The other day, one mother posted to a listserv I am on asking for help in procuring a babysitter so that she and her husband could go out of town sans kids. She was crucified by the moms on the list who insisted that they would never leave their babies and how could she ever consider it.
I say they were jealous. Because after two vacations sans my toddlers, I can honestly say I am a better parent -- and generally a better person -- than I was before I left. I love my babies more than anything in my life before or after them, but I love them so much more when I have the chance to get away from them.
Toddlers are enormously difficult. Some people say they are their favorite stage, but for me, going away with my 2.5 and 4-year-old requires a second vacation just to recover from.
That said, we are lucky to have people we trust who my children know well who can stay with my children (my parents). Hiring a babysitter would be a more frightening prospect, but all the same, everyone should be able to have the opportunity to get away.
My first trip away from my kids was when I took a weekend-long babymoon with my husband while we were pregnant with our second. We left our 15 month old daughter with my parents and drove to a shore town an hour away. It was heaven. Since then, we have taken four weekends, two of which we spent at home while my kids went to my family lake house and the last was a weekend away in the Cape for our anniversary. Every single one of those was highly memorable.
At one point, my husband looked at me and asked if anyone else in the world could possibly be having more fun than us. I kind of doubted it. Freedom is so much more free and precious when you don't have it all the time. Both of us returned to our children rejuvenated, more patient, loving and kind.
Then we started taking longer trips. My first was to Israel with my sister and my father. That one was two weeks, so it was a bit longer than I intended and since I was not with my husband, it did not really improve our marriage, but what it did for me cannot be overstated. It is so easy in marriage and motherhood to lose oneself and forget who you were before the babies came along. I spent the weeks laughing with my sister, exploring new things (like I did when I traveled in my youth) and discussing things other than my children and their diapers.
When I got back, I was a different person. Actually, I was the same person, just several years younger. I was able to hug them and love them in a new way because I felt like I was not losing myself in them.
My second trip was to Europe with my husband. It was almost a full week away and wow, did we need it. Had we brought our children, our entire trip would have been consumed by them, their needs, their naps, their fits. Instead it was about us, about indulgence and fun and holding hands and long, uninterrupted talks. It was magical.
I have returned so much more patient with my children and so much happier in general. The moms on my listserv can call me selfish if they want, but I think if they had a week away, they would stop caring so much what other moms do.
Do you take trips away?