The night before we caught our train from London to Paris, I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. I hardly slept — my mind swirling with images of chocolate croissants, the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower — yet I sprang out of bed before 6 a.m. to get ready for the trip.
Since my husband Ian and I became parents eight years ago, the notion of a spontaneous, romantic rendezvous has taken a bit of a backseat. With no family living near our home in Ottawa, even managing a dinner out requires a fair amount of logistical planning.
So naturally, we both jumped at the chance to take a three-day trip to Paris — sans enfants — at the end of the London Olympics, where Ian was reporting for Sportsnet. We were lucky enough to turn the entire Olympic run into a family trip — thanks to the incredible help of Ian’s parents, who are currently living in London and allowed us to use their flat as a home base. Grandpa and Grandma were subsequently elevated to “hero” status when they agreed to watch the kids in London during our mini vacation.
The day before we left, I talked to both of our daughters. I wanted to remind them that Mommy and Daddy would be away for a couple of nights, hopefully eliminating any last-minute clinging and crying. Eight-year-old Elissa is fascinated with Paris and keen to see the Eiffel Tower. She asked me pointedly, “Why can’t I come with you, Mom?” Knowing how carefully she listens and takes things to heart, I paused to find the right words before replying, “Sometimes, Mommy and Daddy need to take a little bit of a break so that we can come back and be better parents.”
I always feel a little bit conflicted when leaving my kids behind — whether it’s just for an evening out or for a small trip like this one. Like virtually every mom I know, I sometimes buy into the false notion that my household and family might fall apart if I take even a little bit of downtime.
The truth is that becoming a mother has changed me. But it hasn’t made me a one-dimensional character that is only capable of baking cookies, arranging playdates and unloading the dishwasher (though there are days that feel that way). In fact, I am still learning, exploring and evolving as an individual and as half of a dynamic partnership. As parents, however, we sometimes neglect those other layers of ourselves to focus on meeting the immediate needs of our children.
As the mostly-stay-at-home contingent of a travelling spouse, I feel very fortunate that I can be the foundation of our day-to-day household. But when I see how truly excited Ian gets at seeing his little girls after an out-of-town work trip — and giving them each a little toy or trinket he bought along the way — I am reminded that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to take some time away.
The past two days — here in Paris with Ian — have been indulgent and leisurely. Arriving with absolutely no agenda, we soaked in the view of the Eiffel Tower as we pedaled past on our rental bikes. We tried exercising our rusty French skills, then laughed when we used the wrong expression and got snubbed by bartenders with attitude. But most of all, we both took a much-needed breather from all the obligations of parenthood to reconnect with ourselves and each other.
Now we’re off to look for two miniature Eiffel Towers — so we can light up a couple of our favourite little faces when we step back off the train and see our daughters back in London tonight.
To read more about Sonia’s travel and parenting experiences, visit her blog at: www.themotherofadventure.com.