Once a year, for the past twelve years, my husband and I go on a cruise without our kids. This may sound like heaven, but in all honesty, the amount of planning that goes into making sure our boys are happy and healthy while we are away, takes a bit of the shine off the overall experience. Any parent who has attempted to leave their kids for a few days can relate to the tremendous detail that goes into it. While it gets easier as they get older, here are a few things I have learned to help get me through:
I am the queen of lists. Not only do they help organize my thinking, they can help whoever is in charge of taking care of your kids. Currently, my most detailed lists concern the care of my aging shih-tzu. At fifteen and a half, he requires specialized care regarding his eye health. So far, babysitters to dog sitters have found these lists to be a helpful resource.
Outsource When You Can
I used to go to extremes to make sure my house was clean, our laundry was all caught up and the refrigerator was fully stocked. This took so much time and energy it made me miserable. Now, I ask for help. Instead of everything falling on me, my kids, my husband and the sitter all pitch in. It makes life so much easier knowing that I am not in charge of every last detail.
Opportunities for Growth
The best part about these trips is two-fold. First, my boys learn that they can survive (and thrive) in the world without me. They learn self-sufficiency and how to rely on each other. In a way, I think it helps solidify their bond. The second part is for me. I learn that the world does not stop running if I am not there. Life keeps moving for my kids whether I am monitoring every moment or not. It may not look how it would exactly if I was there, but it is still a full and rich experience as any.
Reach Out When You Need Help
If you are unable to afford the luxury of a getaway or even a night out, ask a friend or a loved one to help. One of my big regrets when raising a young family was not asking for more help. I wished I would have reached out more to friends and the women of the playgroups I belonged to. Maybe I could have watched their kids so they could grocery shop in peace and they, in turn, could have done the same for me.
Others cannot know you are in need if you do not openly express it.
Whether you are traveling near or far, stay open to life possibilities. If there is an opportunity for adventure, even if that consists of two kid-free hours at a big box store, make sure you go for it. Who knows, a few hours of separation may change how you see your relationship with your kids.
If you are really lucky, it will help you positively improve the relationship you have with yourself.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent