Over the weekend, my husband Brandon and I were able to
escape travel without our two boys, Miles (4) and Spencer (2.5), and spent a few days in Asheville, NC while the boys had a great time at my parents’ home in Tennessee. Though we have sent the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for various reasons before, this is the first time that we actually planned and went on a short trip alone, without our children or other friends. I found myself falling into the same patterns as before and decided to develop it into an informative post so that you too can be prepared for a child-free getaway.
1. Anticipation – You’ve made your plans, packed for all possible circumstances, delivered your children into the most capable of hands, and said your goodbyes. Perhaps you were a little too hasty to jump into the carseatless vehicle and speed away, but have no worries — everyone’s going to have an excellent time! You’re probably still in the excited, Anticipation mode while you travel to your destination and may forget that your children are absent from the backseat, experiencing a startled moment when you don’t hear any screaming or squabbles from the rear of the car. You will likely talk about your kids during this time, wondering if they’re behaving, if they’re properly fed and dressed (though you only left them an hour ago), and if they are missing you (they probably aren’t). You might even call the family member or friend who is watching your children to relay some vital piece of information they need for the weekend.
2. Reckless Abandonment – So you’ve arrived at your destination! At this point, you may be experiencing a surge of adrenaline due to the fact that you have no small children to care for. You may think thoughts such as “I can go to the bathroom in peace!!!” “I don’t have to hide the fact that I’m eating candy!!!” “I can TAKE A NAP!” This is known in our house as the Reckless Abandonment Stage. For a visual example of this phase, I refer you to the classic holiday film Home Alone (particularly the scenes with Kevin running through the house, jumping on the bed, and eating an ice cream sundae roughly the size of a housecat). You may even find yourself, in a moment of uncontrollable excitement, shouting the following:
A word of caution about this phase: frenzied eating, drinking, and other activities may result in stomach pain, nausea, or other minor ailments. Don’t be the person who screws up the whole weekend because you got stuck in Reckless Abandonment and ate themselves sick.
3. Blissful Enjoyment – After the Reckless Abandonment phase wears off (duration may vary), you’ll quietly slip into the best part of your time away from your children. Depending on your agenda (or lack thereof), you’ll get to spend some time reconnecting with the love of your life, doing things you rarely get to do anymore, and generally enjoying yourselves. Don’t get too attached to this phase, though, because soon, it’ll hit you…
4. The End Is Nigh/Panic – Yes, that’s right. You’ll soon realize that your trip won’t last forever. Every time you check your watch, you’ll be reminded that the time remaining in your responsibility-free getaway is quickly ticking away and soon you’ll be back to reality, wipin’ butts and packin’ lunches. You may feel tempted to relapse into Reckless Abandonment at this time, but I urge you to keep your wits about you. Don’t fall into Depression & Despair, a rarely seen sub-phase, which can suddenly attack Moms and Dads during a child-free getaway and result in quiet sobbing on one’s hotel bathroom floor, muttering “Don’t make me go back…Please, I’ll do anything…Just don’t make me go back…” Please, be vigilant and guard against Depression & Despair in your spouse and yourself. Most parents are able to pass through the Panic phase quickly, so it’s best that you are prepared.
5. Blissful Enjoyment Pt. 2 – Depending on how you dealt with the previous phase, your results may vary for this phase. With a bit of planning and luck, you’ll be able to ride this phase onward to the final stage with nary a hiccup. Others may regress into Panic as you have your final quiet meal, load your luggage back into your car, and journey back to retrieve your children. I suggest that you use this time to take a quick nap and gather your strength for the sixth and final phase.
6. Reunion – The final stage is typically met with anxious anticipation: Will the children look differently? Will there be any bruises or bandages that Grandma will have to explain? Any stories of embarrassing behaviors that you’ll have to somberly acknowledge and pretend to be dealing with at home? The possibilities are endless and I hope that your Reunion will be uneventful and lacking in surprises. If such a surprise should meet you, remember to tsk tsk quietly, nod earnestly, and say “I know, I know. He’s going through a phase.”
You can now gather your loving children into your arms and smother them with kisses, assure them that you missed them too (really, you did!), be certain to thank the grandparents or friend who is likely trying not to slip into the Reckless Abandonment phase themselves, ensure you have all of the luggage sorted out, and then thank them again. Do try not to prolong the goodbyes, or you may hear Grandma shout “I’M FREEEEEEE!!!” before you leave the parking lot.
If you find yourself slipping into a period of grief and mourning for the time you got away, you’re not alone, and you can return here for support and a shoulder to cry on. I, too, have worked through the five stages of grief upon settling back into a normal routine following a fun and child-free weekend. I’m here for you.
My point in this post is not to alarm you but rather to educate you about what could possibly await you, should you find yourselves in a position to take a trip without your children. I hope you’ll now be ready to experience a child-free getaway and avoid the common pitfalls. Godspeed and good luck.