I was tethered to my two children for years. Neither would take a bottle, no matter how hard I tried, and since I worked from home, it wasn’t technically a huge issue... unless I wanted to go anywhere without them. Impossible. So I didn’t leave them.
When they finally detached for the last time, I was still connected to them, as both my children were clingy and didn’t love it when I left even for a night to go to dinner alone. So I gave in to that, too.
My life became an endless cycle of taking care of children and working and taking care of children and working, and the old me — the one who loved to travel and to read and to explore and to adventure (yes, I’m using adventure as a verb!) — slowly disappeared. With that old me went my exuberance for living. And finally, at the end of another day of taking care of children and working, I realized that I was not setting a very good example for my children, even though everything I did was for them.
Yes, we traveled as a family. Some might describe it as a trip rather than a vacation. I still had to take care of the children, to be in the hotel room by 7 p.m. so their bedtimes wouldn’t be spoiled,and when they were bored of the Louvre Museum after a mere 22 minutes, off we went.
So when my husband suggested that I take off alone for a few hours in Paris, I didn’t question it. I wandered through the cobblestone streets, I nibbled on a croissant that I didn’t have to share and I sipped on a cappuccino at a cafe, relishing the fact that I was responsible for no one but myself.
The problem was I wanted more — a few hours of alone time in Paris wasn’t going to cut it.
I wrote down their schedules, I prepped their lunches. And I left.
So during an evening when I was feeling especially stressed, overwhelmed and adventurous, I booked myself on a flight to Finland, which was apparently the happiest place on Earth (way better than Disney). I had 24 hours to cancel my flight if I changed my mind;
I didn’t change my mind. I booked babysitters to take care of my children, to take them home from school, and to help when my husband was at work. I wrote down their schedules, I prepped their lunches. And I left.
My children cried (sobbed for hours over FaceTime begging me to come home). My babysitter didn’t show up (a panic-worthy moment solved by the next-door neighbor). My dog had an accident (it happens). But no one died or even broke a bone.
I swam in the frozen Baltic Sea. I ate lamb on a lamb farm. I went to museums and stayed for hours. It was glorious.
Since my trip to Finland, I’ve made a point of traveling alone every other month. I’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, Las Vegas, Aruba, New York and more.
The lead-up to the vacations is always stressful but very exciting. I have babysitters plus back-up babysitters, and I’ve learned to quell my micromanaging (my husband makes the lunches when I’m gone, and I can’t complain if they contain five cookies to my two).
The vacations themselves are amazing, no matter where I go. I feel refreshed, like my old self. And I’m able to bring that refreshed self home again to be a better, less stressed parent.
It’s my sanity-saver and my reminder that I’m more than a mom: I’m also a person. Sure, my children get nervous, but still manage to make souvenir requests.