Mum Central writer Anna Brophy shares why she and her husband choose to get away – and the reactions that taking a break without the kids can bring.
There were a few eye rolls and tight smiles when I excitedly gushed to friends that we were ‘escaping’ for 2 WHOLE NIGHTS without the kids. I was certainly not prepared for the judgement I copped when we recently planned some couple time ALONE.
Was it jealousy? Was it genuine disgust? Are we actually selfish parents? Why is it, that people still feel the need to measure up their parenting beliefs against others? And why do I have to justify our decision at all?
Is it OK to have some extended couple time away from the kids? In our opinion, hell yes! But of course, it wasn’t just about the judgement of others. You see, the inevitable ‘mum guilt’ got me good and proper; it turns out I was a pretty harsh judge of myself.
I really needed to set it all out to remind myself why the Great Escape was important to us… read on.
Why is a Relationship Extender Weekender Required?
- “Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.” (Randy Pausch) This quote speaks loudly to me. I cannot be the mum I want to be, when I have not taken care of myself. Parenting is intense, emotionally taxing and eternal. Unless I create my own ‘knock off’ break time occasionally, it goes on and on and on.
- We love our kids, but we also love each other. I need him in my corner and to do so, we need to keep connected and respect one another. Not just as a quick ‘meeting’ to cross off bills, check dates and confirm arrangements around the kids each morning. Not just as a bellowing duo at the kids bedtime, upon which we are so exhausted we just tumble in to bed ourselves. It is so easy to slip into relationship lethargy once the kids consume your lives. Nikki, founder of Nikki Cox Wellness, agrees by pointing out, “Rest, relaxation and replenishment also promotes a happier life, which emanates from parents to their kids. As the research tells us, happiness is contagious, so happy parents = happy kids = a happy family unit!”
- I need a bit of ‘fun me’ once in a while. I was cool(ish) once. I need her back now and again, if not to prove to myself she existed.
- “So why not just settle with a date night?” I hear you ask? Date night is great. I will take it! But sometimes I feel one rushed dinner doesn’t cut it. I work my chops off just to get everyone ready for the babysitter. By the time I get to dinner I am often exhausted and wishing we had just got pizza on the couch. Then you spend the next two hours looking at each other, feeling the intense pressure of ‘reconnecting’ and being oh so witty and relaxed ‘like old times’, whilst frantically stealing glances at your watch to calculate the cost of the sitter (which often, by the way, DOUBLES the cost of the evening shared). Plus, mostly we now save the babysitter for a group situation; a 40th party, a school ball or an event such as a concert. No couple time hardly at all.
What must we have / do in order to get away?
- As responsible parents, it makes sense that we must actually be financially in a position to do so, so that the kids aren’t missing out at our expense. But be savvy; time away does not necessarily have to mean big bucks. It could be camping, staying at a friend’s place in the country who is out of town, or keeping your eye out for coupons or deals. Plan well in advance and save. You need to decide whether your relationship is worth the investment.
- It is a given that you ensure your kids are safe and cared for. Timing may not always be right. I’d say sending them off in the middle of toilet training is a little (LOT) rough. You know your kids. Consider their ages and capabilities and what you are actually asking of those looking after them.
- Do not be ‘those people’; the ones that are dumping their kids on everyone, all the time. Perhaps it might be a reciprocated ‘deal’ with their kids. It might be a great decision to save it for a special occasion such as a wedding anniversary.
- Prep the kids well. Build up their ‘special holiday’ in an exciting way. Highlight the fun adventure that they will have staying with friends or family.
Why do people judge us for wanting to get away?
- Some people may genuinely believe this is a selfish act by the parents. Each to their own. Maybe they would rather that cash be spent on time away for the whole family. Point taken. But not every time.
- Jealousy makes me sound judgy now, but it might be the situation whereby the other couple are just not in a position to do so and I GET this, so much. I can be a bit judgy at times, too. It is human nature to do so. Maybe the finances are tight, the kids are sick or they may not actually really desire that time with their partner.
- The green eyed monster might also sneak in, especially if the couple would LOVE to do this, applaud the concept, but simply have no one to care for the kids. Trust me, we had to move heaven and earth to make all the connections fit, including travelling far and wide, but the effort was worth it. It can be incredibly tough, especially without family nearby or people that you are comfortable asking.
- And here’s a thought, Jenny Wynter from How Me Parent Good reminds us that the “difference with motherhood compared to other jobs is that there’s nobody telling you that you’re doing well... As a result, I think sometimes mothers look to other mothers and judge their choices as a way of making themselves feel better about their own.” DING DING DING. Though I want to deny it, this is definitely ringing a true for me.
I am no relationship expert.
Sometimes he infuriates me just because he left a plate on the bench or a towel on the floor or had SEN radio on too loudly.
But mostly, I get what Mr Big from Sex and the City meant when he said,
“After a while, you just want to be with the one who makes you laugh.”
If the luxury of taking a break just isn’t on your horizon right now, perhaps you might like to settle in with 5 Romantic Movies Mums Actually Want to Watch.