Should Parents Vacation without Our Kids?

By July 5, 2012Opinion

Should Parents Vacation

I read a post this morning that shocked me entitled “Why parents should never go on vacation without their children”. Later, the title reverted to what the author originally penned, “When Parents Think They Can Go On Vacation”. I’m pretty sure a bajllion people clicked just because of one of those titles. I’m also sure a fair number of people got the ickies reading the post.

Was I shocked that a major site would whip up the most controversial title possible? No. It seems these sites and many a blogger can’t help themselves.

Was I shocked that this site would publish something controversial? No. I like a good debate. People deserve to have a voice and an opinion, be it that of the majority or not.

Was I shocked by the quality of the article and stunned by the extremely judgmental tone? Yes.

The article itself is chock full of anger and statements crafted to ruffle the feathers of many a reader.  One can’t reference recommended breast-feeding until 2 years old without pissing off a lot of people.  I also do not recommend telling a whole world of parents they are not thinking straight and then hope for an unbiased reader.

Why do some parents think it’s OK to leave their little kids and go on a long vacation — a 19-month old baby, a 3-year old, a 5-year old and a 7-year old — for nine days? This sort of thing drives me crazy. I want to tell the parents they are not thinking straight. (But I can’t and won’t.)

Aside from the angered tone, the article was also confusing.  If the author struggles with leaving children with an unknown caregiver, that should be the title and focus of the article.  This would make a very interesting conversation.  However, aside from one sentence she focuses on the dangers of leaving children without their parents and attempting to scare the living daylights out of any parent who has ever left their child in the care of another.  Here is that one sentence.

 And I am not talking about leaving your kids with grandparents, I’m talking about leaving young children with a caretaker with whom they have no relationship.

Whatever point the author was trying to make, this is what came across to readers.

In my opinion, if you are going to have kids, then you should stay home with them until they are older.

Excuse me, but I take issue with the implication that we should not have kids if we ever plan to vacation without them.  Or go on work trips.  Or leave them for anything.

Should We Ever Leave Our Kids?

After wading through the mess of ideas, I thought the actual question was a good one.  Leaving children, whether at a daycare center or pre-school or for a vacation, is something that every parent struggles with.  We must balance our needs as individuals with our responsibilities as a parent.  We must think about our own well being as well as that of our marriage or other relationship as well as that of our children.   Hell, we have to think about our livelihoods, if we are traveling for work. For me, balance is key.

As you can tell, I think this article struck a nerve on more than one level.  People don’t all leave their children simply for a good time. For me, I thought not just about vacations but about my husband’s job.  He travels regularly and the kids have to say goodbye and then goodnight on the phone and trust that he loves them and wished he was there and that he will come back.   Is this damaging them?  I travel for conferences or events at companies I have a working relationship with.  My heart breaks when I leave them.  We miss each other.  I always wonder if I am doing the right thing.  Guess what?  I come home to hear my 5, 4 and 2 year old telling me stories of what an awesome time they had.  I get lots of big hugs and share hundreds of giggles as they recount their adventures without Mommy. Sometimes mommies and daddies need to work.  Guess what?  That is okay!

I know kids go through separation anxiety of differing degrees.  Would I leave a child for a week who was terrified when I walked out the daycare door?  For a vacation, no, I would not.  I would need to feel like we had built a level of trust with our child.  We would need to build from dropping off at daycare to going on a date to perhaps an overnight.  Baby steps.  Would I still set a vacation, even a mini one, as a goal?  Yes, because that would mean that we felt our children trusted us to come back and trusted the people we chose as caretakers.  It would also mean that my husband and I have would have time to work on our relationship, both physical and emotional.

There are times when we are not with our children.   For business or pleasure, most children will experience time away from their parents and should be able to develop a trust in other grown ups.  Somehow, while this article focused on vacation, what it said was to never leave your kids.  At least that is what it said to me.  I simply do not agree. With the right caretakers and children who are prepared, travel without children is fine.  It can even be good!

Have We Vacationed Without Our Children?

