As our toddlers played together at the train table in our neighborhood’s coffee shop, another mother and I were talking about summer vacation plans. She was sharing details about a spectacular 10-day vacation she and her husband took to a resort in Central America last fall. Instantly, my daydreams ferried me to the shade of swaying palms, where I sat on a picnic blanket sharing sweet drinks made from local fruit with my husband and our tyke, adorably clad in a bucket sunhat and buttered up with sunblock. My husband and I traveled a good amount before we welcomed our son into our lives, and we often talk about what kind of trips we want to take with him when he’s old enough to have fun memories of family travel.
I turned to my coffee-swigging mama acquaintance and replied, “I love your sense of adventure–packing up your little one and trekking out of the country like that!” Questions about the logistics of international travel were bubbling up in my brain–infant passport? lengthy air travel? vaccines?–but before I could ask, she responded, “Oh, we didn’t take her. She stayed with grandma.”
Wait, whaaaa? I quickly did the math, realizing that her daughter was 9 or 10 months old at the time of her parents’ tropical trek out of the country. Ten whole days? Outside of the country? Without their babe? But…why? How? I hoped my face belied my shock and confusion. I thought back to my son at that age. In the span of a week around that stage, my son took his first steps. He was nursing every 3 hours or so. I couldn’t imagine being away from him for one night at that age, let alone a solid week and a half. My chest tightened at the thought. The mama went on to say that it was, indeed, a bit hard being away from her daughter at first, but she and her husband relaxed into their vacation and had a stellar time. Her daughter had a great time bonding with grandma, too, she said, adding with a laugh that her daughter didn’t want to leave grandma’s when it was time to come home.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my son in the care of someone else while my husband and I went out. Our friends’ rehearsal dinner; a fancy dinner out and a movie as an early wedding anniversary celebration; and just this past weekend when my husband and I went out to see a late movie. Sprinkled amongst these big events and date nights are the random long solo walks for coffee or a child-free errand jaunt, but seldom has it been, in these almost 18 months, that we’ve gone out without our son.
I’m not judging, complaining or glorifying. It’s what it is: we simply do not feel the need to go out often without him. We’ve never felt the desire to travel without him (in fact, we’d hate that). The first ten years of our marriage were filled with travel (domestic and international), parties with friends, expensive meals out, and regular concerts and shows. We enjoyed our share of excess. We waited a long time to become parents, and, right now, we simply want to just be with our son.
We have felt pressure from others, though: You guys should go out more! You need time to yourselves! Don’t feel guilty for going out without him! You’re more than parents, you know! It’s healthy and necessary for your child to develop relationships with other adults! It’s good for your child to see that you have a social life! The implications and undertones of these kind of statements are irritating at best. We’re not helicoptering. We’re not sheltering. We’re not excluding other adults from our son’s life. Dudes, we just like the company of our kid. Sue us.
When I do go out, I don’t feel guilty for going out without my kid. But, sometimes, other people make me feel guilty for NOT wanting to go out more without him. Am I somehow neglecting a part of myself or my marriage by not going out more? I do wonder, but I always come to the same conclusion: nope.
A couple of weekends ago, after I had a particularly trying week at home with my toddler, my husband took him to a festival in the park, and I took a long shower by myself, blow-dried my hair (a very rare occurrence in my motherhood), put on a cute skirt, grabbed the just-delivered issue of Food & Wine, walked to our other neighborhood coffee shop (the one without a kids’ area), ordered a very large iced Americano, propped my feet up on the shady patio, and read my magazine cover to cover. It was a glorious couple of hours, just what I needed to recharge.
It was enough for me.
What about you? How often do you spend time away from your child? Would you ever go/have you ever gone on a long vacation without your little one? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty for spending too little or too much time away?
One of Rhianna’s all-time fave vacations was a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with her husband. She gets lost in daydreams about making the same trip with little ones buckled in the backseat. She faithfully renews her subscription to Budget Travel magazine every year.