Traveling Without Your Kids For the First Time
I really like your column (as in, have spent countless hours reading all the previous posts and definitely read a lot of them while in the beginning stages of labor with my youngest…)! I am also excitedly following your pregnancy calendar as I am now pregnant with my third. You always have good advice and your comments are often hilarious. So, maybe you can help me.
I am going out of town in about a month for 6 days, both to visit my family and to be a bridesmaid in a wedding. Since I am going to be in the wedding, I decided not to bring the kids (ages 3 and 2). Also, a kid-free vacation sounded really nice when booking my flight. And I will be getting some much needed time with my mom and sister. The boys are going to be staying at home with my husband, who is a great, attentive dad, no issues there. The issue is me. I still have a month before the trip and I am already feeling super anxious about leaving the kids. Like, lying awake at night worrying about all the what-ifs associated with plane travel, car travel, potential catastrophe; you know, the regular pre-travel worries (right?). Like, its getting to the point that I am kind of hoping for some miraculous excuse to back out…postponed wedding, mild illness etc. It also is NOT helping that my 3 yr old has recently become super, super clingy-melting down for the day if I am out with friends etc.
So, am I going nuts? Do mothers travel without their young children and enjoy themselves? Is my hormone-overloaded brain exaggerating all the what-ifs beyond reason?
Needing some perspective
I think it’s different for everybody.
Some parents love the thought of an adults-only getaway, while some can’t imagine being away for even just a quick overnight. Some are probably like you, who liked the idea of a trip IN THEORY and then get increasingly anxious as the departure date nears.
I have personally travelled sans kids multiple times, most of the time for work, but a handful of times for fun. I admit I’ve never gotten too worked out over being away from the kids, but I do experience a decent about of the “regular” pre-trip anxiety stuff you mentioned. No matter how great I feel while booking my tickets, a countdown to desperately wishing I didn’t have to take the trip after all pretty much begins immediately.
(I’m flying across the country on a business trip in about two and a half weeks. My nerves and desire to back out somehow are currently at a 6 out of 10. On the night before I leave I guarantee they will be at ELEVENTY MILLION AND FOUR!!1!)
So I think it’s normal that being a parent and leaving your kids behind just throws a whole new line of worrisome thinking to travel. Plus guilt! Oh, such delicious, deep-fried guilt.
That said, you are totally going on this trip, and it’s going to be a really, really good thing for you AND your kids.
Acknowledge that you’re anxious about it. Overly so, even. I’m a big fan of the “let the anxiety flow through you” approach as opposed to trying “fight” the feelings off by berating yourself for being silly or crazy. The anxiety is already there in your brain and your body is tensing up for a fight, so instead, release the fear by acknowledging it, allowing yourself to feel it — and then visualize it leaving your brain and flowing through and then OUT of your body. At night, recognize that each of the “what-ifs” you’re stressing over are indeed things that yes, ARE very much “what-ifs” that you are not necessarily going to be able to control 100%. Hey, that’s life. Even staying home and driving to the grocery store can be adventure in catastrophe, if you think about it.
(Probably best not to think about it.)
You have nothing to feel guilty about. You’re going to be part of someone’s wedding celebration and spend time with family and friends in a way you probably haven’t been able to do since having kids. Your kids will get some amazing time with their dad. Your 3 year old’s clinginess when reuniting with you is a totally normal, natural thing that does NOT mean he/she actually spent your time apart sad or terrified or anything. Air travel genuinely sucks these days and it’s totally okay to not be looking forward to the hassle. But it’ll be worth it, both for your trip itself, for proving to yourself that you are still a Capable Grown-Up Human Being Who Can Separate Herself From Her Offspring And Do Capable Grown-Up Human Being Stuff Sometimes.
And when you come back, seeing them waiting for you at the airport is like, the greatest thing ever. It’s like falling in love all over again, every single time.