Why adults-only vacations are good for your kids
While I was on maternity leave, I went to Europe—without my baby. My son was three months old and my husband and I left him for six days with his grandparents. We went to a dear friend’s wedding, with a day of travel time on each end and several days of festivities in the middle. When the invitation came in, months before our due date, we went back and forth about whether we should go. Would it be bad for the baby to leave him that soon? Would it be bad for me?
“Maybe book everything but get travel insurance,” a friend suggested. Naturally, I did the opposite. I had my husband book everything and make sure it was non-refundable. It was a big bet, but I knew if I left the door open even the smallest crack, I would withdraw into the black hole of motherhood. As it turned out, it was the right bet. While I wasn’t one hundred percent ready to leave my baby, I now understand that I’ll never be completely ready. Whether it’s heading out for a business trip overnight, or dropping him off at school for the day, there will always be a part of me that wants to scoop him right back into my arms and hold him there forever—or at least for three minutes until he wriggles away to go poke something with a stick.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you—on that first trip, I didn’t miss him as much as I thought I would. In fact, I spent most of the trip worried I didn’t miss him more. I thought much more about my hotel room with blackout shades and no three-a.m. wakeup call than I did about him. Honestly, I thought about a lot of things more than I thought about him: reading a book uninterrupted, how much gelato was too much in one day, and how much I loved my husband.
Let’s linger over that last one, shall we? Now, for those who’ve had a newborn and never once considered stabbing their spouse with a fork, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs. For everyone else, read on.
Having a baby is hard on a marriage, even a super solid one, which I consider us to have. My husband is an amazing father and never once said no to anything I needed him to do with the baby or around the house in those first few months (or ever, really). And yet, I spent many days early on feeling disconnected and angry that he didn’t know what I was going through. Which, logically, how could he? The post-partum phase, though, is anything but logical. So, as many couples so, we drifted along those first few months just trying to survive until things got back to “normal”. When what we really needed to be doing was jointly mourning the death of our old normal and co-creating the new version.
Europe was the start of that for us. The trip marked the end of surviving what is aptly called the “fourth trimester”, and the beginning of reconnecting and creating our new life together as a family of three. I came home feeling replenished, reconnected, and happy to have my son back in my arms.
Since then, we’ve recognized the value of getting away just the two of us and have been good at doing so. This weekend, we’re leaving for Europe again for a week. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to go back, and this time when it came time to plan the trip there was no question in my mind about whether I should go.
I didn’t want to.
Yes, you read that correctly. Even knowing what I know about the importance of time away together, and the amazing trip we had lined up with all the gelato I could eat, I decided I couldn’t leave our now two-year-old for a whole week. Somehow it felt different than the first time, or any of the other trips we’ve taken since then. Part of this that I love him more now—which is not the same as loving him less before. It’s that every day there’s more to love about him. He’s becoming a real person, with his own mannerisms, opinions, and personality. Plus, so much happens in a week at this age. New words and discoveries, none of which I want to miss.
So, I decided against the trip. Then we got an email from my sister-in-law, who is also our son’s godmother. We hadn’t yet informed her that I had called off the trip, so her email was all about how excited she was to come stay with her godson, and how lucky she felt to have that special time with him. In reading her email, I had a realization.
It’s not about me.
It’s not about the new words, discoveries, or bedtime snuggles I’ll miss. It’s not about how much I’ll miss him, or even about how much he’ll miss me (which, with his fun aunt and grandparents around, he probably won’t). It’s about the amazing family he’s part of on both sides, and the relationships he’s developing with them on his own, independent from my husband and me. It’s about the memories being created, for him and for them, that will live on in his heart as he grows up.
That is a gift I can give him, and my extended family. And if I can give it while eating my weight in gelato in Europe, well, that feels like a hardship I can bear.
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