My good friend Tracy and his wife are taking care of their two young grandchildren, while their parents spend a week in Hawaii. Wow! They are super grandparents! And you know that their daughter and son-in-law will be forever in their debt.
It reminded me how important it is for parents to get away by themselves to remember that they are not just moms and dads, but they are also romantic partners too. The “baby-young child” phase of parenthood is so compelling and all absorbing. It is a transformative experience for newly minted parents. It’s very easy to put your relationship on the back burner. And, this phase of life is tiring! It’s difficult to think of candle lit dinners and long walks on the beach when you are up every two hours feeding your infant!
But before you know it, your kids are older. For some parents they are fearful of finding a babysitter if they don’t have close relatives in the neighborhood. Babies and toddlers seem so fragile and vulnerable. What if something bad happens? Before parenthood, adults worried about if they were going to have a good time. Now, there is so much more to worry about! It’s easy to let your fears prevent you from taking good care of your relationship. How will you find a reliable and responsible babysitter?
When our kids were little, we recognized that it was important to have a regular “date night.” We asked a local pastor who the responsible kids in his church were that babysat. He gave us three names of stellar kids! We had a regular Saturday night out every two weeks. It was very helpful. These regular dates helped us keep our romance alive in between dirty diapers, trips to the pediatrician, and piles and piles of laundry (How can little kids generate so much laundry?). And when we came home, our kids were alive and well.
While date nights are very helpful, overnight trips away are even better! This can be really tough, because an adult is really necessary for this kind of trip away. Grandparents are great for overnights, but sometimes it just won’t work out for a variety of reasons. How about taking turns with a friend who has young children? You’ll take their kids one weekend, and they’ll take yours another weekend.
Life can get very intense when one becomes two (or two becomes three) and you are chasing two toddlers around the house. I remember feeling a sense of desperation when my daughters were at this age—I just needed to get away. Diane gave me 24 hours completely off, and I went to stay at local hotel by myself! I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. It was just what I needed at that moment.
Several years later, I sent Diane off to the Caribbean for a week by herself lying on a beach drinking Margaritas while I took care of the kids. She came back refreshed and recharged, and my stock soared. She gave me the same gift a few years later when I needed a break. We are both individuals that can completely enjoy the pleasure of our own company.
Teens are a different story entirely. During those years, it may be very difficult to get away together. When my oldest daughter was 17 years old, she watched over her 14 year old sister while we went to Palm Beach. We learned on our way home that an illicit gathering had taken place! Fortunately there was no damage. Oh well, I guess that wasn’t such a great idea.
During those years, each of us took some time off by ourselves once again. When we came home we felt recharged and ready to go. I will say that those years when the girls were teens were the most stressful.
The moral of the story—make time together an essential part of your family life.
Share how you handled time away when your kids were little or when they were teens.