Or, why vacation, and escaping reality and your kids, is vital to your marriage and your sanity.
My husband and I recently went on a week-long vacation with eight close friends, sans kids. It was probably the best thing that we could have done for ourselves, and for our marriage.
The last time that my husband and I vacationed alone together was also our first; it was November 2011, and the first year we were dating.
Life for the next five years stretched out full-speed ahead; while I have two daughters from a previous relationship that we were raising, we also purchased a home, got engaged, got married, had a baby, and went on a large family trip that included kids and our extended families which also doubled as our Honeymoon. There was not any extended adult time for us, and if there was, it was usually at the sacrifice of one of us for the other. I spent long weekends away with girlfriends at least once a year, my husband traveled mostly for work or golf, but the opportunities that we made for ourselves to spend time together for any extended period of time were non-existent.
Life’s funny like that. Not in the humorous sort of way, but in the ironic blink-and-you-miss-five-years-if-you’re-not-intentional sort of way.
Over the past year, I have been working on self-fulfillment. I have enrolled in several art classes and a cooking class. I have registered and participated in programs for self-care and spent a lot of time reading personal development books. A few close friends and I started an accountability group, where we discuss our personal goals on a regular basis and support each other in becoming the women that we hope to be someday. I have been very intentional about the time and the practices that I am partaking in, and carving out boundaries around them; my family has been extremely supportive of these endeavors, and I am a better mom and wife because of this.
While I have been working on my personal growth as a woman, I haven’t necessarily worked on myself as a wife, or who I am as a woman in my relationship.
My vacation with my husband was about a year in the making once we decided to book the trip, and I realized a few months ago how little time my husband and I were committing to each other. We were consumed with raising our family, selling our first home and buying another, struggling with the challenges of living with my parents during the interim, and our careers; life was steamrolling by and we weren’t focusing on growing in our relationship with each other.
This is true of many, if not all couples that I know who have children.
When you step away from the responsibilities of managing a family, you have the ability to focus on each other in a way that you can’t when the constant check-lists and urgencies that exist in day-to-day family life are competing for attention. You also have the chance to reconnect with yourself, because who you are, as an individual likely gets just as lost in the shuffle of all of the mom things.
When you don’t mindfully create that time, it is readily consumed by the next banal task or activity.
Being away from the girls and my day-to-day responsibilities was as good of a reminder as any that I am a woman who exists not just solely in my role as a mother. It reminded me that my husband and I are a couple; we’re not just co-existing for the mere success of raising our daughters, reminding each other about what we did or didn’t do that we should have, or meeting on common ground over what we should have for dinner. We’re two adults in a relationship that needs as much work as the other parts of our lives to be successful.
It’s not just the trip as a whole that brought us closer together, but more importantly it was the smaller moments that we don’t relish enough, or have the capacity to even notice some days; having a quiet breakfast, taking walks, having a few hours to simply sit together, or to go off exploring. I had the time to savor these moments and hold a sincere place of gratitude for them.
We talked about and thought of our kids plenty, and certainly missed them, don’t get me wrong; thank goodness for FaceTime. But absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder, and we were able to appreciate them – and they us – more by taking this time away.
Possibly the most important piece of connecting for us was the lack of Wifi. I will admit that the first thing that I do in the morning and generally the last thing that I do at night is to grab my phone and check all the things, however our villa at the resort where we stayed didn’t include Wifi, and the charge to use the service was $60 per device. After I got past the initial withdrawal, it was honestly a godsend. I planned around a half hour window of time each day to check in with the real world using free Wifi at a local coffee shop, and that was it. I am hoping to hold onto my intentions and boundaries that I established while being forcibly disconnected.
Our vacation was enhanced by the presence of friends, which also went a long way in reminding us that we’re well-rounded adults, not just Mom and Dad. I like to think that my husband and I are pretty good at maintaining our social lives, however spending a week in the company of people who don’t require you to cook meals, cut the crusts off bread, measure out toilet paper or organize a day’s activities certainly helps support that you’re someone outside of the role you hold for your kids. The memories that we made together, and with our friends, are important to us and they’ll hold us over on the days where the thousandth “Mom!” resounds off the walls and when we have barely seen each other much less sat down and had a grown-up conversation for weeks.
I firmly believe that it’s beneficial for our kids to see my husband and me commit time for each other; to know that we enjoy each other’s company, to see us take time out for ourselves, and also, to be aware that we recognize they can actually exist without us, helping to establish their own independence.
Of course, the challenge becomes incorporating the sort of awareness and attention that you have the ability to cultivate when you have all that time and energy from a vacation into everyday life, where expectations, bills and demanding, waist-high tyrants reside. We’re easing back into regular life, smiling fondly at each other and relishing our memories, and planning our next family vacation, knowing that we’ll work towards another vacation of our very own before another seven years passes us by.