Some parents can kiss their kids goodbye, leaving them with a caregiver, and disappear for weeks without batting an eyelid. I cannot. I would struggle to have a good time.
After Lucy turned one, the need to reconnect with my husband became apparent. I’m sure most parents would agree that kids and parenting puts any marriage under pressure. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take some time out to observe and appreciate yourself and him for what you have both become since parenthood began. Under the pressures of child-raising, it is all too easy to pick out the negatives your spouse/partner may have and a well-deserved break from the kids with just the two of you could very-well be the rescuer of many a marriage.
Chris and I returned from a 14 day break in Thailand to two happy, balanced children. It was a blissful experience made all the more sweet by how beautifully my children handled it. This is how we did it.
The plan was made and set in stone. You cannot expect your kids to accept something that keeps changing so only start preparing them once you are 100% sure what is happening. You need to give your kids at least 1 month prep before you leave. My sister offered to look after our kids while we were away. She lives in the UK and although she visits 3 or 4 times a year, my kids weren’t as familiar with her as they were with other members of our family, especially Lucy. Being my sister, this didn’t worry me as her values, morals, even her mannerisms are similar to mine and I knew my children would be comfortable with her and that her relationship with them would blossom.
I think the most important thing when deciding on a person to look after your children is that they love them. Next, but also essential, is that they need to be able to spend time with them while you are away so selecting some-one with a full-time job is not going to work. It is important for your kids to have spent at least 2 or more nights with that person, at the place they will be staying before you leave so they know and you know that they are comfortable there. The person who is looking after your kids needs some support or back-up. Looking after somebody else’s kids is exhausting and if they are going to keep it up, they will need some support in the way of a family or friend, especially if they aren’t parents themselves like my sister. We were very lucky that she offered to stay in our home so our kids didn’t have to move but she did stay with us for 2 nights before we left.
Once the plan is in place, you can start preparing your children. I started just over a month before we were due to leave, at the dinner table. I told the children over supper:
“Mummy and Daddy are going away for a while to a place called Bangkok soon. “Mummy and Daddy are going on honeymoon. A honeymoon is a holiday that two people take when they love each other very much. “Mummy and Daddy are going to Bangkok because that is where father christmas goes on holiday and where all his toys for christmas get made and Mummy and Daddy need to buy Jack and Lucy lots of presents.”
Jack’s first response to this was, “Lots of presents?”
My reasoning behind what I said is as follows: First and foremost, I like to be honest with my kids where I can and I know that my children find comfort in the fact that their parents love each other. I chose to say Bangkok, instead of Thailand because it is easier to say and it is just a cool word. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with your kids being excited about presents. They get excited about presents at Christmas once a year anyway, how many times are you going to be leaving them for a two-week holiday? I have no problem admitting that I remember being excited about my parents return mainly because I knew they were bringing me presents. They’re little kids, you can’t expect them to be excited about the fact that you and your husband are going on a lovely holiday without them!? There needs to be something in it for them too and I think it is a great way of rewarding them for being such awesome children. Make sure you save some money for this at the end of your trip because there is nothing quite like shopping for your kids when you miss them. I can tell you, that if you return with a load of cool stuff for them, the next time you want to go away, it really won’t be a problem. Mum and Dad going away = presents. Nothing wrong with that.
I would repeat what I said at the dinner table during the course of the next month every 2 days or so. Jack and I would discuss it, he would ask questions, I would answer them. He once asked if he could come and I said no because only grown ups were allowed to go to Bangkok when Father Christmas was there. I spoke to his school about it and they knew exactly what the plan was too, I emailed all our close family and friends and told them what was going on and asked them to pop and visit sometime while we were away or even just phone the kids for a quick chat. When Jack started mentioning Bangkok at school to his teacher and classmates, I knew I had it nailed. He was well aware of what was about to happen and if he was aware, Lucy would take after him. The kids and I also made a time-worm together. A time-worm is pieces of paper cut into circles, 1 circle for each day we were away. The circles are decorated however which way. Stickers, crayons, cut-outs, photos, whatever grabbed us at the time. You start with the head of the worm which represents the day Mum and Dad get back! You need to stick this is a prominent place in the house so that the kids see the time-worm often, like a door or the fridge. As you continue with the activity through the month, the time-worm grows into this gorgeous masterpiece of creativity. It looks lovely and the kids get so proud of it, it’s too sweet! The idea is that each morning or evening, the children get to remove ‘1day’ of the worm’s tail. I did this because most kids Jack’s age, and especially Lucy’s age, have no concept of a stretch of time like 14 days. After spending the first couple of nights without you, they can look at the worm and gain an understanding of the length of time you are away. If one circle is equal to one sleep, then there are still quite a few sleeps to go until Mum and Dad get back. They can see for themselves in their own creation and that independence makes them all the more confident and happy in your absence.
So now it’s time to leave. We said a big goodbye at home with Lucy and then Chris and I took Jack to school and told him we’d see him when we got back from Bangkok. It didn’t bother him at all. I shed a tear or two on the wat out but the excitement of actually going on a “honeymoon” quickly dried up my tears.
It’s worth mentioning that while we were away, we tried skyping but it was frustrating and awkward. The kids were at my Mum’s house at the time we skyped and when they got home, Jack expected us to be there as he thought we were skyping from home. He was very upset for a while when he returned home and we weren’t there. After that we made a couple of phone calls but I mostly wrote to them on email and sent photos that my sister would read and show to the kids. They found that far more interesting and fulfilling and would talk to her about them and ask questions. Awesome.
In closing I need to mention this. What surprised me about my preparing the kids for this holiday is that I unexpectedly prepared myself too. I didn’t burst into tears every time I saw a little baby. I missed my children but I didn’t pine for them. I embraced the time I had with my husband wholeheartedly and enjoyed my holiday entirely guilt-free. It was wonderful.