I didn't spend more than a few hours away from my son until he was 2. It wasn't so much reluctance as lack of opportunity, but a dear friend's wedding a quick plane ride away provided the perfect excuse for a long weekend getaway with my husband and friends. My son stayed with his grandparents while his father and I made the trip to a beach town just outside of Charleston. It was on that lovely beach that I turned to my husband and declared "I don't miss him." It's true: I don't miss my kids when I'm away, and I don't feel even a little bit bad about it. Yet I know a lot of mothers (and, yes, just mothers) who agonize over such absences, and, with summer vacation times coming, I'd like to chat about that.
Of course, if you are someone who misses your children when you're apart, I'm not faulting or judging you. Your feelings are your feelings, and feelings are meant to be felt! And hey, I get that we love these little monsters, even when they're super monstrous. But, sorry not sorry, I have never been on a vacation where I've pined for my little ones. It's not that I hate my children and prefer to spend time apart. And it's not like I dread returning to them — I'm always happy to scoop them up and give them big hugs when I get home. But I've just never really managed to miss them.
Look, in my every day life, there is nothing I do that doesn't take my children into account. More often than not, everything I do is necessarily centered around them... and I'm happy with that! I chose a kid-centric existence and, fortunately, it suits me. Would I like to travel more (with and without my children)? Certainly. But I've become content in domesticity in a way I did not expect. So my not missing my kids when I'm away has nothing to do with personal dissatisfaction or lack of maternal instinct (whatever that means).
When else will I have so much time and space to reconnect with who I am outside of my motherhood?
I try to spend a full day of kid-free cavorting and socializing with friends about once a month. I leave in the morning and don't see my children until the next day. That I could possibly miss them in so brief a period is basically inconceivable to me. Like... it's a day. It's a complete non-issue for all of us. As for vacations, I get maybe four to five days away once a year. I still don't miss them.
My annual vacation is important to me. Because remember how I said almost everything I do revolves around my kids? Well, that once-a-year vacation doesn't. And while having a day once a month is a vital recharge, having a few days is valuable in a way I can't even describe. When else am I going to have that much time to just focusing on myself? When else will I be able to not worry about getting anyone ready, or making sure they're staying safe, or feeding or cleaning them, or planning activities around what would make them the happiest? When else will I have so much time and space to reconnect with who I am outside of my motherhood? I'm not going to spend a second of that feeling any kind of regret. And, ultimately, reconnecting with myself in this way will make me a better parent. My mom game is at its best when I have a strong sense of self.
I could say I miss my children to keep up the appearance of a woman who is always, first and foremost, a mother. And while I'm sure a lot of moms genuinely just miss their kids when they're away, I think a lot make themselves feel guilty because they feel they should. Because they don't want to be perceived as not loving their children. They don't want to be seen as a "selfish woman." We're trained to believe that being a "real woman" is to live a life of constant self-sacrifice. So I think it's important for mothers to be honest about all aspects of their motherhood, including the times when you say, "Yeah, it's nice not to be on mom duty sometimes."
And that's really the point of this. It's not just me callously declaring. "My kids? Ha! I don't even remember those little monsters after a few mai tais on the beach!" It's to assure other moms that, yes, you can be away from your children and love them with all your heart and soul and still completely revel in time to yourself, be it an evening, a day or an international vacation.
In a couple of weeks I'll be flying almost 5,000 miles away from my son and daughter (the furthest apart we've ever been). I look forward to not missing them at all and being overjoyed to return home to them.