“I’d kill for a vacation” is a phrase I’ve heard uttered from many a mother’s mouth. And rightfully so. Regardless of whether they work outside the home or are stay-at-home parents, moms around the world, myself included, need a break every now and then. A mental escape from the juggling act that is our lives. And since every mom knows that all of her mommy friends are in the same boat, what better way to enjoy this escape than together on a girls’ getaway?
“Sounds fun,” my husband said when I broached the subject. “You deserve it. Go. Have fun with your friends.” Giddy, I typed up an email to send to my girlfriends, spelling it all out. Girls’ weekend: spa appointments, lying by the pool, girl talk, wine – lots of wine.
But the excitement dwindled quickly upon receiving their responses.
“I’d love to, but I’ve never been away from Johnny overnight. I just don’t think I can do it.”
“Sounds like so much fun but I don’t want to be gone from the kids.”
“Away overnight from my little one might be too much. How about just a dinner?”
“Oh, I could never leave my kids for a weekend. Sorry!”
And with that, my vision of a fun-filled weekend with long-lost girlfriends evaporated, leaving me questioning not only my maternal instinct, but my priorities as well.
Guilty questions started running through my mind. Is it bad that I would enjoy a two-day break from my kids? Should I want to be with them 24/7? Do I not love my kids as much as my friends love theirs?
Let me clarify. Do I want to have a weekend escape every month? No. But maybe once a year? Sure.
Of all the reasons I could have for not taking advantage of a girls’ getaway trip, the last one I expected was that I wouldn’t have anyone to go with. Don’t have the time, don’t have the money, don’t have the childcare? Those are the logical reasons I presume many moms don’t get away. But I do happen to have the time (an extended weekend off of work), and the money (that I’ve been personally saving), and the childcare (an awesome husband).
One friend elaborated further. “I really don’t know any other moms who would be comfortable leaving their kids for a weekend,” she said.
So, apparently I was now not only the anomaly among my small group of mom friends, but among all moms in general. Talk about parental shame. Add this to the rest of the cultural pressures to be the perfect parent.
My personal interrogation, however, quickly turned to defensiveness, as the truth that was at the back of my mind the whole time came barreling to the surface. Of course I love my kids. And I love them just as much as any mom does. In fact, the few times I have been away from my little ones for a night or two, I have typically shed a tear upon leaving and then spent a large majority of the time thinking of them.
The fact that I have different opinions and approaches to parenting than my friends do doesn’t mean that any of us is a bad mother. It simply means that what works for one mom doesn’t necessarily work for another.
It’s easy to rush to judgment, particularly about the endless hot-button issues surrounding parenting. However, labeling women as helicopter parents, obsessive worriers, or control freaks does nothing but add more guilt to moms who are already dealing with the natural self-doubt that is an inherent part of raising a child.
As much as I cringe to hear someone say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re able to be away from your kids like that!” (What are you implying?), I’m sure other moms cringe to hear, “You’re really missing out on things because you won’t leave your kids” (And what are you implying?).
So, I think the answer to my question, “Do I not love my kids as much as they love theirs?” is simple. Love doesn’t have just one definition – it means many things. Love means doing what’s best for your family and yourself as a mom. It’s what makes your heart happy. For some, that’s being with their kids all of the time. And for others, it might allow for a little space and some “me” time.
Either way, love shouldn’t be the question.
Accepting the fact that my friends and I love our kids equally still doesn’t solve my vacation dilemma. So…anyone up for a girls’ weekend?
Related post: 10 Ways You Know You’re a Parent on Vacation