"I need a vacation from my vacations," said an exhausted Megan walking into my office yesterday morning. It was her first day back from her weeklong family vacation with 6-year-old Lilly and 3-year-old Griffen. This week was spent as their vacations are often spent — visiting family who lives out of state. Grammy can't fly, so every summer she and her husband take the 10-hour roadtrip (which is "pure hell", in her own words) to Grammy's "museum" of the house. Grammy believes that "you don't move things, you teach your kids not to touch them." This is unwise. In the three days they spent at Grammy's house, Griffen managed to break an antique vase, a candle-holder and a glass. Grammy was on edge the whole vacation. Lilly, on the other hand, suffered from incredible boredom. Grammy's house isn't exactly built for children, Megan explained. And, because of the not-moving-stuff rule, their activities were limited to a small portion of the house, unless they wanted to go elsewhere. This would have been the best solution, but Grammy wanted to kids to stay there. "You've come all this way, and now you don't want to see me!" she'd squeal. So they stayed. And were bored. Then they left, another day-long drive in pure hell. "I just want a grown-up vacation," she whines. They'll surely return next year.
"We never go anywhere!" My officemate constantly complains that she and her husband haven't had a vacation since she became pregnant with 1-year-old Michael. Whenever talk of my upcoming honeymoon arises, or whenever someone drops by our office to talk about their recent trip, she sighs. "I need a vacation."
So far this year, a full week of her vacation time has been spent covering for sick or vacationing babysitters — she and her husband hire an in-home sitter for their son. Now, as my company ramps up for our busiest season (when taking more than one day off at a time is virtually impossible), she's planning her vacation. Here's the problem.
The whole reason she wants to take a vacation is to be closer to her husband. She wants a vacation from being Mommy. And, yet, she's terrified of leaving little Michael with her mother for more than a night at a time. So they keep scheduling their long weekends and cancelling them because she doesn't want to leave Michael.
I appreciate the sacrifice she's making and how hard it must be to leave her child in the hands of anyone, even the child's own grandmother, but then she should stop whining about how she can never go anywhere. If you want a vacation from being Mommy, I say, then take the vacation. "But I feel like such a bad Mom, taking a vacation without my son," she whines. In that case, I throw up my hands.
If you give yourself this break, I tell her, you'll be a better mom for it, and you'll be able to get over this resentment that you feel for him, to get over the feeling that he's keeping you from what you want to do. It's healthy to leave him. So just do it. She cancelled another vacation today. I'm sure tomorrow the cycle will begin again.
We spent the weekend with my fiancé's family at their family reunion and were wonderfully reassured in our decision to remain childfree. We were surrounded by his nephews, and nieces, all laughing, playing, and causing mischief. There are so many children in our life, it felt good to see that we wouldn't be leaving a void by not having kids. His family will see it differently, but that's another story.
What we also did this weekend was watch the parents closely, and we noticed something. Not once, for the entire three day weekend at his aunt's gorgeous lake house, did one of these people STOP being a parent. They never played the role of husband, wife, lover. The couples didn't take the time to enjoy a quiet, romantic walk around the wooded lot together, they didn't take out a paddleboat or a waverunner together — they didn't appear to take any time to just enjoy the beautiful area, or to enjoy each other. In fact, the only time they spoke to each other seemed to be when reporting something or other that the children had gotten into.
Of course, children will be children. That's what they do. That's why it's so much better to watch from afar. I don't want that kind of grief when I'm on vacation. I don't want to spend my evening searching the great room for Uncle Frank's antique wooden checkers that one of the eight kids — no one will come forward, however, for fear of getting in some well-deserved trouble — hid somewhere. Nobody knows who did it, nobody knows where. I want to go on vacation to the lake house to spend time with the man I love, to enjoy some quiet time together, away from our hectic life in the city. And that's what we did. We relaxed, we took romantic walks, we rode together on the waverunner, and we felt sorry for the couples who couldn't seem to even carry on a conversation with one another unless it was about the kids.