As far as taking vacations without the kids, we would do it more if we could.  Our marriage would thank us, that is for sure.  We left when Miles was 1 and Sophia was 2 1/2 for a week.  On the beach.  It was absolutely fantastic. They stayed with my brother and sister in law. We left for 2 other weekends since then and had massive plans for sleepovers and Uncle Graham helping out.  In no way did I feel like our kids were getting “passed off” from family to family.  In fact, I think it strengthened their independence and their trust in us and in other adults that we trust. There are other people in my children’s lives who love them.  My kids love other adults.  I love that.

I know that they had the time of their lives.  They barely had time to say goodnight to us.   I am sure they missed us, but I never heard one word of fear from them.  Of course they knew we were coming back.  We are Mommy and Daddy and we love them to the ends of the earth and back.  They have total confidence in that fact.

We are currently planning a weekend away in August that will demand quite a shuffle with different camps and families and activities.  It should be a doozy of a contact sheet and oodles of fun for the kids…and us!

What a 5 Year Old Thinks about Mommy and Daddy on Vacation

We are talking about what impact a vacation without kids has on our kids.  I tried to get all 3 of my kids to answer a few questions but Miles and Violet kept mooning the camera.  You would love that video.  I did manage to get Sophia to sit down and talk with me.  She was honest.  She thought about her answers.  She admits she is sad when we are gone but happy for us.  Most of all, I was a little shocked to hear the first thing she said.  “You’ll Come Back.” Of course, she talks about being sad and missing us, but most of all, she knows we love and miss her and will be there for her.  Always.

So, do you travel without your kids?  What do you think of the article and the subject?  I would love to have a discussion without anger or judgement.

Join the discussion 42 Comments

  • Love that you took the time to craft a response!

    And yes, the conversation is definitely a good one – which I really and truly love.

    {We haven’t vacationed sans kids yet, but really want to this year. I’ll admit that I so paused when I saw the title of the original article! There’s so very much to think about, isn’t there?!}
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  • Katie says:

    I think this is a really thoughtful, good response to something that was neither!

    And I agree with you 100%!
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  • Stephanie says:

    As you know, I read the article you are referring to. I did not leave a comment there partly because I did not feel I had the ability to unjumble my thoughts and partly because I felt the debate was already raging enough. (raging being a very key word here!)

    I feel much the same as you do. Away time is good for the parents and for the children. It allows parents a breather. To relax and refuel. Let’s face it, as parents it is very hard to get even five minutes of peace and quiet during a typical day. Whether you work away from the home, at home or as a homemaker, your day is go, go, go from the time your feet hit the floor till you go to bed. A vacation or even a weekend sans kids gives you the rest you need and allows you to focus solely on your partner and your self. I have always felt that the most important relationship in my life (besides God) is the one with my husband. Kids grow up and move out. I do not want to look across the table in 15 years and not know the person on the other side. I want to know how to have fun with my husband. What is more fun than an adult only vacation?!?

    I really think the point the author was trying to make was not well articulated. My kids would never be left with just anyone. In fact, the only people I would be comfortable leaving the kids with is their paternal grandparents. This is the only place they have ever spent an overnight. They are well used to it as well, since they spend a 3 to 4 day weekend there every 6-8 weeks. They know when they go there they are safe, They will have fun. And Mom and Dad ALWAYS come back.

    I am choosing to believe that this is the point she was trying to make. To make sure that your kids are left with someone you AND your kids love and trust. Because if she was truly saying I should never, EVER leave my kids at all, with anyone, then that is so judgmental I would actually feel a little sorry for her. Her world would be a harsh place to be.

    Kudos on the well written response post Brittany 🙂
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  • Leigh Ann says:

    I have never had the pleasure of taking a vacation without my kids, but trust me, I would! It would break my heart just a little, but it would be an amazing opportunity.

    I also don’t mind pieces that bring a little conflict to the table, but you’re right — the article was very poorly crafted and was very ranty. I hold BlogHer up to very high standards. It’s hard to get syndicated there, and this article, regardless of its topic, was a slap in the face of any good writer who has submitted and been turned down.
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    • Brittany says:

      Agreed! It is so hard for us to get away. I told Alison, less than 2 weeks total in almost 6 years! We need it and I really do think if parents know their kids and provide for a good caretaker it is just fine. What’s funny is, have I judged? Yes, I know people who have left their kids for a month or more, and that irked me. They never take their kids on vacation and I just think it is sad. But…I have to pinch myself and not judge because you know, people in glass houses 🙂

  • Alison says:

    I read that post.

