It took us eight years of parenting and innumerable tantrums (the kids’), marital spats (ours), and countless accumulating gray hairs (mine, all mine), until my husband and I finally hit the road.
Yes, we packed our bags, (I) left several pages of long, nonsensical scribblings for the babysitter, and we flew away for a three-night getaway. We left our two daughters—ages 4 and 8—with a babysitter (actually, TWO babysitters—two 20something friends who could tag-team care for our rambunctious kids).
My anxiety was through the roof ahead of time—will we even make it on the trip? (One kid had a nasty cough and I kept hearing that pneumonia was going around.) Will my kids cry the whole time I am gone? (One kid is rather…emphatic that we should not be allowed to leave her for even one night.) Will one of us come down with the cold before our departure? Will I have time to get a bikini wax and/or pedicure? Will getting such grooming jinx this thing?
So when we finally closed the door and hailed a cab to the airport one recent Thursday morning, it felt like a real accomplishment. At the airport well in advance of our three-hour flight to Jamaica, we had what felt like a luxurious airport breakfast together near the gate. We joked about how incredibly pleasant the kid-free time already was: “Hey, let’s just hang at Newark Airport all weekend; we can take Ubers from terminal to terminal to sample the food,” we joked, half-seriously.
But soon we were boarding that plane, and three nights and four days later, I’m here to report that going away on our own was perhaps the best thing we’ve done together since having those two beautiful girls. And I came to a few realizations along the way.
1. The kids are alright. I was fretting so, so (SO) much before I left. The kids just aren’t used to us going away—ever—and when we told them we were leaving for three sleeps, they just about hit the ceiling. There was whining and crying and complaining. They laid on the guilt—thick. And not only that, both kids came down with fairly wicked colds in the days before we left. So they were sniffling and sniveling and snotty, and I reached the point of despair worrying about them feeling sick, abandoned and sad... about them spiraling. In truth, when we spoke via FaceTime my elder daughter was visibly sad (cue the tears) the first night we called to say hi, but after that, all reports indicated that she was just fine, and both of them got to their schools and their activities, and were fed and hydrated and even (semi) clean most of the time. No one got walking pneumonia, and hopefully, in going away for the weekend, we’ve paved the way for them to understand that it may happen again—and that it will be fine.
2. You need at least two nights. I have a strong opinion when it comes to getting away with your partner. While a quick overnight may be all you can swing, if at ALL possible, two nights should be the minimum. That’s because I find that the first night away often involves a bit of what I think of as administrative stuff. For us, finally having time alone means that back-burner talks get put on the table and grievances are aired—and that’s not all that romantic. In fact, we ended up bickering on the first night of our first kid-free getaway! Not only that, but we both ended up passing out so early that it wasn’t the most romantic (wink, wink) part of the weekend. But by day two, we’d worked through a few sticking points, dealt with some simmering stuff, and had enough sleep so that we were raring to go. TL;DR: the first night is not always fun. The second one is the sexy one.
3. I still like my husband! Oh sure, sure, I knew this before we went away, but four days of no responsibility and no decision-making (other than what time to start drinking cocktails or what hammock to choose) just improves everyone’s personality. Jokes flowed, silliness ensued, and we just had the time and space to enjoy one another’s company. Parenting can be stressful, and it can sometimes feel like you’re just running a small business together. Whereas if you take those things away for a hot second, you can reacquaint yourselves with the small (and big) reasons you fell in love in the first place.
4. We need to make getaways a priority The fact that it took eight years for me to remember just how hilarious my husband is: a damn shame. Don’t get me wrong, he makes me laugh all the time but it felt somehow different, more whole-body this time. But our relationship needs to become more of a priority, and not just ‘for the sake of the kids’ (i.e. so we are modeling a strong marriage or something)—but because it’s just enjoyable and we are both worth it.
5. We have to go now (even if it’s hard) so we can travel (more) later (with hopefully fewer tears). I already touched on this above, but I’ve always felt envious of the couples I know who are able to go away fairly frequently without a lot of blowback from their kids. And the reason for this, they invariable say: “We started them young; they are used to it. So it’s no big deal.” It’s not surprising that my girls’ initial reaction to our long weekend was not positive but over time, they’ll come to expect our annual (that’s what we’re aiming for) getaways as something as inevitable and unremarkable as anything else on the calendar year after year.
6. I need to hide gifts much better When I was a child, I pretty much always managed to sniff out a few Christmas presents ahead of times. Translation: I was such a little snoop! I’ve clearly passed that tendency down to my older daughter, who definitely took advantage of my absence to paw through some boxes hidden in the closet so she could peep some upcoming gifts. Granted, I didn’t hide anything well at all—I underestimated her—so it served me right. But next time, if we go away anytime near Christmas or a birthday, my prep for leaving will involve a bit more gift camouflage.
7. Feeling well-rested and patient only lasts about a day or so. Yes, we slept in every day. We took naps—several. We didn’t have to manage anyone’s meltdowns or legislate any sharing. Someone else prepared all of our meals. So, yes, we boarded the plane home feeling topped up on sleep and without frayed nerves. And yet… I now know that after just one or two nights of crappy sleep and a few minor tussles over tech-time or tooth brushing, I can feel like I’m right back where I started. It’s like some sort of weird (as yet unnamed) physics phenomenon about the human body’s incapacity to bank sleep or patience. Which is, in the end, all the more reason for us to get planning another trip—just as soon as we can convince those babysitters to cross our threshold again.