When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, we took our first vacation without her. I honestly never considered traveling without her, but my husband had a business trip just outside New York City. It seemed silly not to meet him there for the weekend. I flew up on a Thursday morning and spent an entire day in the city by myself. It was a little overwhelming at first, but I was untethered for an entire day–and it was lovely.
Our trip wasn’t without its hiccups, however. His meeting ran over, my cell phone battery died, we had no means of communication, and we missed our first reservation. It makes for a pretty good story now, but I was frazzled. When our hotel lost our reservation later that night, I was sure we had made a very big mistake.
Reconnecting With My Husband
There is something about motherhood that lays the guilt on thick anytime we leave our babies behind. We prayed for her and wished for her for so long. What if something tragic happened while we were gone, and we never saw her squishy face again?
As much as we missed her and as ready as we were to kiss that face when we got home, we’ve never once regretted a weekend away alone. We reconnected that weekend in a way we hadn’t connected in many years. We laughed, we ate, and we saw things we’d only seen in magazines. My husband and I vowed to never again go nine years without a trip alone.
Since that trip to New York, we’ve been back several times. We’ve also been to Colorado, Texas, and California a few times. It doesn’t happen every year, but we make it a priority to focus on our marriage as often as we can. Our typical cycle has been to take the girls to Disney every three or four years, so we try to plan a couples trip for the years in between.
My husband turned forty last January, and I turned forty in November. He’s a total introvert and made me swear we wouldn’t celebrate his birthday. When mine rolled around, he insisted we do something super fun. I thought he was talking about a dinner party, but he sent me a midday text a month before my birthday to see what I thought about spending a weekend in New York City. We added a little one to our home in late 2018, so our trips have been few and far between the last few years. We were long overdue for some time alone, and it didn’t matter in the least that we hadn’t planned for this trip. That’s what travel credit cards are for, right?!
We decided not to tell the girls right away, because I knew they would be sad. After all, we had planned a family trip in the past, but ended up postponing that when I became pregnant with our third baby. We still hadn’t rescheduled it.
For weeks, we planned an itinerary that had nothing to do with tourist traps. We picked tiny restaurants and things we hadn’t done before. We bought very expensive Broadway tickets and lay in bed talking about all the walking and eating we would enjoy . . . just the two of us.
The day we sat down to purchase our airline tickets, I got the biggest lump in my throat. I suddenly couldn’t imagine that trip anymore. Timidly, I said to my husband, “We don’t want to take the girls with us, do we?” What I really meant was, “But, do we?”
After a frantic call to exchange two Hamilton tickets for four seats to Aladdin (and the assurance from two principals that our girls could be excused from school), we sat them down. We asked if they had any ideas for how to celebrate my birthday. My oldest immediately suggested a road trip. They looked at each other and said, “NEW YORK!” in unison. I wish we had a video of that moment, because it was the second best surprise we’ve ever given them.
In the past, I never felt guilty about leaving the kids behind. I know they would have been sad, but I think as parents we deserve to get away and spend alone time with our significant other. It’s so rejuvenating and necessary for our marriage. Even though they might not understand, they reap the rewards. At the same time, it’s just as important for us to grant as many wishes as we can. We want to show them that we hear them and love spending time with them.
Those three days in the city — that spur-of-the-moment trip we’re still paying for — were some of the sweetest days I can remember. They weren’t without arguments or mishaps. I had to seriously check my expectations a few times, but we checked everything off their “must-see list” and introduced them to many of our favorite places. I’ve never seen bigger smiles or wider eyes than I did that week. For that, I’ll cherish my fortieth birthday more since they were with us.
So this is me telling you to take the trip without them, but also to take your kids on the grandest adventures. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be well thought out, budgeted, or be completely on the fly. Your kids won’t care so much about where you go or what you do, but that you invited them to spend time with YOU in one of your favorite places.