Why it’s beneficial and tips on what to say to the kids
I’m not sure I know any parent who has ever gone on vacation without their kids and not felt at least a twinge of guilt or anxiety about leaving them. Feeling stressed about taking a vacation either with a significant other or some girlfriends is normal, but that shouldn’t stop you.
According to parenting expert, Dr. Michele Borba, it is actually healthy for moms to take vacations without their kids. I sat down with Borba, who holds a doctorate degree in educational psychology and who has been in practice for 30 years, to talk with her about the benefits of traveling without your clan and tips on how to talk to your kids about it.
Q: Why is it healthy for moms to take vacations without the kids?
A: It helps us reconnect with ourselves, reflect on our parenting, improve mental health, and keep stress at bay. Research supports that one of the best ways to be a good mom is to keep your stress in check. Stress filters down to your kids, so you become a less effective parent when you have a lot of anxiety.
Q: Why do moms feel guilty for leaving their kids?
A: Parent guilt begins the day our child is born. As soon as that baby is in your arms, there’s an overriding feeling for most moms, who are thinking, I need to be there every second. That’s not necessarily true. For some reason, we are also fed through the media and others will imply that if you leave your child with a babysitter, you are a bad parent. That’s just not true.
Q: What are the benefits of me time?
A: Good moms take care of themselves so they can take care of their kids. When you have time away, you are recharged. That recharging could be for one night or a few days. Sometimes it’s two hours. It doesn’t even have to be a pricey vacation. It could be spending the night at your girlfriend’s house.
Q: Are there benefits to the kids when you travel without them?
A: Yes! Your leaving helps your kids gain independence, security, and confidence. It also helps them appreciate you more, and they also might have a lot of fun. They are experiencing something new and learning new things and different ways of doing things. If they are staying with family members, they are gaining more connectors, more support, more role models.
Q: What are some guidelines for where to leave the kids?
A: It depends on their age, but for the most part, make sure you leave your kids in a safe environment with someone who knows the children and who knows your parenting style. Make sure you have watched that person engage or be with your children and that you know your children feel safe and secure with that person. Leaving your kids in the care of an extended family member can be wonderful for the kids because that expands their childhood identity, their horizons, and creates meaningful memories.
Q: What are some tips regarding what to say to your kids?
- If you’ve never left your kids, don’t go away for more than one night. They need to get used to you leaving, and a short duration will feel more comfortable for them.
- Ask the person your children are staying with to keep their routine. If the children have a night light, bring it to the house. If they read a certain book before bed or listen to music, you might want to have them do that while you’re away.
- Ask your kids, “Is there anything you want me to tell your grandma that you need?” Or call that person and let your child hear the conversation as you tell the caregiver about your child’s allergies, that he or she is afraid of dogs, etc.
- Call your children once a day. Choose a time you are going to call and stick to it.
- How you leave can increase or decrease homesickness. You have to be secure yourself. Hold back your tears and say, “This is going to be so much fun for you!” If you cry, your child will cry. Be relaxed and confident. You may be jittery, but remember that your child is mirroring you. Leave with a smile.
- Come back at the exact time you told your child you would. This will boost trust for the next trip.
Most moms who take trips without the kids tell me their guilt and anxiety fade after the first few hours of being gone, when they start to relax and realize it’s all good!
In closing, remember that being a Solo Mom is a hard job and that you deserve time to yourself and to enjoy life that doesn’t include your children from time to time. Just be safe and smart, and don’t forget to bring back souvenirs!
Jackie Pilossoph, ESME’s Divorce Resource Guide, is the creator of Divorced Girl Smiling, a website that helps men and women facing divorce. She is also a weekly Huffington Post divorce blogger; the writer of a weekly column, “Love Essentially,” for the Chicago Tribune’s Pioneer Press; and a freelance corporate and business content writer. Pilossoph holds a master’s degree in journalism. She lives in Chicago with her two children. Oh, and she’s divorced.