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Traveling Without Your Kids For the First Time

Traveling Without Your Kids For the First Time

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

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.

Published September 15, 2014. Last updated September 15, 2014.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Ally

    September 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I’m planning a girls weekend to celebrate a friend’s upcoming Birthday. A few days ago I was discussing it with an acquaintance. She said she couldn’t come because she doesn’t leave her kids and won’t use a babysitter. I think every person and their needs are so different. I need breaks and trips and time away from my kids. I’m a better mom, and wife, and friend. I also really like traveling with my kids, so there are always moments when I wish they were with me. Overall taking time ways is good for my soul, and the kids usually have a blast with extra Daddy time. 

  • Kim CS

    September 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve only left my daughter overnight unexpectedly when her brother came early but I’m fantasizing about an adult only trip. It sounds like you will have a lovely time and it can be reassuring to leave them before you may be gone in labour for your next baby (congrats!). I’m planning on leaving something special for each day when I do vacation like Mama Papa Bubba

  • Melanie

    September 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    FWIW I am totally the same way about being completely excited during the booking then getting so anxious when the trip gets closer. Once I’m actually away I usually relax and get to enjoy myself. I also simultaneously miss my kids like crazy while wishing I had one more day away (4 days is the longest I’ve been away). Just tell yourself it’s ok to need and take this time for yourself.

  • Stephanie

    September 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I’m reading this from a hotel conference room across the country from my home. I personally love having time to be alone. I do fleetingly have moments of panic about leaving my kids, but it goes away as soon as I get where I’m going.

    My husband and I value time together and time traveling. We spent 10 days in Greece while my parents watched my then- 3 and 1 year olds. Again, any anxiety I had melted away once I got there.

    I know you’re feeling anxious, but it sounds like you need this time. Enjoy yourself!

  • leslie

    September 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Go! You’re going to have a great time. And, like others have said, all the anxiety will melt away once you are on said trip. Look, you deserve some time away. And, I know this one can be hard to accept, but your kids will be FINE without you. It’s actually really good for them to be without you for a while. Helps them learn you aren’t the only dependable adult in the world. This is something they’ll need when they are older. To be able to trust other adults and not need you for everything. Things will definitely operate differently than they would if you were at home…but that doesn’t mean badly. Just differently. And that’s ok. As long as they are fed, and clothed, and loved, which you know they will be, that’s all that matters. I’ve been away from my kids several times now, both for work and pleasure, and I’ve never regretted it. I’ve always really enjoyed my break, while missing them of course, and then can’t wait to get back to them when it’s over. Go on, mom. Have some fun! Be an adult! Focus on you! Dad’s got this. Really.

  • IrishCream

    September 15, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I too am writing this from a hotel room, without my kids (aged 4 and 2). I travel for work monthly, just for a couple of nights at a time. The night before I leave is always the worst (for me, not them). I’m anxious, a little guilty, dreading the hassle of travel…and then I get on the train the next morning, my brain switches into work mode, and it’s fine. I miss them, but I enjoy my grown up time. And my expense account, holla!

    And my kids are beyond fine. We Skype every night, they miss me a little, but their routine is exactly the same, and they feel equally safe and cared-for with my husband as they do with me.

    You will probably have a few moments of homesickness or worry in your trip. I’ve found it helps to remind myself that I don’t have ESP, and my panic doesn’t mean anything bad is happening. In 34 years of having panic attacks, there has been a zero percent correlation between my fears and Actual Bad Things. Any stressful moments will pass, and you’ll enjoy your trip–and your homecoming–more than you imagined!

  • MR

    September 15, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    My husband and I recently did a trip away for 5 days. We had never gone for more than 48 hours before, so I was nervous. As we approached the trip, I did the same thing – got nervous, didn’t want to go, etc. But, when it came down to it, it was AMAZING. It was so nice to have that chance to reconnect with who I was before kids. I missed them tremendously, but wanted another day or two too. It is ok to feel all of those things at once. Being able to just get up and go somewhere was amazing, and so was being able to eat a hot meal. 🙂 You’ll have a great time.

  • gemma

    September 16, 2014 at 4:52 am

    To make your absence a little easier for your kids (and therefore make you feel better too!), prepare some ‘away’ envelopes – one per day, per kid.

    Each envelope includes a short letter from you with fun drawings (Hello, today I will be doing XYZ. I am missing you, but I will be back in X number of sleeps and I’m looking forward to hearing about all the fun you’ve been having with Daddy) plus a small gift like a sticker book or a toy car.

    My Dad did this when I was little and he had to travel for work and now my sister does the same for her 4yo.

  • Claire

    September 16, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Beginning of August my husband left our 2.5 and just turned 1 year old for 2 nights with my parents. Longest we’d been away and youngest had never stayed away before (she had been breastfed until 11.5 months). I got tearful, I panicked. I made sure our wills were in order, our plans and whatifs made known. And then we got on a plane and were just us for three days. Not parents. A couple. And it was amazing. I missed them, and loved coming home. But wow, that time was brilliant. They were fine.

    Go, enjoy it, but accept the anxiety is totally normal. Have fun!

  • Martha

    September 16, 2014 at 7:43 am

    The leaving part is hard. For myself, I left my daughter for three nights to go to a wedding when she was 17 months old. I sobbed before I left and it felt so absolutely unnatural to leave my baby (even though she was with my husband, as your kids will be). But I had an amazing time and I am SO GLAD I did it for myself. I hope you have a great time.

  • AEW

    September 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Something not touched upon is the benefit of the kids bonding with the care giver (Dad, Grandma, Aunt, etc.).  I cling to the idea that my child will be deepening a bond with a family member in a way that is just not possible with me there.  They will create their own memories not colored by my opinions, have their own inside jokes, they will acquire an appreciation for the different ways of the world!  As a result, you traveling is an opportunity to develop tolerant citizens with deeper family bonds!  You must go! Your children will be deprived of valuable life lessons if you don’t!

  • kimm

    September 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I am glad you wrote this, I am leaving for 4 nights away next month, 3 yr old & 1.5 yr old, am looking forward to it but so worried at the same time. Its good to know other Moms feel the same way. I have never been away for more than 1 night, so it is scary for me. Daddy will be here and my parents too, I know I should chill out about it but it is hard.

  • Kate

    September 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I traveled to Tanzania for two weeks without my kids and I had the same feelings of fear (and yes, guilt, but mostly fear) leading up to the trip. I was mostly scared that I would die on the trip and leave my kids motherless. I KNEW in my head that safety isn’t guaranteed anywhere (I mean, I could get in a car accident on my way home from work), but it just seemed crazy to put myself in situations that seemed riskier.  
    Do you know what helped? Realizing that I would not want my kids to make decisions based on fear. If I want my daughters to be adventurous and brave (and not sit in the house instead of going on awesome trips), I need to lead by example. 
    I went and had a blast. And my kids had a great time with their grandparents.