Leave ’em behind: Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about traveling without the kids

vacation for mom and dad
my husband Jon and I on a weekend getaway to Grand Rapids, MI

For the first ten years or so of parenthood, I’ll admit my husband and I rarely got away for more than an hour or two by ourselves. A weekend? With a bunch of little kids and a busy schedule? Fugeddaboudit.

But lately, as the kids have gotten older and my now-retired mother-in-law has become more available, we’ve been getting out – by ourselves – a lot more. This summer we went on several weekend trips and a handful of overnighters, and more and more often, Jon’s been accompanying me to media tours and conferences.

Of course, the most frequent question we always get is “Who’s got all the kids!?” People seem to find it really novel that my husband and I get away without the children fairly often, which was starting to make wonder whether they’re simply jealous and/or curious…or whether leaving the kids behind is considered bad parenting.

But I refuse to feel guilty. Of course I still love going on trips with my kids, but I feel equally good about all the times I’ve gone off and left them behind. Here’s why:

  • It’s good for kids to expand their “village.”

No mom is an island, and having a circle of loving, caring adults in his life is a good thing for any child. Leaving gives your child the opportunity to get closer to other people in his or her support network (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, close family friends) and strengthen bonds that can last a lifetime.

  • It teaches young kids that when Mom and Dad go away, they come back.

In the world of a small child’s mind, the “coming back” part isn’t a given. They don’t always understand that when parents leave, they will return…but separations that end with a happy reunion will make that going-returning connection in their brains, and help them deal with necessary separations (school, for example) as they get bigger.

  • Breathers are great for parents.

I love traveling with my kids, but let’s face it, a family vacation can create a lot of stress. Going away for the weekend with just my husband gives us both a much-needed chance to relax, unwind, and stay connected to one another. Since I believe a healthy relationship between parents is very important to a child’s well-being, this “upside” to regular getaways – whether heavy on the romance or just a chance to unwind and re-connect – can’t be over-stated.

  • It gives your child the chance to create special memories with somebody important in her life.

Do you have childhood memories of the time you got to stay with your grandparents for a week or the summer that you went on vacation with your cousins? Those special, unique times can lead to lasting memories, the kind that make up the fabric of an extended family’s story and give them things to remember with loved ones far into the future.

Do you and your spouse or partner take trips without the kids often? Why or why not?


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