I am all about doing things as a family, regardless of how you define family or what yours looks like. My kids and I do nearly everything together--library visits, grocery runs, park trips, play dates, and even trips to the bathroom. This past summer, I was actually brave enough to board a plane with my preschooler and toddler and head to sunny Florida. We enjoyed the beach, pools, Disney World, and, most importantly, time with our extended family. We left with some beautiful memories, a little bit of sand, and a lot of exhaustion.
A few months ago, the opportunity arose for me to take another trip, a different kind of trip--a trip without kids. I immediately said, "Yes!" I mean, it would have been crazy to turn down an extended weekend in Boston with some of my favorite people, right? As the date approached, though, I became anxious. This would be the furthest and longest I had been away from my babies. Was this a good idea? After a few days in Boston and a few days at home reflecting, I've decided that, while it was difficult to leave, it was also necessary.
Why it was difficult:
You have to plan ahead and plan a lot: Gone are the days of packing one bag for yourself the morning you leave. Now, you have to pack one bag for yourself and approximately 12 bags for each child. Additionally, you have to make accommodations for childcare and transportation for your children in your absence.
You might miss things: Going on this trip meant missing one of my son's flag football games. Yes, he's four. No, most of them have no idea what they're doing. And it's yet to be seen whether he will turn into the next AJ Green or retire his jersey before Kindergarten. Regardless, part of me wanted to be on the sidelines cheering him on. Luckily, his dad sent me a picture of his touchdown (Go Red Bears!).
You will definitely miss your kids: I started missing my kids the minute I dropped them off that Wednesday morning. Suddenly, I forgot about all of their bickering. I forgot about how I haven't slept well in four-and-a-half years. I forgot about how if I had to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one more time that they would have to commit me. At that moment, my babies were angels, and I wondered, "How could I be doing this to them?"
Why it was necessary:
You deserve a break: It doesn't matter whether you're a single parent, working parent, or a stay-at-home parent, you deserve some time off. Parenting is a hard and thankless job that doesn't come with sick, mental health, or vacation days. Take back a few days for yourself to sleep in a bed without a toddler and to eat a whole plate of food without having to share.
To remember who you are: It seems like once we hear that first cry and gasp for air, our identities become intertwined with our children. And it makes sense--being a parent is an important job, a role that affects every aspect of our lives. But I didn't cease to exist when my son and daughter were born, and neither did you, and it's important to occasionally revisit and revive that individual who has ideas and hopes and dreams of her own.
To reconnect: It is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with kids around. If you try to do this in person, they will need you every few minutes for a snack, bathroom emergency, or to serve as referee in yet another sibling feud. And if you try via the phone, then you're probably a saint. Whether you go on a trip with your spouse/significant other, friend, or family member, the time away will grant you an opportunity to sit down and talk and laugh or just silently enjoy each other's presence without being interrupted.
So if you have some vacation time built up at work or see a chance to slip away even for a night or two, TAKE IT! Yes, you'll miss your kids, but you'll also enjoy some time to yourself. It falls right in line with how I feel about the best things in life (including parenting): it won't be easy, but it will be worth it.