind, even if not together. If they are younger, I know Lil B just LOVES looking at pictures. Leave a few pictures of you, a few of you together with your children, etc so that the caretaker and your kiddo can look at them each day and talk about how much Mommy and Daddy love them.
Call and Skype (Well, Maybe)
This works for some and is just plain hard for others (both parents and children alike). A lot of people want to see their children everyday, but sometimes it just reenacts that moment you had to tell them goodbye that was so painful. For some kiddos, it is really hard to see Mom and/or Dad and not understand why they aren’t physically with them. They may act out or they may cry, which is just going to make it harder on them (and whoever is watching them!) each time they have to say goodbye again.
Over prepare If that Helps You Feel In Control
Let’s be honest here, if you are a Mom reading this, I don’t care how laid back you are, you’ve got a bit of a control freak in there when it comes to your kids, right? You are leaving your children with the best possible caretakers you could, but if it helps you (and it WILL help them), give as many detailed notes and tips as you want. Who cares if you are “that parent” that hands over what practically looks like a book to your parents as you do the pass off? Who cares if the caregivers never actually thoroughly go through said book. If it makes you feel better, then do it. Plus, if the people watching your little ones really do have a question, they can go to that instead of feeling guilty having to call you.
Trust Your Caregiver
You aren’t just leaving your children with a random stranger (I’m assuming) because, like we’ve already established…your a good parent, remember!? As a pretty hippy, crunchy mama myself, it goes without saying that I KNOW other people don’t parent the way I do.
I am just going to have to accept that my Mother-in-law will most likely rush in to the Lotus Travel Crib the second she hears a peep, or that my brother will most likely sneak some dessert in (knowing full well that I don’t do desserts w/ Lil B yet!) or that my mom may not sing “Twinkle Twinkle” the exact same way as I do right before bed.
But guess what? Those people are amazing and loving people. They know a thing or two about raising children themselves. A week of getting spoiled, a week out of routine and a few bites of food that you normally would avoid like the plague isn’t going to ruin your child. You are leaving your children with this person for a reason…now trust them.
Don’t Play Overlord
This is your vacation! You know, the getaway that is supposed to be giving you a break from playing secretary, ringleader (and sometimes dictator, when need be) to the family! Instead, if and when you do talk to your family, focus on the bonding that is happening. Don’t ask about homework being completed or if people are following specific routines or how much tv they are watching but instead, inquire about what EXPERIENCES they have been having with their friends and family.
Ask For Photos From Caregivers
While I was ready to jet off and do nothing (ESPECIALLY nothing mama related- except for pumping to maintain my supply), that doesn’t mean that I wanted to cut off all enjoyment from my son! Seeing your baby playing in the bath happy as can be, or your kids exploring at the zoo will help show that while you are an amazing parent when you are with them, that other adults can provide happiness and care as well, allowing you the freedom to confidently step away from time to time.
So at the end of the day, as I kissed my baby on the forehead and told him goodnight knowing I wouldn’t be doing that again for another week, my heart exploded.
- Not because I was scared and nervous about leaving him for the first time.
- Not because I had this guilt that I was somehow doing him some harm by allowing my husband and I’s relationship to be put on the front burner.
Instead, my heart burst with love as I looked down on this beautiful baby. And in that same heart I knew that in order to give him the best life, that I needed to be the best version of me that I could. I needed to be happy, healthy and emotionally ready to tackle what tomorrow had to bring.
No, a vacation is not a MUST for a parent to feel like they can survive. However, if you are the parent to an amazing, loving and supportive tribe of little people, then taking a break from reality, even if just for a day, a weekend, or a couples only getaway doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you human.
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