In response to my post about how I’m working through my reluctance to leave my kids behind and how I’ve decided to go on a kid-free trip anyway, I got a few great comments that I wanted to bring to light.
First, Maman A Droit said:
“I totally relate to feeling a little lost without anyone to parent. I haven’t ever left my 8 month old son for more than an hour. I just don’t enjoy myself when I’m not with him, and as I am not working in any capacity, there’s not really any reason I need to get away.”
“I feel a strong drive to be with my children. On the whole, I don’t sweat it too much, because I know this time is really really short. They won’t want anything to do with me soon enough.”
and Shana said:
“I feel like our culture so often lends support to moms who make the choice to work, or make the choice to put themselves first. Not that “me time” isn’t important, I’m just finding it harder than I ever expected. And I was a pretty big career girl before kids. Now, I’m often regarded as old-fashioned, or worse…an un-hip mother. “
Ladies, I am so glad you made these points, because after I published my post I had this nagging feeling that I had left out a very important point:
There is nothing neurotic, weird, or backward about wanting to be with your kids and preferring not to be separated.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Okay, yes. I suppose if your child is in high school and you can’t bear the thought of spending the evening away from him, there may be some deeper issues that need to be explored. On the other hand, I’m not you and I don’t know your kid, so who am I to judge?
We get a lot of conflicting messages about mother-child separation in this society. One cultural message we hear strongly is that we should be with our kids as much as possible, 24/7, and the cultural message that at-home motherhood is ‘better’ is still strong.
But at the same time, we’re told in no small number of ways that we should regularly find ways to leave our kids with somebody else so we can get away from them, starting as young as possible, or else we run the risk of becoming bored, stifled, boring, stifling, you get the picture.
It starts with the pressure to schedule-on “date nights” within days of having a baby. (Honestly, between securing a sitter, pumping and all the rest, I never found leaving a tiny baby so I could go out all that fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with taking a date night, but why has it become another “requirement” of contemporary parenting?) Then it’s mom’s nights out and no-kids-allowed (not even babies in slings) weddings. The veritable cornucopia of blog conferences now available year-round gives us all even more opportunity (and yes, pressure) to get away. And sometimes, Mom would rather not.
This does not mean, necessarily, that she’s got to “cut the apron ties” or that she has no life outside of her children. It doesn’t mean she would necessarily be happier if she’d just go already. It doesn’t mean that she’s an un-interesting person or saddling herself with obligations out of guilt or fear of judgment. Sometimes, moms just…would rather not leave their kids behind, no matter how fun the event at hand. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel that way myself from time to time and have missed many fun events because the payoff just didn’t seem worth the sacrifice.
So I just want to make it clear that my kid-free trip is MY choice, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a choice any other mom should necessarily make. Heck, it took me five kids to get to this point, and frankly, had the circumstances played out even a bit differently, I’d probably be skipping this trip, too. And you know, I’d be OK with that. I’ve missed out on some things because of my kids, but as Amber very wisely pointed out, it all goes by in a blip.
And to be perfectly honest, I still feel conflicted. Do I think I’m making the right choice going to New York? I’m not even sure there is a right choice. There’s only what feels right to us, deep down, in any given circumstance. For me, the ideal would be taking the baby and the husband along. But that can’t happen, and the second-best choice, for me, in this circumstance is going without her.
That said, I totally get the desire not to leave kids behind, and I think that’s something you need to recognize and grapple with and not shove aside just so you can go with the crowd. As with any other parenting decision, just make sure that you’re following your heart, not doing what your best friend, sister, aunt, mother, or favorite parenting guru would have you do. Because if you allow yourself to be swayed by what other people think is right, you won’t really be doing the right thing for yourself or your kids.
It’s not unnatural to want to be around your kids. It’s also not unnatural to want or need a break. There’s just you, your child and your conscience to help you figure out what’s the best thing to do this time around.
And don’t forget, you are free to change your mind next time. I can guarantee, whether it’s a party, wedding, dinner out, or one of the many conferences now available, there will always be another opportunity to choose.