How to Prep For a Trip Away From Your Kids
How to Leave Your Kids For the Weekend in 600 Short Steps
My husband and I are leaving for a much-needed long weekend away (see ya, Midwestern snow!) on Thursday. It will be the first time we've left our almost 10-month-old for longer than one night, and as much as I'll miss him and his big sister, I know it's time. (First clue: the last time we talked about anything other than family schedules, sleep deprivation, or our daughter's listening problems was two months ago when we had a night away for his birthday.) So we're hitting the beach in Mexico for three glorious days and nights, and I plan on doing nothing but read books, drink white wine spritzers (just in case there was any doubt that I'm a mom of two), and sleep at least 12 hours a day . . . that and maybe have an actual conversation with my husband.
As excited as I am for our trip, there's definitely a downside. Before you have children, no one tells you that leaving them for longer than two hours is really hard, and I'm not talking emotionally or psychologically. Long gone are the days when preparing for a trip meant shopping for new bikinis or a cute pair of wedges, throwing some clothes in a bag the night before your flight, and hoping you remembered your passport. These days, if you're anything like me, your pretrip plan looks a bit more like this.
Three to 12 months before: Start finding childcare for your proposed trip. First target: grandma and grandpa. Promise the grandparents that your baby will totally be sleeping through the night by the time you go, and swear that your toddler's temper tantrums are basically a thing of the past. Ask at a time when they haven't seen the kids for a while (aka have forgotten how much work they are). When they say yes, pour a glass of Champagne in celebration and book nonrefundable flights before they can change their minds.
Two months to two weeks before: Plan a dry run at grandma's house, this time with you present to observe any holes in your vacation-childcare plan. When the baby decides to stay awake from 1 to 6 a.m. on the first night, start feeling incredibly guilty about your trip. See the fear in both grandparents' eyes at the prospect of having two small children in their care. Start calling backup babysitters to help grandparents.
Two weeks before: Begin making endless lists. "Things to buy for grandma's house" includes no less than 20 items. Start a collection of Post-its for baby's favorite foods, baby's do-not-eat list, both baby's and preschooler's daily schedules, and babysitters' and pediatrician's phone numbers. Start panicking about the sheer amount of knowledge that you and you alone hold when it comes to your children. Consider canceling trip because there is not enough time to download said knowledge to anyone else.
Week of trip: Make daily runs to Target, grocery, and Buy Buy Baby to stock up on food, diapers, wipes, medicine, sippy cups, bottles, formula, and grandma's favorite wine. Begin packing kids' weekend bags at least four days in advance of trip to allow for plenty of time to add everything your children might request, including every tiara, tutu, and pink stuffed animal your daughter owns. Continually check the packing list you created in your iPhone notes two months to two years prior to make sure you're not forgetting anything vital to either child's survival or mental stability.
Afternoon before trip: Fill your car with two large suitcases (one for each child); a stroller; an exersaucer; a bag of food/bibs/kid utensils/sippy cups/bottles; a basket of the kids' favorite books, movies, and toys; an iPad with two chargers (God forbid one should get lost); and a collection of blankets, sheets, night lights, and white-noise machines to ensure kids will sleep at least five to six hours a night in a bed that is not their own. Drop children, entire contents of car, and countless Post-it notes off at grandparents' house. Set up both sleeping areas, go through each kid's eat/sleep/play schedules one more time, and kiss each child at least 20 times. Tear up a little when you say goodbye to the baby; remind preschooler that she better be nice to her brother or Santa will hear about it. Drive away feeling like you're missing a couple of limbs.
Night and morning before trip: Remember how awesome it feels to be missing a couple of limbs! Take two hours to pack your own clothing (because you can!) while drinking the first three or four of those white wine spritzers, listening to anything but Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and watching anything but Sofia the First. Feel as if this might be the best part of your vacation. Contemplate canceling flight and just enjoying your quiet house for three days. Remember you don't have to fly with kids; trip back on. Call grandparents five to seven times before flight takes off. FaceTime with preschooler twice. Leave for airport exhausted, with a mild hangover, and realize that all that work was totally worth it!
Source: Flickr user Ken K