    I think it’s a good discussion. I just did not appreciate the way it was written (very badly) and the extremely judgemental tone it took.

    I for one, think that taking time away for the kids, whether it’s for pleasure or work, is healthy for everyone. And I don’t think any sensible parent would leave their children with people they didn’t trust, whether they’re related or not is irrelevant. It’s about trust.

    And what Leigh Ann said about BlogHer actually syndicating that post – it really irked me because I’ve submitted several posts (which if I dare say so myself, was much better written), which netted me….nada. And I know of several good writers who got nothing either. I’m starting to think that if you write a controversial post, no matter how badly written, you’ll have a better chance of syndication!
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    • Brittany says:

      I agree. To be honest I am too much of a scaredy cat to submit my writing anywhere. I know I have some very good posts, but I just don’t need to know if other people really don;t like them. I try to stay away from controversy and drama. This might actually be the first time I have ever openly responded to a post like this. I tried to be respectful and not link to the post so that others might think before they were mean in the comments there. Still, I wanted to respond. Because I really felt like publishing so confusing when there is a good topic was just sad.

      I KNOW you have better posts than that. A lot of them. Maybe everything you have written.

      Given the number of things that your kids have put in your hair of late, you need a break at some point!

      It is really hard for us to get away. Less than 2 weeks total in 5 years. Believe me, our marriage needs it and I personally need it.

  • Neena says:

    Just a couple weeks ago my husband and I took our first weekend trip without the kids (in 10 years!) It was incredible. We reconnected, talked like adults, ate wonderful food, and came back more patient and loving parents. I honestly cannot wait to do it again. I think it sets a good example for children when they see their parents making the effort to focus on one another.

  • Nichole says:

    I haven’t read the post in question, but I’m pretty sure I’d disagree with it! My husband and I try to get away without the kids at least once or twice a year. It’s good for us to have some “alone” time, and it’s good for them to have a little time independent of us, too. The kids usually stay with my in-laws, and they’re always disappointed when we go over for a visit and don’t leave them there!
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    • Brittany says:

      Ha! Yes, we came back and the kids gave us huge hugs and then basically said, you are not here to take us home are you? Clearly they are just fine without us for a few days 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    I saw that post swirl by on Facebook or Twitter and I just ignored it. I’ve left my kids for work and for away time with my husband and both of them are happy, healthy, love me, and know that I love them. I really don’t need a judgmental know it all telling me that I’m doing it wrong when I know I’m doing it right.
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    • Brittany says:

      Amen! I clicked through from a link on twitter VERY early in the morning that did not say how judgmental the post was. WoW! The post and comments blew me away! Being comfortable and knowing your own family is what is most important for us!

  • Brava. I really don’t understand people who don’t want to leave their kids at all. Do they think it makes them less of a parent to want time to themselves? As someone who is about to drop her 8 and 10 year old off at sleepaway camp, I’m looking forward to not dealing with the day-to-day minutia of childcare for a while. I’m not ashamed to admit at all that I relish the break.
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  • How interesting! I haven’t seen that article but I just wrote about the benefits of spending time together away from your kids on BabyCenter this week. My parents just celebrated their 45th anniversary and they always took 2 vacations each year – one with us and one without us. Even if it was just for 2 days.
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  • Gigi says:

    I don’t know where our societal values got changed to adopt the mindset that we must be tethered to our children 24/7. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. We have only had the chance to go away alone 3 times in 9 years, each time for only 3 days. Our parents are too elderly to watch kids for any longer and getaways are hard to come by logistically and financially. If we had been able, we would have taken judicious advantage of going away more frequently for sure. My marriage takes priority over my kids and I’m ok with that.

    Great post, B!!!
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    • Brittany says:

      I hear you! Ross’ parents are too old to watch the kids and both of mine still work full time. Also, my mom says she is still recovering from raising the four of us so she is not up for my 3 little monsters 🙂 I agree completely that while so much good has come in the last decades to parenting in terms of involvement and dads taking a bigger part there is this idea that a parent must be constantly with their children and I just don;t get it. At the end of the day I think learning to be away from us and gain independence in small steps is healthy!

