Going Away Without The Kids: Selfish Or Essential?
My husband is turning 40 in September and, to mark this momentous occasion (when the fuck did we get so old?!) I’m taking him away on a surprise trip. I say ‘surprise’; he knows we are going away but he has no idea where or what we are going to do when we get there. We are going away for 5 nights and, it occurred to me, that in the five and a half years since we had kids, we’ve never spent more than one night away from the kids together.
It’s not a given that every parent wants time away from their kids. Some can’t think of anything worse than leaving their kids and I can respect that, even if, personally, I find it hard to understand. For me though, I know that my relationship doesn’t do well when it’s not nurtured and nurturing a relationship when you’re consumed by scraping Weetabix off the table or changing dirty nappies is not easy. So, I’m excited about this trip but I’m also nervous and somewhere, on the sidelines, I can feel the guilt starting to seep in.
I know the girls will be fine - they’ll have a blast with grandparents who’ll feed them ice cream for breakfast and let them watch TV until their eyeballs bleed. It’s me I’m worried about. I’m worried that my guilt surrounding the trip will mean I won’t fully enjoy the experience - one which I’ve saved up for and looked forward to for months. The rational part of my brain also knows that there’s nothing to feel guilty about, but how do I stop the demons ruining what should be the trip of a lifetime?
Parenting is full of dichotomies. We can’t wait to have time to ourselves and then when we get it we miss them and spend the whole time looking at videos of them. We get so mad when they won't go to sleep and then when they sleep really well we wake them up to check they’re still alive. Parenting is emotionally exhausting because we spend the whole time second guessing ourselves and why wouldn’t we? They’re entire existence depends on us not fucking it all up too badly - that’s a heavy responsibility to manage every day.
So when I think about going away for five nights, I wonder whether they’ll get it? Whether they’ll understand that, even though we’re gone, we’re coming back? I wonder whether they’ll shout my name at night forgetting I’m not there and feel crushing disappointment when they remember? I wonder whether they’ll feel left out, left behind? I wonder all of these things and more and then I remember one crucial point: I’m in charge. My husband and I are in charge; we can manage this situation.
We can sit them down and explain. We can make sure they understand. We can show them how to ask Granny and Grumps to call us if they need us or miss us. We can explain that we need our time together so that we can be the best possible parents for them. We can explain that we want them to enjoy their time with their grandparents. We can show them that, even if we leave, we are always coming back. Most importantly, we can show them the importance of nurturing a loving relationship as parents because, without us as a strong foundation, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
So, we’re leaving them for five days and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to enjoy every damn minute because for the first time in five years, for the first time since our relationship was turned on its head with the arrival of kids, we have the time to rediscover each other and that’s as essential to the kids’ wellbeing as anything else I can think of.