A few weeks ago we told our friends about our upcoming vacation to Hawaii for our ten-year wedding anniversary. It will be our first vacation without our children. In eight years, we have spent no more than one night at a time away from them. There was one night in Tahoe, one night at Lake Topaz, and one night at a local hotel when my parents were in town and could watch the kids for us, but other than that, any time we’ve gone away, our children have been with us. So when we told our friends, who are also married with two children, that we would be spending seven nights in Maui sans kids, they were in awe.
“What are you going to do?” they asked, wrapping their heads around the concept. As they took turns soothing their four-month old, they suggested we spend the first three days of our vacation sleeping. Remembering what it was like with an infant, I totally understood that suggestion. However, since our kids are a bit older, we do get a little more sleep these days…not much, but a little. Even so, the idea of sleeping in each day is attractive. I’m not going to lie.
The reason we don’t travel without our children is not that we have any fears about leaving them. Quite contrarily, I think it is healthy for parents to get away from their kids as often as possible. Date nights give you an opportunity to reconnect and share a meal that doesn’t involve cutting someone else’s food or farts at the dinner table. Spending the night at a hotel reminds you what it is like to wake up without your four year-old climbing into your bed at 5:30 and announcing that it is morning or questioning where your pants are when you’ve only slept in underwear.
My husband and I high-five when we get in the car after leaving the babysitter in charge for a few hours. But since all of our children’s grandparents live across the country from us, the opportunity to take a longer break from our kids hasn’t presented itself until now. Being married for a decade seemed like reason enough for my folks to volunteer to fly out and spend the week with my kids while we went to Hawaii. I’m pretty sure a full-on chest bump might be in order.
Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who is married but who does not plan on having any children…Ever. She was going to spend some time in Arizona visiting her aunt, and her husband was not joining her. She said she was excited to go on a vacation and not have to wake up every morning to his boner. She mentioned how every year, they usually go away together to Mexico for a week, and she knows when they go, she’ll have to have sex every day.
Let’s review this again. She’ll have to have sex every day.
If you’re reading this, and you have children, I know what you’re thinking. It’s like “first-world problems” for the childless. Poor Baby. You’ll have to have sex every day. Let me tell you about the last time I had sex, right after I dust the cobwebs out of my crotch.
Or maybe you’re still hung up on the idea that they go away together…alone…every year…to Mexico. Their vacations aren’t to Disneyland, Lego Land, Sesame Place, Six Flags, or the zoo. They don’t have to pack sippy-cups and favorite blankets and coloring books and fruit snacks and thicker-than-paste-sunscreen. I’m sure she’s always well-rested too. I mean, aside from the times she’s awakened by her husband’s you-know-what poking her in the back.
There are so many things I’m looking forward to about our trip, but I know that while I will appreciate spending a week without my kids, I will also miss them immensely. For every sacrifice that having children requires, my life is equally enriched by them.
I may not get to sleep in, but having their little, warm bodies in my bed on a Sunday morning, giggling and being silly with them, is not something I would trade for all the world.
I may not have sex-filled vacations, but seeing the world through my children’s eyes when we travel fills my heart in a whole different way.
My blog, like my life, is all about balance. You can’t have children and make your whole world about your children. (Well, I guess you can, but I don’t recommend it.) You need to also have time for you– and time for you and your husband together. When people say that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, I disagree. You can have children and still enjoy some time away, remembering what it was like before they entered your life. Whether it is for a few hours, one night, or a week–getting away is crucial to your sanity.
Sometimes I’ll tell my husband I am going to Target. He always asks, “What do you need?” My answer: Nothing. I just need to go to Target.
Translation: I need an hour to myself, away from the kids and the chaos of whatever is happening in the house. An hour to mindlessly walk the aisles, pushing a cart, sipping on a Starbucks if I really want to spoil myself, and searching through the clearance racks.
Getting away allows you to return. Having some childless moments allows you to appreciate your children more. Having one-on-one time with your husband allows you to remember why you made your children in the first place.
We all know that being a parent is a full-time job, but like any job, you are allowed a fifteen-minute break, you deserve a lunch-hour, and you earn your annual vacation. I propose that in this job, the vacation policy be “use it, or lose it.”
Whether you use it in increments—getting a pedicure, trying a new restaurant with your hubby, or spending a long weekend at a B&B while someone else takes care of the kids—or whether you cash it in all at once for that week in Maui you’ve been dreaming about ever since your honeymoon: Don’t let your vacation time go to waste. After all, you’ve earned it.