My husband and I have a pretty unique situation in that we both work at home with two kids under two. Meaning, all four of us are under one roof almost every single hour of every single day without a break. (My toddler goes to half-day daycare Monday through Friday so we can work.)
So far, this pressure cooker dynamic is actually working pretty well for us. No one has smothered anyone with a pillow yet, and we are slowly figuring out a balance in co-parenting. But… there is literally no such thing as a break.
Being able to tag team two kids between two parents is pretty ideal because you aren’t outnumbered. But when both of those parents never, ever leave the house, it can leave you feeling a little crazy. So, even though our kids are 21 months old and 5 months old, we decided to book a four day weekend vacation to see my sister and some friends in Colorado for my thirtieth birthday.
Leading up to the big weekend, I was a total maniac. I had all of these worries about how both kids would do with my mom, even though she raised three kids herself. I had the classic mom anxiety where I was convinced that my 5-month-old would only eat and sleep for me. I wrote my mom an extensively detailed schedule that probably made her want to stab a fork in her eye, but she was kind enough to play ball and take over for me.
After we got on the airplane, most of my anxiety vanished. After I downed a few beers at lunch, I was feeling 100%. Of course, I’m still a control freak, so I toyed with the idea of drunk texting my mom to find out exactly what the babies were doing. (How many ounces did he eat? What did his poop look like? When did he wake up from his nap?)
Fortunately, my husband intervened and forced me to put down the phone. He wanted me to chill out and unplug to show my mom that I trusted her and to help me soothe my constantly overscheduled brain. It took a day or two, but his tactic worked.
I had a few moments of clarity to realize that the world won’t stop spinning if I’m away from my children. My kids aren’t going to drop dead if I don’t feed them X amount of breast milk or a specially prepared, ultra-nutritious dinner every night of the week.
Being forced not to check in helped me to unplug my anxious mom brain that is always churning with what needs to be done next, what worst-case scenario could possibly occur, and what I need to do to keep my kids happy and safe. The good news is that they are probably going to be happy and safe the majority of the time, even if I’m not there.
The four days of vacation flew by. While I did think about both of my kids every single day and wondered what they were doing at certain times, I didn’t achingly miss them the way I thought I would. (Well, there was the time I considered asking a total stranger if I could hold their baby at the bowling alley because it looked like my youngest son, but I’m only human!) I’m sure that if my vacation had extended by a few more days, I would have had a breakdown before it was time to go home.
I know a lot of people are reluctant to go on vacation and leave the kids, especially when you have young children. I was biting my nails about all of the “baby prep” I had to do with scheduling, sleep, breast milk storage, etc.
But I would say that the silver lining of vacationing away from very young children, if you can get away and have a nice relative willing to babysit for you, is that they have no concept of time. We excitedly woke both of our kids up the morning after we got home and expected them to welcome us with open arms after our oh-so-long separation.
Of course, they seemed content and even happy to see us, but they had no friggin clue we were even gone. As for us, we were totally exhausted from our weekend away partying it up like we were in our early 20s, but the real takeaway from the vacation was the opportunity to mentally unplug.
I admit that I struggle with being a controlling mom because I want to make sure that my kids are always “okay.” With the help of a little (read: a lot) of booze, I was able to pass the baton to my mom for the weekend. No one died, nothing terrible happened, and the kids didn’t even go off schedule (my greatest fear!). It turns out that we all needed a break.