Family life

I spent two weeks away from my kids—and I didn’t feel guilty

After two weeks away from her kids, one mom realizes it's OK to enjoy time away from the family.

1iStock_000024081461Small-1

Photo: iStockphoto

I started writing this post from the airplane.

Which airplane? Oh, you know: the first of the eight airplanes that took me from home to Toronto (to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday with him) to Atlanta (to go to the Mom 2.0 Summit, on moms in social media) back to Toronto to hang with friends and do some work (including finally meeting with my editors at Today’s Parent!) for approximately 36 hours before meeting Rachel at the airport (how romantic!) to fly together to Chicago (for our annual week away together while Rob takes care of the kids), and then home to Thunder Bay (via Montreal and Toronto, because why take a direct flight when you can do it so very indirectly?).

What all that means is that I’ve spent a lot of time in boarding lounges.

It also means that I spent 12 consecutive days away from my children.

I didn’t mean for that to happen. But the conference coincided with my dad’s birthday (and he’s only going to turn 70 once, you know), and then the only dates that worked for Rob to babysit fell immediately after. I could’ve come home between Atlanta and Chicago, but—frankly—the idea of spending eight more hours in transit for approximately 36 hours of kid-time seemed like a raw deal.

I had some pangs as I booked my various flights. It felt like too long a time to be away from Rowan and Isaac. And really, it was. I mean, I relish the breaks as much as any parent does, but not enough that I needed nearly two weeks away from lunch-making, refereeing, child-shuttling and the general chaos of family life. More to the point, I really didn’t want two weeks away from bedtime cuddles, tickle fights, piano duets and the general chaos of family life.

Read more: A kid-free vacation>

I felt a bit sad after walking the kids to school on the day that I left. Over the course of the next 12 days, I had moments where I missed them—often (but not completely) eased by a bit of FaceTime. It didn’t help that Rachel texted me midway through the conference to let me know that she and both kids had been prescribed antibiotics for some nasty chest thing. (I felt really bad letting her know that I had scored comped tickets to the Arcade Fire show that evening.)

As the days progressed, I began to develop a strange sensation of not being a parent: no one was relying on me. I could do whatever I wanted. And while I loved wandering museums and eating in nice restaurants and sleeping whenever I wanted to and not planning days to account for childish tastes and temperaments, it was weird to feel so disconnected from my kids. My own children were getting along just fine without me in the world—and that’s both a fantastic and disconcerting feeling.

Read more: Separation anxiety when a parent travels>

But all the feelings I had about being away for so long, guilt wasn’t one of them. I relished being able to take my dad out for dinner. I had a great time and learned tons and made wonderful connections at the conference. Rachel and I got a chance to recharge and reconnect (and eat!) in Chicago. The entire time I was gone, my kids were happy and (mostly) healthy, and in the loving and capable hands of one or both of their other two parents. And now that they’re not toddlers, we could connect easily over technology.

So, aside from the Arcade Fire tickets, what’s to feel guilty about?

Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences. Read more of Susan’s The other mother posts and tweet her @MamaNonGrata.