Updated: Nov 21, 2020
To me, the thought of packing a bag and zipping off somewhere kid free sounds magical! You can sleep in, eat when ever and where ever you want, go to bed at what ever time you feel like, stop into any shop and not feel rushed, and simply relax. I like to justify trips away from kids as a well deserved break. After all, we go hard all day and all night with them and have earned this time apart.
Besides the joyful glory of relaxation and car rides without a million questions, most people feel hesitant to leave their kids while they travel. Nerves set in and minds start to think of bad scenarios that could occur. Concerns about the children's emotional well being arises,
"what if they are so upset and cry the whole time I am gone?"
"what if their grandparents don't follow the schedule and they feel out of whack?"
"There is too much preparation and planning to make a trip happen"
Parents often will become so overwhelmed with these negative thought loops that they will forgo these trips or plan them as a family vacation instead. When personal fears get in the way, or feeling at a loss of control over your kids day to day structure (which will most definitely be shifted when they are being babysat by grandparents! Can we say no naps and sugar??) elicits more panic and movement than relaxing poolside, this is where the problem lies.
While it is completely normal to love your kids so much that the thought of their discomfort would make a parent want to change or cancel plans, it only becomes a problem when that parent continually adjusts their own wants and needs for the child.
However, if you are willing to prep and plan as much as possible and take my advice, I can guarantee that you will be able to confidently walk away from your kiddos and enjoy a night, or five, away from them. AND SURVIVE! Oh, and they will survive as well.
Steps for a smooth and seamless trip away
1. First and foremost, do not discuss travel plans with your kids until it is locked in! This can cause unnecessary worries for the kids and can waste your energy and patience trying to sooth them if the details have not been solidified yet. Once you have a date, location, and childcare taken care of, you can begin the process of sharing.
2. Begin to tell them no more than a few weeks before the trip. This is a fine line and you must use your best parenting judgement for your kid. Some kids will do fine dropping comments 3 weeks out. Others will think that is too much time and begin to ruminate every day up until the departure day. But please don't drop the bomb of a 4 day trip away the night before you leave. Find a nice middle ground.
3. Stick to the facts and answer their questions. Explain that Nana will be coming over to babysit for a few days. Share how she will be babysitting, taking you to school and picking you up, playing, and putting you to bed. Discuss ways you will be communicating with your kids; FaceTime, sending post cards, snapping picture, ext.
4. Validate and reflect any worries that arise. Your kids are going to be a bit uneasy about you leaving no matter how frequently their grandparents or the babysitter is over. That does not mean you should not go or that it is a mistake! Stay grounded and gently support their feelings while transitioning to logic;
"I can see you are feeling nervous for me to leave. It can be hard spending time away from each other. I am just a call away. We can FaceTime every morning and before bed".
5. Write down the kids schedule and important information. It can not only help ease your mind, but also who ever will be caring for them. I have created a free daily scheduler that you can download and use below.
6. Leave something sweet behind. When ever I go out of town, I like to leave a letter for my kids to read (or have read to them) each morning when they wake up. When I am gone for more than a night or two, I will pick up a few books from the local thrift store for them to read before bed. Check out the photos below to see an example of a particularly long trip I took.
I was able to wrap the books for a "surprise" book pull each night with a sweet note attached. Also, someone in one of my local moms groups was giving away a free Frozen advent calendar so I also grabbed that to accompany my morning notes!This entire set up only cost me $4.50 since it was all second hand. As you can probably see, this is wayy over the top. Lets just chalk it up to some mom guilt and me overcompensating and move on!
7. Finally, if you make any promises, stick with them. This includes saying you will call at a certain time of day, bring them something specific back, kiss them when they are sleeping after you get home or before you leave... It does not matter what it is, if you are going to tell your child that you will do it, then you better be able! This will help with the child feeling secure and being able to regulate their emotions while you are away which in turn helps you do the same. Obviously things happen and you may drop the ball, but do your best to follow through and if error occurs, take ownership, apologize, and do better next time.
It is so incredibly valuable to travel without your kids. Whether its for a solo trip, a romantic weekend with your partner, or a friends trip, it will fuel your soul! Hopefully with these steps in place, you can feel more confident to take a night or two away.