Time away

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.

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19 thoughts on “Time away

  1. Jana@Attitude Adjustment says:

    Great post, Christine, and I think you are wise to understand this about the bond between a mother and her children. A lot of mothers seem to think that they should be sort of glued to their children, that it's selfish to want any time to themselves. But it's so not the case. A lot of moms worry about daycare because they think they're "abandoning" their kids. Instead, I found that it was great for my son to learn from other adults, to listen to adults other than me and my husband. It's so important that even though I lost my job, we have kept him in school not only so I could have a break a couple of times a week, but because he's grown so much and I think being home with just me all day, now, would stunt his growth. Plus, it's great to feel like an individual again, separate from your kids. That's part of my identity. (Not to mention, getting away with your husband is great for your marriage.)

  2. amotherworld says:

    I so understand what this means now, but it took me a while to get there!

  3. Christy says:

    I absolutely loved this post. I too, try to get away for a night here and there (and can't wait till babe stops nursing so I can do it again). I feel it's much needed time and actually allows me to come back rejuvenated and more than ready to take on the mommy role again. I really loved when you said about needing to realize/know/remember that it's unfair to allow ourselves to feel we are teh only ones that ultimately can take care of our children. We need to remember it's important for them to bond with their daddies and have strong solid relationships with other adults (grandparents, aunts, uncles…) we are doing them a disservice when we don't foster these relationships.Thank you for writing this.

  4. Charlotte says:

    I remember the first time I took an overnight stay away from the kids. I felt like I should feel guilty but I just wasn't. I've never had a problem leaving them and conversely they've never had a problem being left. Although I'm not sure why exactly my (and their) reaction isn't typical for most people. Chalk it up to inherited weirdness.

  5. A Crafty Mom says:

    Fabulous post Christine!!! I love it, felt like you were talking to me πŸ™‚ I am getting much better at this, but found it harder when the kids were younger. And I totally agree that it is not fair to them to have them believing that mommy is the only one who can truly "care" for them. I went away for the weekend last fall and left the three kids home with my husband – it was one of the best things I'd ever done – for everyone.

  6. Chantal says:

    I agree 100%!

  7. Loukia says:

    Excellent post, Christine. You raise some great points here. It is healthy, for us and for our kids, to spend some time apart. At 2 years old, my youngest son should be able to fall back asleep with either me OR his father – not just me, you know? Also, you said how when your children are in their father's arms after they've hurt themselves, how you scoop them out of daddy's arms – I do the very same thing. It makes my husband upset. And yet, I do it. I need to trust and back away, you know? I am determined to go away this summer, for 2 nights. I know it will be hard, but I know we'll all survive. My guilt also has to do with the fact that I work full-time, so already my mom/in-laws do a lot of babysitting… so leaving them on a weekend is going to be even harder. And I'm sure it will get easier the older they get. I'm sure of it!

  8. BeachMama says:

    Great post! Since I can't even compare notes as I have only been away from J for two nights in his whole life (one for surgery, one to have Apple) I will need to bookmark this for when I may actually get a weekend away from the kids.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Excellent perspective Christine. I am apparently WAY in the minority on this one lol let me explain.I do think it's important to spend time away, and for different people, that away time may be an afternoon, a day, a night etc. But, when the kids are young, especially babies, we can't expect that it will happen easily and for some it can't be seen as a must to be away from them for extended periods (or else we'll feel guilty for not doing it! see, we can't win ;))I do take time alone without the kids, with dh or without etc. It's important for the kids to have alone time with dh, for me to get out, and for them to be alone with family – they are always angels with the grandparents when we are away!But I haven't been away from the kids overnight because of guilt. I have no guilt when I go for dinner with girlfriends, to committee meetings for the day or shopping with my sisters. My dh does an amazing job with them, 24 hours a day (he is up as much as I am) and aside from the nursing needs, he can soothe them very well. It's not guilt and it's also not because I feel like I have to be with them, or that they wont do well without me. It's simply that I am not ready to go overnight without them. DH and I have discussed wanting to go, and we just aren't there. I like them sleeping close. I'm not convinced I'd be sleeping comfortably knowing that whoever is sitting them is likely dealing with a confused, waking toddler, and a very confused waking baby πŸ˜‰ But that's just me, at this point in their lives. It doesn't mean I'm overprotective or too attached, but why go away if I won't enjoy it?There will come a day soon when I will go away overnight. If I go alone, I know they'll be fine with dh. If we go as a couple, I'm sure they'll be fine with family. But for us, now isn't the right time and as long as I find that away time in other healhty ways, it works.I do feel bad for people who really can't get away (no support etc), but this age will pass. And if by miracle I go to Blogher, it will be the first time I'm away from them (aside from being away from ds when dd was born πŸ˜‰

