I left my husband and kids.
I didn’t go far — just a two-hour flight away — and I came home a couple days later; but it was hard. Harder than a two-day trip should have been. In fact, if the getaway (I’m not sure I can really call it a “vacation,” per se) hadn’t been months in the making and I hadn’t already bought my airline ticket, I might not have left at all.
There was a time not so long ago (okay, it was longer ago than I care to admit) when getting away for the weekend was as easy as throwing a bikini and some make-up in a bag and getting on the next flight out of town. Now, getting away for a day or two is such a giant pain in the butt that, for many years, trips without my family just didn’t happen. In fact, it was years after my sons were born before I spent the night away from my husband and kids. A weekend away seemed like too much work; not worth the hassles, favors, and rescheduling it required.
In the past few years, however, I’ve been getting away without my husband and kids more often — whether it’s for a weekend with friends, a women’s retreat, or a writing conference. Admittedly, now that my kids are six and nine, they are much more self-sufficient. They sleep through the night. They don’t wet the bed. They can pack their own suitcases. But the bigger reason I get away more often these days is that I started making it a priority and stopped assuming that my family couldn’t get along without me.
A month ago, I spent two days on the beach with girlfriends, and last weekend, I spent a long weekend at a writing conference. And before each trip, the stress of preparing to leave was so great that I considered not even going. I worried about how others would be inconvenienced, not to mention how I would be inconvenienced. I fretted about the costs of it all — not just to our family’s pocketbook, but to our calendars and energy as well. And I wondered if the inconveniences and expenses would be worth it.
But my husband urged me to go, practically pushing me out the door so that he and our sons could have a special “Dad’s Weekend.” So I called in favors, asking my in-laws for help filling the gaps. I made lists of who needed to be where, when. I did loads and loads of laundry before I left, and somehow even more laundry when I got home.
Leaving is hard. But we should leave anyway.
As moms, we are often the ones who hold our families’ schedules together. We know what cereal our 5-year-old likes to eat, and which cup our toddler won’t drink from. We know which park is the favorite and the fastest way to get there. We have the phone numbers of the parents of our kids’ friends programmed into our phone. We know who needs to be where when and how long it takes to get there. And so, we think to ourselves, What will happen if we leave? Who will keep track of these schedules and routines? Who will carry the weight of the family?
Even if we have someone to help carry the load — a spouse, grandparents, or good friends, perhaps — the scales seem to weigh more heavily on the hassles than the benefits. Can we afford the expense? Will the family get along okay without us? Is all the rescheduling and packing and planning worth it?
Yes, it is worth it.
As parents, we spend so much time focusing on the needs of our children. They are our first priority. We know their idiosyncrasies and quirks. We keep tabs on the emotional health and wellbeing of our children, not to mention the wellbeing of the family as a whole. We fill their tanks with love and patience and encouragement.
But if we are constantly filling the emotional tanks of others, how can we fill our own?
Within our daily lives, we can become consumed by our roles as Mom and Wife. This is to be expected. Our spouses and children are our main focus, after all. It’s no wonder why these roles are often at the epicenter of our identity. But there are other pieces to us, as well; other roles we occupy, as friends, daughters, women, individuals.
On these brief getaways, when we gently shake off our roles of Wife and Mom, we can tend to the other pieces of our identity for a little while. We can remember what it was like to laugh at nothing and everything while surrounded by good friends. We can sift through those nuggets of thoughts and feelings and longings — the ones we aren’t able to hear when little voices are saying Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy. We can breathe a little deeper. When we get away from the laundry and emails and near-constant requests for snacks, we peel back the layers of that very large role of Mom, and like Russian nesting dolls, we open up the various pieces of ourselves until we get to the core and catch a glimpse of the woman inside.
So yes, getting away is hard. Very hard.
Do it anyway.More On