I recently traveled to Italy with my husband for eight nights.
We spent eight glorious days and nights eating pizza and pasta, drinking all of the spritzes and Italian wine, and swimming in the Mediterranean. We also woke up to the sun rather than a crying child, took more than the typical four (interrupted) minutes to get ready before dinner, and guess what? I read an entire book (something I’m confident won’t happen again until my next vacation).
Want to know what we didn’t do? We did not break up fights over toys, clean endless sippy cups and bottles, change diapers, or fight a single child over putting on an article of clothing. We did not listen to the monitor for faint cries, buckle a car seat or stroller, and we never once wiped a runny nose or food covered mouth (except for our own, that is).
It was not the first time I had left my 1-year-old twins and certainly will not be the last.
But when I posted pictures from our trip on social media I received tons of messages with two common themes.
The first theme was that of guilt. Did I feel guilty leaving? At first, the answer was no. My husband and I had discussed in depth what we wanted our life to look like after having kids. Travel has always been a huge part of our lives, and getting away and exploring new places has always made us feel most connected. This is something we wanted to maintain.
However, the more questions I got about guilt, the more I thought, “Am I a bad mom for not feeling immense guilt about leaving my kids?” The short answer: absolutely not.
Being a mom is a lot of wonderful things, but it is also a lot of work. I’m confident that no one reading this piece would accept any job in the world that offered zero vacation days. You’d look at that offer letter and demand time away from the job because time away is not a want, it’s a need.
Of course, I was sad to say goodbye to my kids, but I’m a firm believer that we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to find growth, change, and ultimately happiness. I knew that in just one week, my babies and I would be reunited and back to business as usual.
The second theme of messages I received was other mothers being inspired by our sans-kids vacation. Other moms messaged me saying, “Hey, if you can do that, I can too.” I responded to each and every one of these messages with enthusiasm: “Yes! Yes, you can, and you should.”
If you’re worried about leaving your kids or feel guilty at the prospect of taking time for yourself, please remind yourself that the best mom is a happy mom. For me, being happy means I need time away to refuel, reset, and RELAX.
I’m fueled by the belief that our brain is a powerful tool, so I gave myself (and am now giving you) a few positive mantras to hold onto as we packed our bags, headed to the airport, and flew overseas.
Please book your ticket, and then repeat after me:
A one week vacation is less than 2 percent of the year
As a parent, we don’t get nights or weekends. Holidays become more work rather than added time off.
If you’re worried about leaving your kids, remind yourself that in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a small amount of time away. If routines and schedules are a bit off, it will not have a lasting impact. Simply put, your kids will not be changed for better or worse as a result of your taking this time for yourself.
Happy parents = happy children
It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup. I am positive that I am a better parent and partner when I feel personally fulfilled first. My husband and I are better as a unit when we feel connected and when we aren’t exhausted from the daily (non-stop) grind of caring for two children. I’d rather leave my kids for a week, knowing that I can give more of myself the other 51 weeks of the year.
I’m creating independent little humans
You start this practice with small steps – leaving your baby in their crib and allowing them to put themselves to sleep. Then, you begin to implement independent playtime – leaving the room in small bursts. After some time, it’s a babysitter for a few hours, daycare drop off, a playdate, etc. All of these experiences are teaching your child that it’s OK when my mom leaves. Eventually, it’s full days of school and camp, where you hope your child is well adjusted and comfortable on their own.
Taking some time away isn’t only helping you. It’s helping your child gain confidence, independence, and problem-solving skills that they simply cannot while you’re around. Infrequent departures are a necessary step in helping your kids to grow. The rest of the time, feel free to smother them with cuddles, kisses, and kudos that they’re the best kid in the world (they are, aren’t they?).
They’re in great hands
Whoever you choose to watch your children when you travel will not be you. Things will undoubtedly be done differently than the way you do them – that’s OK. You choose this person or people because they are capable of caring for your children. It might not be the way you care for your children, but I repeat, that’s OK.
The important thing is that they are loved, and they are safe. I repeated this one to myself whenever I felt anxiety or guilt creep in.
Travel isn’t a must for everyone, but if it is for you and your spouse, don’t let fear or guilt stop you from taking this time to yourselves. You’ll be happy you did.