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Perspectives on Parenting: Traveling Without Kids

 

Perspectives on Parenting: Traveling without Kids

Motherhood comes with a host of choices to make about what is best for you, your family, and your child. We at Alamo City Moms Blog have a variety of moms who want to embrace these choices instead of feeling guilty or judged for them! We are continuing our series, Perspectives on Parenting, with a look at traveling. Does your family travel together, or do you and your significant other travel by yourselves?  

To read the other side of this perspective, traveling with kids, you can find Denise’s post here.

I’m a big fan of the Date Night. I love the fun of shedding my usual yoga-pants-and-a-tee-shirt for something stylish and cute. I love doing my “night make-up.” I love trying new restaurants, savoring a fabulous meal, and indulging in a few glasses of wine. I love the quality time with my husband. And, yes, I’ll admit: I love the mini-break from motherhood that a Date Night provides.

However, when my husband and I go out on a Date Night, we usually end up spending half of it discussing our daughter and/or parenting issues, and then we return home to find all the responsibilities of parenthood waiting for us. I’m not complaining. My husband and I are incredibly blessed. My parents live here in town, and Harper is their only grandchild, so we are very fortunate to have built-in babysitters who allow us to venture out for a few hours on an almost weekly basis. But, dinner and a movie alone with your spouse—awesome as it may be—is not even remotely the same as a true adults-only getaway. And, y’all, until I did it myself, I had no idea how much difference it could make to take a kid-free vacation.

Our daughter was a little over three years old when Jeff & I embarked on our first us-only getaway. I’d never been to Las Vegas and had always wanted to go, so we made plans to stay at Paris LV for three nights in late July. Worry and Mom Guilt filled the nights leading up to our adventure. I knew Harper would be fine with my parents—she always has a blast with them, and they absolutely adore her—but still. What if she gets sick? What if she gets really sad and misses me? What if something happens and I can’t get home to her immediately? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Nevertheless, when the time came, I hesitantly kissed our daughter goodbye and hopped on that plane with my husband. And I can honestly say, without question, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (So much so, in fact, that my husband and I have returned four times since then!) Here’s what I learned on that first trip to Vegas:

The "Mom Guilt" first began to subside when I peeked out of our hotel room window on our first trip...

The “Mom Guilt” initially began to subside when I peeked out of our hotel room window on our first trip…

You’re still the people you were before you became “Mom” and “Dad.” I truly love being a mother. Cliché as it may sound, motherhood is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. But let’s face it: Parenthood changes everything—from your body to your role, to your daily routine, to your relationship with your spouse, to your priorities. Jeff & I had spent three years (four, if you count pregnancy) playing the parts of Mom & Dad before our getaway. But in Vegas, it felt eerily similar to the way it used to in the beginning—when it was just us—and I delighted in knowing that for a brief time we could return to who we used to be.

I don't think we've ever laughed so hard as we did at this hysterical, inappropriate play.

I don’t think we’ve ever laughed as hard as we did at this hysterical, inappropriate show.

We stayed up until 4:00 in the morning because we could. We laughed at inappropriate jokes we could never get away with saying in front of our three-year-old. We danced like idiots to songs that were cool 10 years ago, drank until one of us was tipsy, and made out in [otherwise unoccupied] elevators. The Honeymoon may have ended long ago, but going on a getaway made us feel like newlyweds again. It gave us a glimpse of who we once were before our lives revolved around things like bedtime battles, potty training, and making it to tee-ball practice on time, and it comforted me to know that, at our core, neither of us had really changed all that much. I love my husband for so many more reasons now than I did when I first married him. He’s an incredible father to our little girl and a wonderful provider to our family, and together, we are loyal partners and best friends who operate as an amazing team. But I also love knowing that who we were in the beginning still exists, and I now know how refreshing it is to let that “old self” out of the cage every now and then.

“Reconnecting” isn’t just something you read about in magazines. We hear this a lot—“Reconnect with your spouse!” “Rekindle that flame!” “Put the spark back in your marriage!”—but as parents, we’re usually too busy prioritizing the needs of our families as a whole to consider how important this truly is. In our society, marriage is somewhat of a crapshoot: Approximately half of all American marriages end in divorce. But what’s interesting is this: Divorce rates peak within the fourth and seventh years of marriage, at a time when many couples are raising babies and small children and consequently placing their relationship with each other on the back-burner. Obviously, a kid-free vacation won’t make or break your marriage. But what it will do is allow you an opportunity to reinvest in your relationship—not just for the short-term, while you’re coping with the stress of raising little ones, but for later in life as well.

I sincerely hope that taking goofy selfies like this will always be one of our favorite vacation pastimes.

I sincerely hope that taking goofy selfies like this will always be one of our favorite vacation pastimes.

After all, our kids will one day grow up and leave the nest that we share with our spouse. We’ll never lose our title as “Mom” or “Dad,” but our role will change, as will our family dynamic. Personally, I want to do everything within my power to ensure that when my kids grow up and move away, my husband and I aren’t looking at each other like, “Oh crap, what do we do now?” And that’s more important than ever before, as studies show that “gray divorces” (those among people 50+) are significantly on the rise—up to 25% in 2009, compared to just 10% in 1993.

