For stay at home moms (and dads!), there are no sick days, no professional developments, no conferences, and no vacation days. Our job begins the minute we wake up, or are woken up by children, and lasts until said children go to bed. Scratch that, go to sleep. Scratch that, our job never ends. The challenge of it all can be exhausting. As parents, we feel bad leaving our children for extended periods of time, but that’s just what I recommend doing.
This time of year, social media is flooded with vacation pictures. From Spring Break to Memorial Day Weekend to end of school trips to summer vacations. It’s a never ending flow of smiling faces on beaches and in front of national landmarks. But these images do not represent vacation to me. Vacation is an extended period of recreation, a break from one’s job, time off. A trip with my children is not a vacation, it is work, just in a different “office”. It’s like having to go to the New York office for business. Sure you’re in a different city and might get a chance to see a Broadway Show or tour a museum but the reality is you are still working 8-10 hour days. This is not a vacation.
When we decided to baptize our youngest daughter there was a piece of advice the Deacon gave us that still resonates with me. He tells us that too often parents put the needs and desires of their children ahead of their own, as well as their marriage. He says your number one priority is you. Your number two priority is your marriage. And your third priority is your children. (Gasp! The Deacon just said our children are not the most important people in our life!) I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and his rationale behind it.
The Deacon is not giving me license to be narcissistic and ignore my children, but rather acknowledging what I require to preserve my own sense of self in order to be the best mother I can be. If I am feeling troubled or dispirited it reflects in my parenting. I tend to snap more easily and yell when I know it’s not warranted. I feel stressed and robbed of the joy being a stay at home mom can bring to both me and my children.
We are also reminded that the reason we have our children is because first, we had each other. Our marriage is the rock that our family is built upon. If my husband and I do not take the time to nourish our own relationship, the relationship with our children will suffer. Children are sensitive and clue into our emotions easily. The level of whininess increases twofold in our house when my husband and I are not in the same frame of mind.
When we feel this way concerning a job that is outside of the house, we often have the opportunity to take a personal or vacation day to get back on track. However, the role of parent and partner are not afforded the same luxury. This is why I choose to vacation without my children.
Each year I ensure that I get some well deserved “me time” with my girlfriends. I’m not talking lavish jet setting to the Caribbean or Vegas (although that would be incredible!), but rather just a quick weekend get-away with ladies that know me, support me, and do not judge me. These girl trips provide me with an outlet to vent my frustrations while giving me much needed encouragement. When I return home I am refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of parenting once more.
My husband and I also make certain to take a vacation just the two of us. We lead crazy hectic lives. Between our two schedules, we can go days without seeing each other and all conversation takes place via text messages. Time away is essential for us to reconnect and remember all the good things about one another. Since we live in the great tundra known as Duluth, we typically take a trip during the winter months. We go anywhere we can get some much-needed vitamin D. We know our children are well cared for with Grandma and Grandpa. This allows us to buy into our surroundings and leave the parent in us at home. We become just two people, in love, on vacation without a care in the world. We deserve this.
I recently read a post about why a family travels with their young children. While many argue why would you spend the money when the kids won’t remember the trip, the author made a compelling argument that the vacation is not just for the children. Rather it’s also for the parents and the memories they will cherish. That it doesn’t always matter if the children remember because the parents will. The article gave me a lot to think about and I’ve come to this conclusion: I should do both. I still believe that vacations without my children are a necessity but I’m coming around to the idea that a family vacation might be in our future as well.