Tuesday, December 16, 2008
5 days and 4 nights at a super luxe resort in Mexico. Without the kids. I didn't really believe it was happening until I was on the airplane, fully absorbed in my book, a baby cried--and I almost started to laugh when I realized it wasn't mine...!
At first it was like my husband and I were re-learning how to dance with each other. We kept looking for baby accoutrements on the security conveyer belt, we held hands and it felt odd that our arms weren't pulling wheeled carseats or screaming toddlers.
But, very quickly, the old moves came back to us. Perfect weather, white sand beaches, drinks with umbrellas in them and one of the most beautifully designed hotels I have ever seen didn't hurt. For 5 days we covered all the "re"s. Recharging. Rejeuvinating. Reconnecting. Remembering. That was a sort of surprise: Having the luxury of time and concentration to think back and remember everything from a funny comment somebody made at our wedding, to the first trip we took together (to El Salvador) and how excited and nervous we were, to our first apartment and the time I presented frozen spinach pie as a home-cooked meal. The stories bubbled to the surface, apropos of little, our minds uncluttered by logistics, schedules, naptimes, needs of children.
We covered a bunch of the "un"s too. Unwound. Unplugged. Understood. We took the time to think about and understand our life, ruminate on where we are going, plan and map out our future with wide-eyed excitement instead of necessity.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic: It was pretty magical. And of course I was torn about leaving my kids, but the guilt became theoretical by day 2--an internalization of the social script that I am "supposed" to feel bad about "deserting" my children. I obviously missed them, especially when I saw little boys splashing around in the pool, showboating for their parents, smiling big toothy grins and running on the beach. But I missed them in a way that made my chest pull with love, not with shame.
It got me wondering about some of the reactions I received when I told people about our vacation before we left. One close friend who is not yet a mother told me that her parents never went away together, alone, and she thinks their marriage suffered because of it. Another friend who is a mom told me to "pretend you don't feel guilty even though you obviously will." Yet another mom friend asked me if my husband was forcing me to go. All of these sentiments were voiced with the passion and certainty often reserved for politics and love.
Why are there such strong reactions to how we choose to spend our time after we have kids? And do we all--secretly or openly--condemn parents who choose to get away without their kids? Is it selfish?
I personally think that our trip was selfish. But lots of the things I choose to do would be technically selfish, I'm guessing? Getting a pedicure instead of spending time with my son would be selfish. Reading a novel (just finished "The Story of a Marriage"--amazing story-telling)? Weekly dinners with girlfriends? Spending money on something frivolous? Selfish, selfish, selfish, right?
When I was talking about this with my husband, who has a clarity of purpose I often envy and who feels no guilt about leaving the kids for a few days, he said, "It's important for us to do this" and I immediately nodded my head in agreement. I knew that the trip was good for us. "And it's important for the babies too," he said. I sort of laughed, thinking about our 3 year old and our 1 year old weighing the import of us escaping to hot tubs and 5 star restaurants versus playing peek-a-boo with them.
"No I mean it," he said.
I looked at him expectantly.
"It's important for our kids to have parents who are in love with each other and who have a marriage that is as strong in 20 years as it is right now," he said. And suddenly the trip didn't seem quite so selfish anymore.