My eldest daughter was 2 years and 1 month old when my husband and I left her for 2 weeks to go on holiday. I nearly didn’t go. I fought my husband on the decision to go the whole way. He was the one who suggested it and said we needed it. He’s French you see and leaving your children whilst you go to work, go out or go away is very much the norm in France.
But for British me it felt so wrong. I felt like I was abandoning my daughter.
Today I’m going to talk about why you need a child-free holiday, even when it feels so painful to do so.
You can watch the video, listen to the podcast (it’ll be in the iTunes library soon too) or read the blog post below…
Right click to download audio file
I was torn. My husband told me were burnt out, that we needed a break just the two of us, for the sake of our marriage. And he was right. We were exhausted. We had launched our own company around the time Léna had been born, and we’d worked our arses off every day since. But leave my baby? For more than one night? What kind of a monster did he think I was?
I finally agreed that we should go and we booked a two week break from our home in France to the Dominican Republic.
You see the other issue was “who should we leave our daughter with?” None of our parents could help out, but we desperately needed that break. And as much as we loved that toddler, we needed a break without her.
So we asked her childminder. The woman who had been looking after Léna since I went back to work the day she turned 3 months. The woman who had become such a part of the family that we all called her “Auntie”.
She was delighted to do it, and with no valid excuses I accepted that I was going to leave my baby for 2 whole weeks.
I felt sick at the thought.
Our childminder assured us that Léna had no concept of time, and likely wouldn’t even realise we’d been away. But I couldn’t look forward to the holidays.
Ben and I made a deal. There were two subjects that were off the table:
- We weren’t allowed to talk about our business; we could only talk about future dreams and goals
- We weren’t allowed to talk about Léna or parenting or kids, except to say “ah isn’t she the best or the cutest!”
Saying goodbye was HARD. Léna didn’t have a clue; she skipped off to play with her buddies at the childminder’s, while I tried not to cry.
When we got on the plane it felt so strange: we weren’t in priority boarding as we had no small child with us. I kept smiling at parents with little kids, wondering why I’d agreed to leave my baby behind.
I didn’t enjoy our child-free flight as I kept worrying if I’d done the right thing.
But once we arrived at our resort I started to unwind.
I finally realised how much Ben and I needed this time away. How tightly coiled we’d both been. How close we’d taken our marriage to the brink.
I relaxed into the book I was reading, swam in the pool, sipped Pina Colada at sunset whilst talking about anything and everything with Ben (except the two taboo subjects of course!).
And it hit me. We hadn’t talk-talked since before Léna was born. Over 2 years. It had all been business or baby talk in that time. And we’d lost each other a bit.
Over those two weeks we revived our relationship and gave it a new spark. And I vowed that we should have a child-free holiday every year.
When we arrived back home Léna was happy to see us, but no more and no less than at the end of a normal day at the childminder’s. She didn’t have a clue we’d been gone all that time.
And what difference did our child-free holiday make to the three of us?
Well a big one is that Ben and I stayed together. If we’d carried on the path we’d been on at that time I don’t think we’d have made it.
I’d say that’s a pretty big deal for having happy kids.
As for Léna, she had a blast with her childminder’s family. They took her to the fair, to the park, they played with her, loved her and cuddled her. They treated her like one of the family.
But the number one difference was that we became a family again. We weren’t two frazzled parents trying to get through the day with work, bath time, dinner time, bedtime and so on. We actually spent quality time together, played together and laughed together.
I’m so thankful to Ben for forcing me to take that first step. It really did save our family.
Since then we have been on 4 child-free holidays – not quite the yearly ones we had planned but still not bad.
Each one is so needed.
You don’t realise it at the time, but your batteries run down, and if you don’t recharge them it’ll be too late.
The added bonus is that your kids become independent in your absence. And when the grandparents are the babysitters they develop incredible intergenerational relationships.
Did it get easier to go on child-free holidays after that first time?
By our 4th child-free holiday we had two children. Léna was nearly 7 and Clémence was nearly 1 when we left the two of them with my parents for a week. Despite Clémence being recently weaned from breastfeeding it was easy as.
I remember saying goodbye to them as we left for our week in the Red Sea. Léna clung to me and said “but why are you going on holiday without me?” I replied, totally honestly, “so I won’t be such a shouty mummy anymore”. She couldn’t get me out of the door fast enough!!
Because you see, when you go on a child-free holiday the whole family wins. And what’s not to love about that?
Now I can hear you protest, and I can see you shake your head. You’re saying “but Sophie, it’s different for me!”
And I’m telling you it’s not.
When we went on that first child-free holiday we had no money, no time and no childcare originally.
So we asked ourselves these questions:
- Is our business more important than our marriage, our health and our family’s well-being? No. Ok we can take the time off work then – our first holiday in 2 years after all!
- Can we scrimp and save and live on pasta, and have no social life, and buy nothing in order to save our marriage, our health and our family’s well-being? Yes we can. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.
- Can we pay someone we trust to look after our daughter 24/7 for 2 weeks to save our marriage, our health and our family’s well-being? Yes, we can. And there is always someone who you trust, who will be happy to babysit for you, as long as you don’t take the piss and pay them for it!
You see? It really isn’t complicated. You will give your relationship a huge boost and you will suddenly be like Advert Mummy. You know the one I mean – she always smiles at her kids and never shouts, she is always happy to play with them and never counts down the hours to wine o’clock.
I know this because I’ve seen it, over and over again. In fact I’m still in a post-child-free holiday glow, having spent 10 days in Hong Kong with Ben in February. And I’m loving the fact Shouty Mummy has gone away (for now).
So what are you waiting for? Your kids will thank you for it, and as for your relationship….let’s just say that neither of you will regret it 😉
If you’re feeling FML or just a bit meh about life at the moment, and you can’t wait for a child-free holiday to make things better
You should grab my 10 Day Guide to Falling (Back) in Love with Your Life here. It has already helped many mums get their life mojo back, so give it a whirl and see what it does for you!
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