Every mom in the history of ever can tell you what it is like for them before a family vacation. Their time is spent doing laundry, running errands, making arrangements for pets, planning for both emergencies and boredom (so the kids don’t bleed out or literally make them turn the car around and head right back home), packing, cleaning, writing lists, and then writing lists of lists they have to find time to write.
It’s exhausting and hectic, and by the time we are done packing for everyone, we aren’t even all that excited about the vacation itself because we know what family vacations are like. Except when that vacation doesn’t include our family.
Getting away without the kids and spouse is a rare luxury. This rings true even if your vacation is just a business trip to somewhere in the middle of Arkansas. You might be staying at a second-rate hotel with no Wi-Fi, but it’s on the company’s dime. And did I mention no kids or husband? So, yes, that is still luxurious, by my standards.
But even though these solo trips don’t involve family, the prep is often just as extensive as if everyone was piling in the minivan for a road trip to Hell on Earth. Only instead of packing everyone else’s bags and making sure our neighbor waters the flowers, we fret over making sure we leave our husbands with as little to do as possible.
A trip to the grocery store so the fridge is stocked and freezer meals are prepared. The house gets cleaned. Daily outfits for each kid get placed in plain sight. And all the stuff we spend our days doing, like playdates and trips to the library? It’s extra and might be too much for him to handle, so we leave it off the calendar that we have color-coded and carefully laid out on the kitchen counter.
Now pause for a second.
Please consider for a moment whether men feel the need to micromanage us when they’re away.
Spoiler alert: They don’t.
My husband has a job that requires some travel. Sometimes he’s gone for just a couple days, but other times he has been gone for weeks and months. And do you know what his to-do list looks like before he heads for the airport?
And that is fine. Because I am an adult. I am fully capable of running my household and taking care of my children on my own. He knows this, and that’s why he isn’t running around the week before he leaves trying to make sure the beds have fresh sheets or the milk isn’t going to expire while he’s gone. My husband knows it’s hard for me while he’s away, but that it’s hard because I kind of like him, so I tend to miss him. The tasks around the house and with our kids are harder at times without a co-parent, but that aspect of going it alone is not unmanageable.
With that knowledge, we mothers should feel no guilt over leaving our husbands with an as-is house when we go away. We should just pack our bag and go.
Don’t have time to grocery shop before hauling ass into the sunset? There are magic tools called pens and paper. He can make a list of what he needs and go buy it. Someone will probably compliment him for going to the store with the kids, so really, you’re doing him a favor.
Sure, you might be horrified on occasion when your kids FaceTime you wearing outfits that make them look like they fell into a hamper and decided to put on whatever stuck to them, but everyone can survive questionable fashion choices without doing much permanent damage. It will all be okay.
And let’s issue a solid decision on this once and for all while we’re on the subject — returning from your trip to find that your house is a toxic disaster? Not cool. He might be tired at the end of the day, but it’s not that hard to throw dishes in the dishwasher or scoop a litter box. I don’t expect to be able to eat off the floors when I return, but there’s nothing unreasonable about not wanting to come home after three days to a frat house in a woeful state of disrepair.
Husbands are not babysitters. They are not a relative or friend doing us a favor. They are taking care of their kids and their house while their spouse is away. They are half of our team, and when we don’t treat them like they are capable of being our counterpart, the team gets weak.
When I went away recently, aside from making sure he knew the ins and outs of the schedule for the week, I left my husband to it. I gave myself time to prepare for the trip and didn’t worry about everything else because I know he can handle it. He knows how to do things like wiping down the kitchen counters or trekking to the library for story hour. He can figure out the details of preparing three squares a day for himself and our children.
He can, and he does.
Our partners shouldn’t be mad or resentful if we don’t prepare an entire week of effortless existence for them. They’re grown-ups. We do not need to hold their hand through every domestic task we are afraid we might burden them with. In fact, they deserve more credit than that.
The house? It’s his too. The kids? They’re his too. The food? You know he eats it. There is no reason why he can’t handle the responsibilities of those things while you are away.
If you are convinced your husband wouldn’t be able to find his own ass if you didn’t draw him a map, stop drawing him the damn map. Throw him in the pool. You will be pleasantly surprised when you find out he can swim.