On our recent excursion to southern Florida Karen and I made the trip alone. Every three or four years we try to take a vacation while leaving the kids at home with relatives. These trips allow us to reconnect with each other and have helped to re-invigorate our marriage in ways that are very difficult in our everyday family lives. I have read recommendations of doing this as frequently as once a year. I would imagine that could be quite re-energizing to the family unit however, time goes by so fast that by the time we realize we are in need of some time alone with each other, three to four years have already flown by.
Going on vacation without the kids allows/forces us to spend time together without interruptions giving us the opportunity to find those reasons that brought along the decision to get married in the first place. There are days and even weeks that go by which bring the question “why did we get married again?” usually brought on by all the hectic activities scheduled into such a short time. My answer to that question is often “so we can shuttle the kids everywhere and be interrupted every 10 minutes I guess!” Going on a trip with Karen can often return the original reasons for getting married. I find that focusing on each other ultimately is beneficial for everyone. My belief is that a healthy marriage translates into a stronger family and ultimately is better for the children. In order for a marriage to be healthy, there has to be great connections with the people in that marriage. Maybe this is just my way of justifying some fun without the kids.
For us a trip usually goes like this. We’re getting ready to leave for the airport and we see the kids with their sad faces and the question of going without them immediately comes to the forefront. We manage to get out of their sight knowing that we won’t see them again for a week causes sadness as we miss them already. To keep from turning back to see them again and to calm them down we remind ourselves and them that they can call us anytime and we will call them later that day when we arrive at our destination. Mobile phones and the ability to use programs like Skype to video call really do help to get through the first couple of days however get away from them for a majority of your trip or the purpose of leaving the children behind is irrelevant.
Shortly after arriving at our destination we are talking about and thinking about how much the kids would enjoy this. “We wish they were here” is a common theme for the first couple of days often forgetting other things that come with them such as “I’m hungry! when are we going to eat?” or “I have to go to the bathroom!” every 15 minutes. Something as simple as eating on your own schedule can be liberating. Usually by day 3 or 4 we start to get use to and enjoy doing things on our own schedule. We can spend 2 minutes or 2 hours eating when and where WE want. Also by this time the phone calls back home have minimized and we begin to feel like we are on vacation with each other. Put the phones away! I didn’t say shut them off all the time because emergencies do arise but don’t spend most of your time with looking at this little 3 inch screen. Use your hand to hold your spouses hand, not your phone. There will be plenty of time to quickly play a word in Words with Friends while your significant other is fueling the vehicle or taking a shower.
Something I find interesting is how people treat you a little differently while on vacation alone. At a restaurant or excursion or even the hotel I find the treatment a little different from some of the staff once they find out you are there without the children. Usually a “Good for You!” comes first. Out of the corner of my eye I will see them give you a little smile as you and your significant other are talking or holding hands. Possibly a little more privacy is given. Those who are parents themselves immediately understand your situation with missing the kids and the importance of going somewhere without them. It’s kind of an unspoken bond between you and that person. It may be subtle but it is still there if you look. This understanding is re-affirming that you are not be terrible parents by leaving your children behind while you’re off having a good time.
Near the end of the vacation we start to prepare for the trip back home and realize it has been a few days since we talked to the kids. We start to miss them again and are happy to be returning to see them. It is at this point you begin to understand all of the commitments you have made that fill the weeks causing them to go by so fast and how much you didn’t miss all of that for at least one week. Now is a good time for a reflection of all of these commitments and how important they really are. Maybe one or two should go away so that there is more time spent as a family. One of the things I realize is stressful for me is daily mail. It may be odd but I dread going through the countless pieces of mail and not having to deal with this is one of the things that relaxes me while on vacation.
If you can find a way to get away from everyday family life with just your spouse, I highly recommend it if even only for an extending weekend. This really does help you understand how much you need your kids and how much they need you. They will try to lay on the guilt trip but that is only because they want to get away to someplace fun too and miss you.