Recently I commented on blogs where mothers discuss their perspectives on leaving their children to travel. Loukia from LouLou’s Views wrote a post this week about her feelings of guilt and reluctance to travel. Annie at PhD in Parenting also wrote about a recent trip when she left her children for business. In it, she offered her suggestions on how to make it easier. I commented about my own experiences leaving my children for time away. As I prepare for time away this weekend, it occurred to me that a post of my own might be valuable. Because I’ve done it several times, I wanted to offer another perspective for mothers who find leaving difficult.
I left my oldest son for time away for the first time when he 15 months time. For many reasons, it was a much needed break from my parenting responsibilities. My husband and I had literally just moved into a home that we had finished building ourselves. It had been a long summer of solo parenting while he worked at the house. I helped whenever I could, but it was more important for me to keep our young son busy so that my husband could work freely and without guilt. It meant I was on my own during the daytime, but also for many evenings and weekends. By the time we moved in, I was exhausted. I needed time away to regain perspective and feel renewed.
When I left that Friday afternoon for two days of rest and relaxation, I left without reservation. I knew I needed a break and would come back feeling like a new woman. But more importantly, after months of busy days and evenings apart, my leaving gave my son and his father quality time alone. It was an opportunity for them to bond and to enjoy each other’s company, without my interference or influence. They could get to know each other better and just be boys. They deserved this time together.
As mothers, I think it can be easy for us to lose perspective. We love our children so much, but that love can keep us from thinking beyond this intensity of emotion. I know I can be guilty of this. In many ways, I am the most important person in my children’s lives. But I also get caught up and assume that I am the only one who can provide them comfort and love they need. When they tumble and bump their head or scrape a knee, I swiftly scoop them out of their father’s arms because I assume that only I can make it better. Really though, this is an injustice to my children. The reality is, there will be times when I won’t be there, when they will need to find comfort on their own and rely on coping strategies that don’t involve me. That’s real life. That’s why I believe it’s good for them to receive love and care from others. I want them to understand that there are other adults in their lives that they can rely on and trust. I’m not the only one who can love them. The more adults who make a difference in their lives, the richer they will be for it.
Please don’t misunderstand, of course my children still need me. It’s true that there really is no substitute for a mother’s love. But that doesn’t mean they need me every day. Time away from one another is healthy, for all of us. As much as it strengthens their bond with their father and others, so does it renew my ability to cope with the daily trials of motherhood. After time away, I come back missing them, wanting to see them, ready to enjoy them once again. I feel less frustrated and better able to cope.
That’s why I can enjoy time away without guilt.