  10. Shannon says:

    I agree that we need our own time! And I don't feel guilty for a moment when I leave them. Call me selfish, but I need my time, NEED IT. We went away for a weekend and I'll admit, I forgot for a day that I even HAD kids! LOL! I knew they were home safe so I wasn't worried apparently!!

  11. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities says:

    What a wonderful post and reminder that when we become parents we don't stop being people. People who have lives and desires and obligations outside the purview of parenting. I think it is so critical to remember what you say in closing, namely that our kids do not need *us* every minute of every day, that they need us a lot and they need care, but that it is okay (even good for them) if we leave from time to time.I really look forward to looking around your blog some more. If this post is any indication, I have a hunch I will love this place!

  12. Amber says:

    I think this is an area where we all have to make our own decisions – when to leave our kids, for how long, and with whom. I really believe that what works for one person is not going to be the same as what works for another person, or sometimes even in the same family what works for one kid may not work for another.I will say that I have found starting small and working my way up has helped me with separation. For example, being apart for a few hours, and then an afternoon, and then a workday, and then one night. It helps ME feel better, because I know from experience that my kid has been OK in the past. My kids may very well be fine either way, I'll concede, but I also feel that it's OK, as a mom, to go easy on yourself. They're only going to be small for so long, and so I'm OK with not getting breaks now. I'll have a lifetime of breaks down the line.

  13. Francesca says:

    I totally agree with what you wrote. I must add that I'm hugely surprised to learn that this is an issue at all in North America. It's an enormous issue where I come from, Italy. But my northern European women friends (ie Scandinavian) – whose husbands come back from work, iron their own shirts, do the dishes and put the kids to bed – think exactly along the same lines as you do, except that they wouldn't feel the need to explain or excuse themselves.

  14. Allison says:

    I couldn't agree more. While I do almost always feel guilty when I take some extended time for myself, and miss the kiddo terribly, I know deep down that it's good for all of us. I also encourage my husband to have a special evening each week with our son. Since he works long hours and travels, they really need this time to reconnect. A mother is a super important, perhaps the most important, adult in a kids life, but I think it's vital that they have strong relationships with other adults too. It makes them much more balanced.

  15. Laurie says:

    Absolutely! I don't leave my kids often enough at all, but I know that it is healthy for us all. My hubby works out of town and I do more than enough parenting, lol! Hmmm, I'm already planning for BlogHer in August but maybe I need a little break before that for a night or two….

  16. Pam says:

    What a great post. My kids are teens now, but I remember so well instinctively knowing that I needed time away from them when they were little. And not just a weekend here or there. But an afternoon every now and then. Good for you for understanding this and not feeling guilty about it. You're lucky that you have support from your husband as well. My road to time away was not as smooth and while I didn't feel any guilt, I was questioned as to why I didn't feel guilty that I wanted to be away from my kids. This time for yourself is important. And it will remain important as you kids grow older (though of course, it gets easier as time passes). I hope you enjoy your weekend away.

  17. LZ says:

    I think I'm one of the few moms who just loves the idea of a night away. My issue is never guilt. Ever. I really never feel bad about being away from the girls. We just don't have easy, overnight childcare, or I would definitely take advantage of it more often.I sometimes wonder if I'm missing a gene. I have friends who talk about missing their kids so much when they aren't with them that they just don't do it. Me? Never. I love being around my kids, but I can't say that I've ever been out with my husband or friends and wished the kids were with me or I was at home with them. Maybe a longer trip would make me feel differently, or if I didn't stay home with them. Not sure…

  18. Becca says:

    My husband go on a vacation, just the two of us every year. We're lucky to have both sets if parents around to care for the kids but we think there is nothing healthier than time away. It's healthy for us AND the kids. I come home refreshed and renewed. I do often feel sad wondering if they're missing or needing me but I know they're in good hands and I agree they need to know others can care for them too.

  19. […] to put me and my family before outside social obligations more often.Β As much as I value time away to regenerate, I prefer unstructured and worry free time with my family to […]

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