Three weeks before we were supposed to board a plane to Europe, my husband decided he was “too busy” to go on vacation (on, mind you, a trip we had been planning for seven months).
On the fiery hot crossroads of insane disappointment and wild abandon, I decided I would still go. Alone.
Having no desire to recreate any number of an “awakening voyage of a middle-aged woman” memoirs, I figured, if nothing else, I could do a fabulous version of Eat. Drink. Sleep.
People gasped. They clutched their pearls and told me I was “so brave.” They assumed I was having marital troubles or an existential crisis.
This trip had been scheduled during my son’s camp, so no additional fretting was involved in the decision. When will I ever again finagle a guilt-free European adventure on my own? There was no begging or negotiating. Husband wanted to stay home and (no joke) clean out the basement, so I would go clean out some wine cellars of my own.
As departure day drew near, my husband started to realize the stuff he would have to deal with during temporary bachelorhood. While I tried to cram everything into one carry-on, he grilled me on how to use the coffee machine and dishwasher. Then he panicked: “What am I supposed to eat?”
Insert maniacal grin: In my absence he will realize everything THAT I DO.
“But how can you just leave?” people asked (judged) in wonder.
Moms especially feel burdened with guilt and responsibility, like the house will literally cease to stand if they go anywhere farther than Target. I felt like that, and my kid wasn’t even home. Will the dog get walked? What if the oven gets left on? Who will water the flowers?
I had to shove down that urge to micromanage and have faith that I married someone who would wash dishes (if not the way I would do them).
Cut out any images you have of me waltzing through castles and boarding yachts. This trip was simple: It was truly everything I want to do at home, but can’t. I sat and read for uninterrupted hours. I walked and walked without anyone complaining they were hungry or bored. I drank coffee while it was still hot. I took a perfume-making class. I learned to make macarons from a real pastry chef. I never set an alarm.
I had no massive, life-altering moments. But I came home like I knew myself again. I filled up all of those little cups that had been shoved to the back of life’s pantry. I came home calm, light, fulfilled…and ready to step back into family life.
Part of parenting is that we live for our kids. It is a noble sacrifice. But if we allow our sense of adventure and our pre-kid inner desires wither up, how can we teach our babies to indulge their own sparks?
Realizing that hopping on a plane to France is not a realistic goal for all, I invite you to please find a way you can excuse yourself from the daily grind and take yourself on a mini-vacation. Even if just for a full day of no phone, no errands, no friends, no responsibility and, most importantly, no guilt. Get to know yourself again just with yourself. Do a few things that fill up your happiness cups, as long as it doesn’t involve cleaning out the basement.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.