Parenting lesson #30: Getting away gets easier


The lake view from our balcony as the sun set

When you’re a parent, a family vacation does not count as vacation from working.  So I have found that for me, getting away without the kids is super important if I’m going to feel refreshed.  Greg and I just came back from a four-day lake trip with old friends, and it was heavenly.  I can honestly say that if you need assurance you can escape for some adult time, our experience is that it gets easier over time to leave the kids behind.

Perhaps you are a parent that doesn’t believe in ever leaving your children behind for vacation.  (As my high school student government teacher used to say, you are entitled to your opinion, however wrong it might be.)  Or maybe you think someday you’ll do it, but not until your kids are much older.  (Completely understandable, but still wrong.)  Or maybe you’re interested in doing it after you’re no longer breastfeeding, whenever that day seems to come, or even a soon as you can find someone willing to give you the break.  (I was one of those, so of course I think I’m right.)  And though I will admit it is difficult to do, I would highly encourage it for the sake of your marriage and sanity, provided you have friends or family you would trust to take care of your kids.

I have come up with a definition of stay-at-home parenting.  It is like having a challenging, awesome job, mostly because things are always changing and you adore your colleagues.  But the difference between this job and all others is that you live with your co-workers, too.  So even though you might not be working 24/7 per se, your boss and work friends are always around and you are inevitably immersed in work conversations, gossip and to-do lists.  I don’t see how anyone could do it without needing some time off, not only to refresh but also to remember that there are other things going on in the world.  (And this need I’m sure heightens for working parents.)

When Eliza was about 11-months-old, Greg and I took our first overnight trip away.  We left her with both of my parents at our house and about a two-page detailed instruction guide regarding her schedule and every potential scenario they might face and how to handle it.  We ended up at a restaurant about 2 hours away where we did not have cell phone reception.  (This was not on purpose.)  It was unnerving, especially because I was pregnant and thus not willing to use a good cocktail to calm myself.  But the restaurant called our house for us and reported that all was well.  We were able to breathe a bit easier, relax and enjoy ourselves.  It was the first successful attempt and it worked: Eliza and my parents survived unscathed.  We were gone a total of about 16 hours.  And it was amazing.

Then a few months later we took a “babymoon” outside of the country.  We left Eliza with my mom for nearly six days, again with detailed instructions.  Both my mom and Eliza came out of it alive.  Each time you successfully leave, it builds confidence that you can do it the next time.  (And video chatting helps!)

Then along came Zach.  That complicated things.  It’s one thing to leave a single toddler behind.  It’s another to leave a baby and a toddler.  We took our first overnight trip away when Zach was 7-months-old and Eliza was about to turn 2.  We of course left detailed instructions and I had to pump a lot.

And now, here we are.  Zach is 20-months and Eliza is 3.  Though Zach still isn’t the perfect sleeper, he’s generally now in a phase where he’s done teething (until those 2-year molars come in), he eats table food, and he and Eliza play together.  This time, I left my mom behind without a schedule or instructions and a hurricane approaching.  She knows they nap in the afternoon and when they generally go to bed.  They can feed themselves.  They tell you when they’re hungry and thirsty.  (Well, Zach pretty much just points and screams, but I consider that communication.)

The point is that I’ve never been as comfortable as I was this time around.  I had less of an idea what they would eat and do than ever before, and I was okay with that.  Time spent getting spoiled by grandma is important.  And though I missed the kids terribly, Greg and I were able to celebrate our ten years of marriage by having fun and enjoying each other, which is what made us want to be together and have a family in the first place.

So, if you’re waiting until it “feels right” to leave your child or children at home (even just for a date night), I would highly encourage you to get out and do it.  Because marriage is hard work that’s worth working for … and sometimes that means taking a vacation.

How do you feel like “you” again? (And do you ever?) I might know.


Because I went from being pregnant, to nursing, to being pregnant and nursing, to being just pregnant, and now to nursing again, I am currently at 2 2/3 years without having a “normal” hormone level.  I’m not really sure if there will be long-term repercussions of living like this (and I have no idea how Michelle Duggar has survived!), but I can say that I struggle daily with my identity as “Christine” and not just my identity as “Mommy” or “housewife” or “maid.”  So sometimes, no, often times, I find my sanity comes from doing things that I did before kids.  I must say that these little mini-breaks are my current life preserver.

Today’s time to myself was a visit to the salon for a cut and color.  There is something super-restorative about having someone else figure out how to make you look amazing and then do it for you.  I have the BEST stylist in the world (Holly, you rock!), and every time I get my hair done, I leave feeling like it has never looked that good.  And the process – OH THE PROCESS – of getting a head massage, and sitting and reading (yes, US Weekly or People, and no, I’m not sure why because now it seems like every page is full of “stars” I don’t know), or sitting and knitting (which I also did), is pure bliss.  Someone else was feeding and playing with Zach.  Someone else was entertaining Eliza’s constant chatter, demands for attention, and temper tantrums.  And I was doing … whatever I wanted to do.  It’s a flashback of what life was like before kids, and I would be institutionalized if I didn’t do this.  Some women have endless supplies of God-given mommy patience; some get medicated; I get a babysitter.

The point is that we all have to find what makes us tick and then make those things priorities.  I try to schedule a hair appointment for every 9 weeks, get regular pedicures, and go shopping with a friend once in a while.  But more often, I find respite by getting to the grocery store alone, or taking a bath at night, or having Greg take the kids for 2 hours while I run needed errands by myself.  This weekend, I’m taking a trip to visit my college roommate while Eliza stays back with Greg.  We’re taking a cooking class and going to tea, and having a babysitter for Zach while we do these things.  And it is going to be magical.

I know that I am a better mother when I get breaks from my kids.  My life changed forever nearly two years ago when Eliza was born, and though my hormones might not be the same (and I probably am a different person now), I take every chance to return to “normalcy” that I can.  What do you do?