One evening about a year ago, I was at a Book Club meeting when one of the ladies suggested that we go away for a weekend. “Somewhere that we can just relax and drink and not worry about kids!” she exclaimed. Everyone was on board and began shouting out ideas – everyone but me, that is. I kept quiet and sipped my wine, hoping that this would be a long way off. What were the chances that eight women could coordinate their schedules? Not very high, I told myself. Now if you’re wondering why on earth I would even think this to begin with, it’s simple. I’ve never left my children before. Wait… let me rephrase that. I had never left my children before. I was terrified.
It took about nine months but this book club lady was persistent. One of the other members owns a vacation home about three hours away – that solved the “where” and made it quite affordable. Dates were put up for a vote and miraculously everyone was available one particular weekend. It was set: A Book Club Getaway at the coast. They giggled with excitement while my stomach churned in terror. I didn’t expect this to happen, ever!
It’s been almost nine years since I’ve had a weekend without a kid by my side. I’ve often listened to girlfriends talk about weekends away with husbands and leaving their own kids with grandparents that live nearby. My husband and I don’t have family near us; there’s no easy solution to getting away for the weekend or longer. As for a weekend away with friends, well, that isn’t easy, either. It’s been tossed around here and there with no follow through or a limited budget that made it seem too hard. As time went on, I began to think that my kids couldn’t handle me being gone. I mean, I’m their MOM! I know their schedules and routines, what scares them and what helps out when they’re sad. I can’t leave them.
The week leading up to the getaway was nauseating to me. I went back and forth. “I’m not going,” I told my husband. “Um, I think you need to,” he responded. I wasn’t going to argue with him. Yes, I needed it, desperately, in fact. I was snapping at my toddler, who was always underfoot. I was exhausted. I felt like I was constantly running to and fro and never accomplishing much. The problem was that I was just terrified to be away from my children. They are always with me and to be away from them, separate, was not an idea I could fathom. Who the hell am I without my kids? How on earth could I relax and enjoy a weekend, knowing that they were almost certainly hysterical at my absence?
Friday morning I told my husband that there was no way I could take the older two to school. “They will make such a scene,” I explained. “I just know they will cry and the teacher will have to drag them away. I can’t do that to them. You take them.” Instead, the girls nicely asked me to take them. “Only if you promise not to cry!” I said. They looked at each other, shrugged, and said ok. Silly girls, I thought. You’re trying to be brave but I can see the sadness.
I got them to school and walked my oldest to her classroom. She saw some friends and started to race ahead. “Bye, Mom!” she yelled over her shoulder. What the…? No. This would not do. I chased her and quietly asked if I could have a hug. “I won’t see you until Sunday,” I said sadly. She gave me a quick hug and tried to shoo me on my way. I slowly walked away, looking over my shoulder and expecting to see her watching me. Nope. She was talking to some girl and didn’t bat an eye. That was ok. I had my first grader. Surely I could squeeze some emotion out of her. As the bell rang, she started to march into her classroom but I pulled her out of line. “Goodbye! Goodbye,” I said. “I’ll see you Sunday. You’ll be ok. Dad will take great care of you. Everything will be fine. Don’t worry, ok?” Her reply? “I’m not worried. Can I go to my class?”
I got a somewhat better response from my toddler, who was upset that I was leaving but not upset enough to leave her spot on the couch as she watched her favorite tv show. As the car I was in drove away, I expected to feel waves of sadness rush over me. Instead I felt… relief. Excitement. Giddy.
I had the best weekend. It was incredibly relaxing. Am I terrible for saying I really didn’t have any pangs of missing my girls? I truly didn’t. I thought of them, yes, but never felt like I had to rush home to see them and hug them. I drank wine, I ate amazing food, I walked on the beach, I laughed with friends, I took showers with no one walking in on me to ask me for a snack, and I slept at night knowing there would be no wake up calls at 2am. Truth be told, I could have stayed longer than a weekend. I think I could have gone a few more days. Maybe even a week.
It’s nice to be home, though. I was happy to get welcome back hugs from my kids and tell them about my weekend (the parts that were suitable for kids, anyway). They told me about their adventures with Dad and it hit me: We survived. I survived. I can be away from my kids! I should get away from my kids! So this will definitely be a once or twice a year activity for me… but I’ll give my husband some time to decompress before I tell him that.