Recently a conversation with my mum brings out the guilt in me which I was trying so hard to suppress. She told me that times have changed. Couples nowadays (she is referring to me and my hubby) will choose to travel on holidays without the kids while such couple trips were almost unheard of during my parents’ times. If parents in those days were to travel for holidays, they would bring their kids along. Not that my parents did that since we were not well-to-do to travel. But you get the idea.
We were lucky to have supportive parents even though they may not agree on our couple trips. In fact, we have been to several such trips in the past:
After my first born, Kel and I traveled to Taiwan for a couple holiday.
After my second born, Kel and I traveled on a cruise and a couple more short trips to nearby Batam resorts.
After my third born, we stop travelling without kids because we think that it will be hard on our parents to care for 3 young children. Hence, we decide to wait till the youngest is older and easier to care for before we resume our couple holidays.
In between, we travel separately for business, incentive and girls’ trip, but there will always be one of us at home with the kids. And knowing that one spouse is at home with them, the other one can travel with a peace of mind without worrying if the grandparents are coping well with minding the little ones.
When it comes to travelling without the kids, I am definitely no cool mama. I have my guilty moments, and plenty of that. It was hard when I first traveled for my business trip solo to the US and Canada, braving through the tears of the little ones every night counting down to the trip. I had to do some preparatory work before and during the trip to make me and my kids feel better. You can read about what I did over here.
For the first couple trip, it was not easy for me to leave my eldest with the grandparents, and I had to bring along one of her two favourite bolsters and hug it every night in the hotel. We called home using the calling card every night (those were the days without facetime and internet calls). It was a little harder on the second and subsequent trips when we had to leave 2 children at home with one more little one to miss. It is even harder to leave 3 kids now to do the same.
So after a hiatus of about 6 years, Kel and I have finally decided that our kids are older now and easier to leave with the grandparents, and about the right time to have a short getaway to recharge, reconnect, enjoy a holiday which is really planned for ourselves. Well, we only booked our trip after we had our parents’ support to take care of the kids.
Choosing the getaway dates
There was much consideration this time round. I had to choose a period when the elder kids had finished their examinations as I wanted to be there to help with their revision during their papers. I had to ensure the dates are during school days because if they are in school during daytime, they will not miss us too much and caregivers need not handle 3 kids for long hours. The dates should not touch weekends because I want to spend time with them on weekends, ferrying them to their art and piano classes. This means that I have to take weekdays off from work.
Every aspect was taken care of, including ensuring school pocket money was topped up in their wallets, breakfast preparation, lots of pep talk to the littlest one, etc, etc.
Reactions from the kids
And so we left for the getaway and back to see the following reactions from the kids during this period:
Missy 11 was wishing us an enjoyable trip and looking forward to many gifts for her and her brothers. But on the morning of departure, which she told me later on, that she silently wept after I saw her to school.
Master 9 asked me why we did not bring them along for this trip. I felt a lump in my throat at this question but I tried my best to explain that Papa and Mummy wanted to have some couple time to ourselves. Subsequent days of calling home, I felt worse when he showed no interest to talk to me through facetime.
Master 4 seemed to understand when I told him for 3 nights, he would have 2 grandmas to take turns to keep him company during bedtime. But when we were overseas, every evening, he would asked his grandpa why Papa and Mummy had not returned after 7pm.
All these tore at my heart.
If it is so hard, why do we still do it?
Benefits of couple retreat
Some will say that we are selfish, but I believe on the benefits of reconnecting with my other half for a short time.
1. We believe that we can do things we love as a couple without waiting for the kids are older to pursue our interests.
2. It is important for us to rekindle the fire in us without minding the little ones. When the parents are happy, kids will be happy too.
3. It is also a good chance for the children to bond with the grandparents every night.
The benefits as written are not a long list, but really, the main reason is to reconnect as a couple free of little ones’ screams, naps, restricted itinerary.
Now that we are back from our 4D3N Bangkok trip, I realized that I really missed them very much. Every interesting thing I saw on the street, I would think of bringing them to the same place to see what I saw. Every shopping trip was really to buy gifts for them to make them happy and compensate for not bringing them with us. I realized that I had to be extra careful and take really good care of ourselves so that we return safely to the kids. And on the last day of the trip, I was looking forward to seeing them back home.
While we were away, the elder kids wrote diary entries to me. I had told them to do so if they missed us. What they wrote touched me very much and it was really sweet to read their thoughts. And Master 9 was really sweet in his penned down words even though he did not talk much to us when we called home.
If you ask me if I would travel on the next couple trip without the kids, I may really hesitate. Perhaps, it would be good to wait till the kids are in their teens before I can travel without guilt.
Do you feel guilty like me when you travel without the kids?