When you and your spouse make the decision to vacation together without your children, you are not only investing quality time and energy into your relationship in its current state, you are preparing yourselves and your marriage for the later years. So, that cruise you’ve been putting off? Look at it as a “boot camp” of sorts—one that can help you remember how to simply enjoy each other’s company and focus on your marriage without distraction, two pieces of the puzzle that will be vitally important later in life, when it’s just the two of you.

Moms deserve to be selfish once in awhile. As moms, we spend almost every second of every day being selfless. That’s our job. We get up at 5:00 A.M. with kids who won’t sleep. We cancel plans for a social event because a child came down with strep throat. We decide against a new pair of Tory Burch flats even when they’re on sale because school tuition is due later in the week. Working moms and stay-at-home moms alike, we constantly sacrifice our sleep and sanity for the sake of our children. That’s how it should be.

But every now and then, we ALL need a break. I’ll be the first to admit that nothing recharges my batteries more than a weekend getaway, be it with my husband or my girlfriends. Requiring an occasional “time out” from my reality as a stay-at-home mom doesn’t make me a bad mother; it makes me human. I love my family and my role(s) in it, but it’s a lot of work to be the wife/mother/housekeeper/cook/chauffeur/executive assistant/coach/cheerleader/etc. How can it not be, considering all the hats we wear?

Poolside selfies during last year's girls weekend with some of my besties

Relaxing poolside with some of my besties during our girls weekend last summer

Yet as moms, we are probably the worst offenders when it comes to ignoring self-care, even though it’s critical to both our happiness and our ability to perform well at our “job” as mothers. Is there more to self-care than hopping on a plane for a weekend getaway? Of course. But occasionally treating ourselves to some time away—without guilt or worry, because honestly, we deserve it!—is certainly a good place to start.

Children benefit from breaks, too. OK, so maybe this isn’t a shock to the rest of you, but it was a revelation to me: If I need a break from my child every now and then, maybe my child also needs an occasional break from me? Not in the same way, of course—not like my young daughter is daydreaming of a fabulous wine-tasting excursion in Sonoma or envisioning the perfect spa treatment to escape the stresses of Kindergarten—but perhaps she, too, could benefit from a change in her usual routine. This became abundantly clear during our first trip away every time I called my mom from Vegas to see how things were going at home. Each time, my mom assured me that not only was Harper fine and having zero separation anxiety issues, she was actually quite the opposite: She had barely given us a second thought, mainly because she’d been too busy enjoying her week of “Harper & Ginny time” to miss us. Every day she & my mom had ventured somewhere different: the zoo, SeaWorld, the Magik Theatre, the pool, the Witte Museum, etc. Sometimes they even got crrrrrrazy and skipped nap or enjoyed two fun activities in a single day. While my mom admittedly set the bar for awesomeness rather high, and the adjustment back to normalcy was a little rocky upon our return home—“Where are we going and what are we doing today, Mama? What? No! HEB isn’t fun!”—it was totally worth it to know that both my child and her dad & me had a blast on our respective vacations.

I think it's fairly obvious why my daughter doesn't really mind spending a few days with "Ginny" whenever we go out of town.

I think it’s fairly obvious why Harper doesn’t really mind spending a few days with “Ginny” & “Nu-Nu” when we go out of town.

And, although this may seem like a cop-out, traveling without children also teaches them a valuable lesson: How to be OK without us, at least briefly. Teaching my daughter to be comfortable with other people is not only positive, it’s imperative. I can’t and won’t always physically be there—at school, on playdates with friends, when she goes to college, etc.—so our time apart is great practice for those situations. I’m not suggesting we peddle our kids off on whomever will take them in the name of some downtime—that’s crazy—but being able to leave your child with a trusted source such as a grandparent, sibling, or close family friend can be beneficial for all involved.

Plus, when I return from a kid-free vacation, I’m confident that I come back a better mom. I feel refreshed, re-energized, and ready to tackle mommyhood with beginning-of-the-school-year enthusiasm. My child deserves that from me. I wish I were a Pinteresting Super Mom that could give that to her every day nonstop without an intermittent break. But I’m not. In five years of parenting, I’ve learned that what I get out of an occasional adults-only vacay is crucial to both my personal well-being, my marriage, and my passion to improve as a parent. Besides, my primary role as Harper’s mother is not “playmate” but “parent.” It’s my job to show her via my example how to be a grown woman who’s comfortable with who she is, not to mention what a happy, healthy adult relationship looks like. When my husband I return from a getaway, we’re always more affectionate, less stressed, and more patient, both as parents and in general. If taking a weekend here and there is what Jeff & I need to be better parents to our child and better spouses to each other, then—twist my arm—we’ll continue to make traveling together a priority as long as we can.

 

Am I opposed to traveling together as a family? Absolutely not. I love family vacations—the experiences, memories, and exposure to different people, places, and cultures are all things I consider huge positives in my daughter’s life. But never again will I feel guilty for not including my child in every vacation I take.

If you’ve been fretting over your “selfishness” for considering a weekend trip with your girlfriends, or if you’ve been putting off a trip with your spouse—even if it’s nothing more than an overnight staycation here in town—because you’re worried that your child couldn’t handle a little time away from you (or, by contrast, that you couldn’t manage a few days without your child), STOP. Your child doesn’t need to be responsible for or participate in every minute of happiness in your life. Let go of your Mom Guilt, get online, and book that trip. And later, when you’re uploading a picture of that piña colada by the pool to Instagram, you can forgo the cliché hashtags, because Mama, you’re already living proof: #YOLO.

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