Every parent could use some time away from the kids to relax and recharge. But is it a good idea to take an overnight or longer trip without your children?
Circle of Moms member Miccayla G., for instance, is wondering if it's too soon to leave her 20 month old with grandparents. Her fiancé's family is willing to babysit for four weeks before her wedding. "We would love some alone time since we're not getting a honeymoon and we have gone on two dates in three years, but we're scared our baby will forget us, or it will be too hard on him to be away from us and his big brother (who will be spending the four weeks with his biological dad)," she says.
Meanwhile, Jen C. was invited to go to Amsterdam with friends, but says she's the type of mom who spends every second with her children, and is torn about whether she should vacation out of the country without her 6- and 8-and-a-half-year-old children. "Is it OK? Is it fair? Do I deserve it, or am I being selfish?" she asks the Circle of Moms community. "It's been so long since I've cut loose, let alone had such a great offer."
If you, too, are wondering whether it's OK to vacation without your children, and at what age to do so, Circle of Moms members offer the following tips.
Kid-Free Time Can Lead to Better Parenting
Circle of Moms members agree that when parents take time off from the kids, or spend time with just each other, it helps make them better parents. For instance, mom Lindsay H. says the thought of taking a vacation without her kids never crossed her mind until her mother mentioned couple-time as a cornerstone of marriage. "My parents took a vacation away from us kids every year as well as one with us. My mom swears it was the best thing for their relationship, and they have been married for 34 years and going strong. She said it wasn't that they didn't enjoy their vacations with us, but having that adult week away once a year always gave them something to look forward to in stressful times," she says. "It was a time when they made memories as a couple. She feels it made her a better mother, and Dad a better father. They had that carefree week to do whatever, whenever. There were no schedules, no naps, no kids to work around."
Christina P. adds: "Your marriage is the center of the family, so it's important not to neglect it. While nurturing your kids is important, time away from them helps you and your husband to have some moments that brings you closer together without interruption." Every year, she and her husband have gone on trips such as cruises or religious retreats, while leaving the kids home with her husband's mother. "It hasn't had a negative impact on our children," she reports. "In fact, our relationship has been stronger. Children are happier in families that have happy marriages, and rest, relaxation, and vacations are important to that function."
Glenda P. agrees. "It is necessary that you continue to cultivate your couple relationship after children are born. If you don't, you won't have a couple relationship after the children have left," she says. Glenda and her husband have "made it a habit" to take two to three weekends and long weekends a year without the children. "If you are with your children 24/7 and then an emergency comes along where you can't be, it will be much easier on the children who have known their parents to go away for a short time and are used to being apart. It's all part of the growth process, but many leave it out and suffer consequences later," she adds.
Consider Age and Comfort Level
Once you decide to take an adult vacation, your children's ages and babysitting resources can help to determine the length of time you spend away from your kids. Primarily, you need to "have reliable people to keep the children," Circle of Moms member Florence C. advises, noting it also helps to have those babysitters nearby.
How long you stay away largely depends on your children's ages and comfort level being away from mom and dad. Infants and preschoolers are generally very attached to their parents, so Circle of Moms members recommend that when children are under age 5, parents should stick to just taking date nights.
"I would go see the in-laws and have several date nights and day outings, [or] lunches," suggests Patricia B. "Think about places close by to do activities [like] parks, pools. This can be a mini vacation for you with short bonding sessions for the grandparents." More importantly, she adds, "It won't stress your child, and you can help by not over-stressing Grandma and Grandpa. . . . [Date nights are] a happy medium because it's not too withdrawn for the child or too taxing on the seniors."
Moms say parents, too, are bound to worry if they spend extended time away from their children at this age. Jennifer G. says she wouldn't take more than a long-weekend vacation without her kids at the preschool or younger age, because those years "are some of the most precious of my life."
Once children are age 5 to 7, however, Circle of Moms members say parents and their children might feel OK being separated for a long weekend. "I would equate taking a short vacation (like a weekend or maybe three days or so) without the kids to letting Grandma and Grandpa have them over the weekend," Kate C. says. "People have been doing that for years and years, and kids love having some time away from their parents sometimes."
Lisa L. says she recently came back from a cruise during which time she left her 5 and 7 year old at their grandparents. However, she admits, "I don't think I could have taken a trip like that when they were baby and toddler," noting that before she left she had to "make sure everyone had everything they needed for a comfortable stay — plus forms to allow my parents to take the kids to a doctor or ER for care if they needed to, and to use our insurance cards."
As children reach the grade-school years, they likely have gained independence and will feel more comfortable with another adult if parents decide to take a longer trip. "As our children grow and become more independent, we feel better leaving them," Jennifer G. says. Her 9-year-old daughter now is happy to stay with Grandma while Mom is away.
Know Your Child's Limits
Of course, at what age and how long you vacation without your kids still depends on your individual preference. Although many Circle of Moms members say a three-day vacation or longer without kids is fine once your children reach the grade-school years, Katie M. knows her 6 year old "couldn't handle" any more than being away from her parents while they're on a dinner date. "She does have some emotional, separation issues," she says.
As Jae B. emphasizes, how long to vacation away without your kids "is all about your decision as a parent." She says: "Be the maker of your own decisions, take all advice (even this one, just speaking from personal experience) as just that, advice."