As a married woman with two children, I sometimes wonder what my life would look like if I were in a co-parenting relationship rather than a co-habitating one. I love my husband, and I’m happy to raise my daughters with him. He offers to them his unique life experiences and perspective. He offers me the support of a teammate that I can “tag in” on days when I’m at the end of my rope.
However, as a primary caretaker and homeschool educator, sometimes the “tag in” just isn’t enough. I need more than the occasional mom’s-night-out to refuel my engine. I need days where I don’t have to plan meals or activities for anyone but me, days that I don’t have to mediate fights over who ate the last of the Lucky Charms and tantrums over not wanting to brush teeth.
Similarly, I long for days when I don’t have to consider my spouse in my decision making. I honestly stress over choosing simple things like meals and movies for the both of us. I like salads with all the add-ons; he likes burgers with BBQ sauce and bacon. I read to relax and clear my mind, and he watches NBA playoff games.
Finding the middle ground isn’t just challenging; it’s frustrating and even exhausting. I often feel his lack of interests in my “likes” equates to a lack of interest in me. I know it’s false, but I definitely conflate the two sometimes; in fact, we both do. So after hearing from my divorced friends about the benefits of healthy co-parenting, I imagined aspects would benefit my relationship as well. Each of us would have more opportunities to be our uncompromising selves, and then be able to give each other and our children a more flexible version.
I asked my husband if he would be interested in spending more weekends and weeknights alone with the kids in exchange for some scheduled family free time.
“No” was his simple, quick and unsurprising response, but at least I tried.
A few weeks later he surprised me with the offer of a lifetime. He’d decided on a family vacation to Kaua’i but for the first leg of the trip he would take our two daughters alone.
He offered me a true MOMCATION!
One week, IN MY OWN HOME, WITHOUT KIDS, and WITHOUT HIM!
Needless to say, I high-jumped at the opportunity. I shared my exciting news with a mommy friend. She was thrilled for me, but also skeptical.
“You trust him to take your daughters on a trip without you?” she asked.
I honestly didn’t have many reservations; my daughters are 7 and 9. Had they been younger I would have been timid, to say the least. Not only because I know how much little ones need their mama, but also because my husband wasn’t as active in their toddler years. Thankfully over the past few years, with personal growth and support from our therapist, he has played a more active role in parenting. He’s planned meals, day trips, combed and styled thick curly hair, and helped with school projects. I think these last few years prepared us all for my momcation.
While my kids were off enjoying the stunning Garden Island of Hawai’i with their father, I was living my best life at home, enjoying happy hours with friends, reading books uninterrupted, eating when and what I chose, and watching romantic comedies from the golden era of the 1990’s.
The first time I called my spouse on my staycation (about one day after they arrived), he answered jovially but obviously preoccupied. He was at the grocery store with our two daughters enduring the many “daddy-can-i-have’s,” and I was on my way to happy hour. It was as if I was living in an alternate universe, a dad’s universe. He was parenting and I was resting. He concluded the conversation with “Thanks for all the hard work you do, I’m going to do more.”
Within just a few days, my husband had a newfound appreciation for what it was like to be a primary caretaker, to feed, homeschool and entertain two children from sunrise to sunset. He had to make all the plans, do all the dishes, provide all the meals, and break up all the fights.
During my time alone, I understood why new research suggests single childless women are happier than married women with children. Not because I regret having children or being married, but because much too often the hardships that come along with marriage and motherhood are shouldered by the woman and not the couple. In a patriarchal society all women are negatively impacted, but in hetero marriages and parenting, the effects play out in our private lives more than most of us are willing to admit, for fear of making our husbands appear sexist.
However, I think it’s high time women start confronting patriarchy in our private lives. Arlie Hochschild’s Second Shift isn’t going anywhere; women still make up half the workforce and are still expected to do the majority of domestic work once they get home. Co-parenting should be the standard for unmarried couples and married couples alike.
My husband ultimately enjoyed creating beautiful memories that only he and our children will share; I enjoyed the solitude and freedom that all humans desire and need from time time.
I hope this inaugural momcation is the beginning of a long-standing tradition that I can pass down to my daughters so they too will understand and expect rest, rejuvenation and equity in their future relationships.