Kid-less in Mexico

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.
20 comments:
uma said...

I think you've hit an issue particularly sensitive for Indians. It's just not DONE in out culture, going away without your kids. My parents find it odd that we ever even need a babysitter. Perhaps it is part of the reason the Indian community has such strong family structures. But it is impossible not to notice the large number if marriages that seem rather loveless amongst the older generation.

All things worth having require work and a commitment of time.

Shanti Niketan said...

Traditionally Indian marriages were meant for duty only. Love, if it blossomed in the midst of duty, was an added bonus but not neccessary. In fact, I'm sure it was probably even thought of as a distraction from marriages real purpose, duty to family and community. If the love between a couple became too intense, that would obviously pose a threat to the larger family because the couple might be willing to sacrifice extended family for the sake of their coupledom.

So no, love was not important in traditional Indian marriages. But then you had generation after generation of Indian children growing up not knowing how to express love for their spouses, living vacariously through Bollywood filmi romance, or before the days of movies and TV, living out their fantasies through romance novels or old poetry.

I totally agree with your husband that it is important for children to see their parents in love. They will grow up knowing how to love a partner as well.

Anonymous said...

your post made me cry...in a good way...

thanks for that :)

Anonymous said...

I suppose I would feel guilt but really what I feel when I read your post is absolute and primal jealousy. My main issue is not that I would feel like a bad mother leaving my 2 little ones, it is that I have no idea who I could leave them with. My parents and my husbands parents are both out of state and in all honesty I don't think they could handle my kids for 5 days. (That's the underbelly of this for me, the notion that I am supposed to ahve these notions of an extended traditional family when in actuality I don't get the support of one). Childcare I think is what is breaking the backbone of many marriages, or that is, the lack of good, quality childcare.

wsa said...

Completely agree with shanti. I sometimes see how my in laws look at us when we show any sign of affection to each other--even as simple as holding hands--and it is a look of disapproval or at least embarrasment. Then my mother in law tries to be "closer" to her son than me by hugging him and stuff bit that's a whole other issue! I would gnaw off my arm for a vacation with just the two of us but I don't see it happening anytime soon. When did everyone become soooo busy??

nitesh said...

trip sounded amazingly relaxing. i don't think we are confident enough for a 5 day trip but you've inspired us to consider a weekend trip w/o inara ;)

Neesha said...

Want to say that you don't need a fancy vacation to cover the "re"s and the "un"s as long as both you and your partner keep your relationship a priority. That being said: Man would a fancy vacation be nice!

Anonymous said...

all comments so true. this is a big cultural issue and requires the husband to get it... most of them are so busy trying to get ahead at their work - to work as hard or harder than their dads did (while the moms stayed home taking care of kids oh so happily - never any problem there) - that time with the wife is time taken away from work. they never saw their parents do this and most of the time never realize that times and situations have changed. they wonder then how their wives cannot handle kids at home or 'need a change' when their moms never had that need.(forget the minor difference that their wives have a career of their own, and there is no extended family here for help with kids)

glad you and your husband share some common values and understanding, it is very refreshing to hear that some people still get it.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar situation as one of the posters above: no extended family nearby... so this would limit the prospects of good child care. Did you leave your children with their grandparents or do they have a nanny of sorts? Would love to hear how their time went... I wonder how my mom would cope with 5 days!

Gina said...

As a parent who is likely a little older than many of this blog's readership I cannot over-emphasize the importance of taking some time out of busy days, nights, lives to remember why you married your spouse. All the cliches are true about time flying, and marriage becoming about the children and if you don't work on remembering why you fell in love with the person you had babies with, you will stagnate. All living things need to move. Take it from somebody with two teenagers, going through a divorce that I should have seen coming.

Anonymous said...

I envy people like you. Seriously. I think that is why many moms judge other moms--the classic green eyed monster. Haven't you noticed how people gang up against the mom who seems to have things together? Or who seems happy?? Seriously, I am guilty of it myself.

Devika said...

Wow Gina, sorry to hear about the divorce. I have "older" kids too which gives me a different perspective on this topic but I agree with what you are saying. Our kids are fine without us and we go out for dinner every once in a while without them. It sometimes is fun and sometimes is sad but we keep doing it in the name of "keeping the spark alive." We don't talk about our kids every other second like we used to when we were babies. But to be honest there are often awkward silences and I wonder if we would have prevented that had we worked on keeping the spark alive from the minute the babies were born. Hindsight is 20 20 of course but if you want the advice of an "older" mom, I second Gina on this one and I wish I had read this post when I was 25.

jaime said...

I agree with your hubbie. It is extremely important for kids to be raised in a home with parents that are in love. Taking time to reconnect with your spouse is as important as anything else you do for your family. Glad you had a great vacation and I am utterly envious! I don't think I'll be able to get away for a true vacation until fall 2009, at the earliest!

Radman said...

nice. very nice.

Grandfather said...

I frequently visit this site because I have a daughter and a daughter-in-law with babies. They don't live in my state, but my wife and I go to their houses and babysit couple times a year each. Usually between two and five days. I believe it is a great, win-win, arrangement. We get to be alone with our grandchildren, even spoil them a little, without worrying about preferences of our children on parenting. Although we have no big differences of opinion, there are things that each one of us would differently. We enjoy our time with the grandchildren, young parents have fun away from their routine life, and then we return to our sweet home.

Shanti Niketan said...

"I sometimes see how my in laws look at us when we show any sign of affection to each other--even as simple as holding hands--and it is a look of disapproval or at least embarrasment. Then my mother in law tries to be "closer" to her son than me by hugging him and stuff bit that's a whole other issue! "

It's not a separate issue, WSA, it's tied in.

It's called misplacement. The physical and emotional attention/affection her husband deprived her of is projected onto the son. It's not healthy and it's very Freudian to boot!

Rather than cozy up to her grown son because she's jealous that he shows PDAs (public displays of affection) with his wife, like any normal husband, she should be cozying up to her husband for God's sake!

It reminds me of a friend of mine. For their first anniversary her husband bought her an expensive set of diamond earrings. When the his mother learned of it, she asked angrily, "Where are mine?!"

Where are your's?

Ask YOUR OWN HUSBAND, lady!!!!

I tell you, this is a really psychologically skrewed up and unhealthy obsession in the minds of a lot of desi moms and moms in laws that I know.

What they hell did they get married for in the first place if not to get all of that from their husbands?

But the arranged marriage systems does not emphsize romance. Hence these affection starved women are constantly looking to their sons for that, when what they should be doing is demanding it from their husbands and training them how to give some good ol fashioned lovin'!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, Shanti, you are describing my LIFE. The diamond earring story? My MIL DID THAT EXACT THING!!! My husband got me diamond earrings for our one year anniversary and my MIL essentially left the room in a pouty huff about it and when he figured out what was wrong later, it was that she thought she deserved earrings and that she had "lost" him to ME! The worst part? I FELT BAD ABOUT IT! NOw, mind you, this was 7 years ago...I am older and wiser (but mostly older!) now and I can tell you this: Things get better when you stop trying to bend over backwards for CRAZY in laws.

Shanti Niketan said...

It's up to the son and daughter in law to sit down with such mothers and their husbands and have a frank discussion about how father in law has to step up to the plate and do his part to satisfy his wife because a woman's son was not born to become the surrogate lover of his own mother.

Really, I think these moms need psychological help. It's borderline incestuous if you ask me.

L said...

Girl, you GOT to focus on the I before the WE.

Shanti Niketan said...

L, was that comment for me?

I don't get it.

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