Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I Travel Alone, & I Think It Makes Me A Better Mom

I never had much of a chance to travel before I had kids, which means I haven’t had much of a chance to travel, period. I had my son at 22, literally days after graduating college. While most of my friends were packing up to visit exotic locales or live abroad, I immediately became a stay-at-home mom, which was a totally different kind of adventure. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to travel, but it was pretty low on my list of priorities. Plus, I had three kids over the course of just over four years, so I didn't have a ton of time. However, now that I am done having kids and breastfeeding, I travel alone and no, I don’t think it’s selfish.

I’m not talking about going on trips to nurture my relationship with my husband. We’ve spent exactly one weekend alone together since our honeymoon, and our (then only) child wound up breaking out in hives due to an allergic reaction. I get that couple alone time is important, but until we figure out how to get our 2-year-old to sleep through the night consistently, we’re going to have to count our occasional dinners out as mini-vacations. Ain’t nobody watching three kids overnight (especially when one doesn’t sleep for more than a four-hour stretch) — not even grandmas.

We’ve almost got this sleep training thing down, so I’m hoping couples vacations are in our near future. However, I’m not holding my breath for that day to come before I decide to leave the house for a weekend away. In fact, I’m already making vacations a priority for myself — even if the rest of the family stays at home. I’m going on girls’ weekends or traveling completely solo, because honestly, sometimes I need to be out in the world without the rest of my family.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

While there are certain times I absolutely want to travel with the whole crew (or at least part of the crew, like when I took just my daughter to Disneyland), there are other adventures I want to have that are not so family-friendly. Sometimes I want to get away and get some writing done, or just be alone for the sake of regaining some sense of self. As soon as I took my first solo trip to New York last summer to do some writing, I immediately realized that traveling alone is a radical form of self care, and one I didn’t want to live without any longer.

Traveling alone is a radical form of self care.

Being out in the world without kids hanging off me or waiting for me to come home from the grocery store was unlike anything I’d ever felt since becoming a mother. As I met new people, I was able to have conversations that didn’t revolve around my kids. I even had conversations in which I didn’t mention being a mother — where I just talked about being just me. It was strange and exhilarating. I didn’t realize how much I needed to be seen as a person outside of motherhood, because before I started traveling alone, it had simply never been an option.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

Yet perhaps even more thrilling than traveling alone was the time I didn’t spend with people. The time I spent by myself — walking alone, eating alone, writing alone, sitting alone — was far from lonely. It was restorative. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been alone long enough to revel in my own thoughts without being interrupted by the screams of children or the nagging to-do list that lives in the back of my mind.

When I came back from that trip, I felt like a different person. My tank had been running on empty for so long, I was shocked by how it felt to be full for once. I had more patience with my kids. My mood and energy were better. I was calm and happy and my mind seemed to be working better. Within a week, I was already figuring out when I could take my next solo vacation, and have taken many child-free vacations since.

If it helps me be a better mom to my children, I honestly can’t think of vacationing alone as selfish. Traveling by myself allows me to care for myself in a way that stealing scraps of time for myself cannot. It helps me find my center and come back to my family a more well-adjusted person, which makes it worthwhile for everyone.