Over my past eight years of marriage as parents I’ve watched other parents leave their kids behind with family for anywhere from a few days to weeks to take trips or true vacations alone with their significant other. I’ve often caught myself looking at them in two different ways- one in envy that they got to take a trip without their kids and two- how selfish of them to take a trip without their kids. But as the first few years of motherhood started to close in towards a decade of motherhood one of the most valuable things I started to learn was just as there has to be balance in motherhood on so many different levels that also applies to the balance between our selflessness and selfishness. We’re all so easy to condemn the one that appears to exercise too much selfishness and praise the one that exhibits so much selflessness. But there’s hidden danger in selflessness I’ve found. To give and give and give of ourselves to our careers, our kids, our homes, and everyone else but ourselves leads to resentment, anger, depression, and a sense of loss- a loss of ourselves.
I have maxed myself out too often, thinking the more I can load and manage on my plate the “better” I must be. But more is almost always a false illusion of better. But really even though my juggling act may look impressive on the outside sometimes it’s a racetrack of collision on the inside. Too often I think I need to be in the fast lane, knocking one thing after another off my to do list, and around and around I go each day, tackling a new lists of obstacles and to dos. Sure more times than not I get it done. But as I was racing around the track, more times than not I’m leaving too many things I just mulled right over in the dust in my rush to getting ahead to the next thing.
Between my sometimes highly stressful job, the demands of a house, three kids, even two pets, and just everyday life marriage too often comes at the bottom of the list and is the thing left in the dust on my race around the obstacle course that is my motherhood life. Between myself and marriage those two things get tossed back and forth with being last on my things to take care of. The work we have to put into our marriage is some of the hardest work we’ll put into our lives-even harder than raising our kids I believe because we love them unconditionally just as they love us unconditionally- but the love of a marriage is a choice. A choice we have to make over and over again past that initial “I do”. But just as marriage is the hardest work it is also the easiest and too often the first work we abandon over and over again. We abandon it for our careers, for what needs to be done around the house, for many of life’s ongoing responsibilities, for our own personal interests and pursuits, and probably the most for our kids because as parents we put their needs above our own more times than not. Disney likes to convince little girls that marriage is the finish line but it is really just the starting line. The true work to happily ever after is just beginning with that “I do”.
Here’s the thing I've learned about marriage. It’s so easy to think it doesn’t require more attention than it’s getting sometimes. When I look at my marriage I see a great team. We’re great at raising kids, we’re great partners at managing the day in and day out work of running our household with balancing our two careers, and though I think we rock as a team I’m not so sure how good we are at marriage sometimes. We don’t get much time alone. We have no family around for hundreds of miles, and with three young children we rarely spend the money to get a baby sitter for a night out. Our kids end up in our beds more times than not. We’re both busy and often overwhelmed with our responsibilities at home and work that by the end of the day we're too tired to put much effort into ourselves or each other.
Though we’ve left the kids twice before in seven years of parenthood, about a year ago we decided we needed to make getting away alone more of a priority. In the Fall we took a short two night trip alone while we left the kids with my in laws and then for our ten year anniversary we planned eight nights away to Hawaii while we left the kids with my family. We’re hoping to get away again this Fall again for three nights. I know I’ll get two reactions for this- those that will cheer us on for taking these trips for ourselves and tell us not to worry about the kids and those that will be like I use to that will condemn us as bad parents for leaving our kids to take a vacation alone. That mother that I was a few years ago would totally have condemned me, but for the mom that’s sitting there unsure if it’s the right thing to do for her kids because that’s what I wondered I want to say just stop right there. Don’t think about the kids for a minute. Think about your marriage. Just your marriage and nothing else. What could a 2-10 day trip do for your marriage?
Would it give you some alone time without kids sleeping in between you? Would it allow you to sit at dinner and enjoy live entertainment like you use to without the kids whining that they’re bored or have to go potty for the fifth time since you left the house? Would you be able to venture out on some excursions or into a place you couldn’t normally go because it wasn’t kid safe or appropriate? Would you be able to reconnect with each other like you use to so many moons ago before kids came along and at times between you?
Here’s the thing- your dinner conversations might still be about the kids. You might end every day talking about what each kid would have loved and hated about the day you just had. You are going to miss your kids at times. Maybe more than they actually missed you. But you’ll glimpse a little bit of who the two of you used to be before you became partners for life in this parenthood thing. So drop the kids off with family whether it be for a long weekend or a full week and take the trip with your significant other. Do it for yourself and your marriage. They both deserve you to put them first for a time. The to do lists, the responsibilities, the work, and yes even the kids can wait.
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