As parents, we are continually challenged in making the right decisions, and divided in the paths we take. When it comes to the question of leaving your children, albeit temporarily, for the purpose of simply ‘having fun’, it seems there is a whole rainbow of attitudes and approaches to what is right, and what is wrong.
So where do I stand? Where do you stand? Is Mummy absent without leave?
I’m talking here about leaving the children with a responsible carer while you take some time out for you. For example, you have been invited on a reunion with friends, a hen weekend, a special birthday short break. Maybe you and your other half have a special anniversary or occasion, and have booked a night away somewhere. Some could even consider leaving their children to go to work one day a week too much, yet another parent may not think twice about going on a work trip for a week.
So what are the critical factors here? What in your mind differentiates the okay from the no way?
Is it okay if it’s for a proper occasion…your best friend is getting married, hubby turning 40, landmark wedding anniversary. But what if you just ‘need a break’?
Is the cost that determines if it’s a goer? A freebie you just can’t turn down vs an extravagance you cannot fathom not spending on the family? Do you continually compare what you could use that money for with the children? That weekend in Marbella could have taken us all to Disney? Maybe you just don’t have the money. Maybe you have the money but can’t justify putting it there.
Are you happy to be away if you’re a short drive away, but is your passport is stamped ‘Mummy will not travel’? Is the thought of being on a different continent just too much to bear? Or are you at one with the wonders of modern travel? Mummy will send you a postcard…
Is it how long you can bear it? One night is fine…two at a push, but three just too long? Or are you clawing every night of sleep and lay ins you can get away with?
Does it depend on the age of your children? After all, an older child is much more independent. But then, they are so much more aware of your absence than a baby. Or are they? Is all that irrelevant, because it’s a good learning experience for them to be without you as their lifeline for a short time? Or, is it traumatic for them in their tiny universe?
Are you fine to leave the kids with Daddy – after all, the other 50% of team parent? Why shouldn’t he do what you maybe do 5 days a week solo? Or, does he just not do things the way you know they need to be done? And anyway, if Daddy has a job, are you happy to use up precious annual leave on childcare – or does he relish alone time with the children, in the absence of control freak Mum? Do you stand firm on your need for a break? – a well deserved one at that.
While we are on the subject of Dad. Do Fathers get judged in the same way for going away for a weekend, work trip, sporting event? Honestly, do you think anyone would even raise an eyebrow in the same way a Mother may be quizzed about how she feels about being away from her children? I’m guessing not. Or is that way too much of a sweeping statement?
Are you one of those families with super Grandparents…the ones that step in at the drop of a hat, over the moon and thanking you for letting them have their beloved Grandchildren for a whole weekend without you? The children can’t wait to be with them and be spoilt rotten for a weekend, having the time of their lives, and cry when you return to take them home?
Is it the frequency of these things which are the issue. One a year okay…two? At what point do you feel you are taking the mick? Do you and the other half have any kind of agreement….”Yes of course – you go on that stag do darling [that’s one hen weekend away I can have in return]”.
From my experience, breakaways with friends, or your other half, are like buses. You can be waiting a very long time for one to come by, then rocks up the whole damn fleet. As I approach 35, hen weekends are pretty much a rarity, and the social calendars of multiple friends who now all have kids, rarely align. But, just every now and again the social calendar can go a bit loopy.
When my first daughter was born I went on two hen weekends (of very close friends) when she was just 4 and 5 months old. The first was tough, but it was a 30 minute train journey away, and baby was at home with Daddy (and Nanny & Grandad). It was actually fine – I loved the rest and feeling a little like my old self, which wasn’t then a too distant memory. The second weekend also came and went with no problems, I knew I had to enjoy the rest while I had the opportunity.
There has been a subsequent drought in girly (or coupley) weekenders. Until 2016. 4 years later. So far this year I have been on two weekends away with friends – one to Oxford and one to Barcelona. They both seemed a great idea at the time of booking, but in all honesty, I found it hard leaving the girls – literally, clinging to my legs and screaming as I walked out of the door each time.
Hard not least because for the last 16 months, I haven’t really left them much at all. Sure, the odd evening out – but mostly they were asleep, so pretty oblivious to where Mummy was. This, arguably was also a driver for accepting these invitations. A night off now and again is a wonderful treat, but to have a lay in and no where to be the next day, that is a little slice of luxury for a Stay At Home Mum. To remember what it feels like not to be an hour away from any meal time prep or subsequent clean up operation.
They survived. I survived. More than that – I enjoyed myself. They enjoyed themselves. Sure, we missed each other, but that’s quite nice too.
So…I ask of you this…we all have different lives, different limits, different circumstances. What is right for my family maybe isn’t right for yours. What whats-her-name is doing, or that lady over the road is up to, may be working out just great for them and theirs. Don’t judge. Don’t be judged. In fact, get off that judgey bandwagon and support your parenting pals in whatever they choose to do. Being a parent doesn’t mean life and new experiences has to stop…but also, understand, for some parents, that time away just comes at too much of a cost, whatever that cost may be.
Live, and let live.