  • My husband and I took a week trip to Jamaica without or son and it was the best thing we ever did for our marriage. I’ve spent 11 years at home with my kids now and won’t feel guilty or bad about taking a break for one week of that entire time.
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  • Quite frankly I think that article was so poorly organized and written that it barely merits discussion. You address it from a sane and rational perspective. It seems to me that the author is bitter about not having enough family help! I too am jealous of friends who can take a jaunt every few months because of parents living nearby. That is not my reality, but I certainly don’t judge them for it!! And yes, I do take vacations alone with my husband and have ever since my children were 9 mos. And to top it off, I actually weened my children earlier than planned just so I could take the vacation at 9mos w/o breastfeeding worries! Take that!
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    • Brittany says:

      Ha! You get em! I wanted to address it. It really bothered me and I think it really tried to scare people. For humor or not, referencing a movie where the mother is deserted and doesn’t get back to her kids for 7 years adds nothing to the discussion. Since I write about parenting and that was on my mind yesterday, I got it out. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • MommaKiss says:

      “Take That!” I’m with ya. When we went on a vaca w/out my 4 month old, I pumped and dumped. The kid had enough stored milk for when I was gone. Looking back? That was a total PITA – I shoulda just weaned to leave.

      that is all 🙂
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  • nicole says:

    We have six kids. Last year we went to CA for 3 nights, the first time we were gone for more than a night or two, and the farthest away we have been. It was wonderful. We ended up wishing we had planned one more night away, and our kids felt the same! It was a rotation of people helping out with the kids, with my mom taking on the bulk of the load for the end of the trip. We are going to CA again this fall for a wedding, and will be gone 4 nights. It will take a lot of work to get all the care arranged, and to get rides to school and sports figured out. But our kids know we need the time together and they know they’ll have fun while we’re gone. I think that of course you have to choose carefully who takes care of your kids and definitely consider the temperament of your children before leaving them for a trip. But so much good can come out of it for everyone.

  • Candice says:

    This is all really interesting for me to read. My parents never left us with anyone for more than a few hours until I was 12 (and then that was the only time they ever went away without us until I was in my 20s). No weekends away, nothing. They didn’t go out with their friends often, saving babysitting nights for more required events – like weddings, friends from out of town being around, etc. So that’s my normal, that’s what I’m used to. It would never occur to me to go away and leave Nate with his grandparents for the weekend – the whole concept feels incredibly bizarre to me. Note: not judging it AT ALL – just saying it’s an unfamiliar concept/practice to me.

    Consequently, my parents don’t understand how other people do this (i.e. judge) and I would never dream to approach them with the suggestion.

    I don’t think NOT taking trips like this automatically dooms your marriage just like taking the trips won’t automatically make it wonderful. I think there’s a lot to be said for the mutual agreement between the partners that the trip is necessary and useful time – just the simple recognition of that says a lot of both partners’ investment in the relationship. Everyone has to find what works for themselves, their families, and their budgets and be open-minded that not the same thing works for everyone (as with EVERYTHING else in parenting, right?). 🙂
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    • Brittany says:

      I definitely agree that every family has the right to make their own choices. For us, as you know, our kids were like born to say by mom and walk away into their classrooms. They do sleep-overs and we have always had to travel for work. We have a large group of people here who are like family. I think when Violet finally decides to use the potty we will be able to escape for a few days. We do our part and watch other kids too. You know my philosophy with kids…the more the easier!

      As far as marriage – of course not taking a trip would not doom a marriage. I would say that a date night, even the simplest one where you took a long walk or went on a hike without having to worry about a little one, breathes new life into relationships. For me, it can be hard to keep the passion alive with kids who are up at all hours and both of us working and to be honest, total exhaustion. We also travel with the kids a lot and it makes us even more tired. So we try to set goals for little times by ourselves and out of the house that perpetually needs cleaning!

      I think a discussion of nature versus nurture would be very interesting on parenting topics like this. My parents did not have the money to travel a lot so we were not left a lot but Ross’ family did so he had experience being with other families or relatives. I have been thinking about this a lot with the number of kids we want too. I am from 4 kids and guess what…I want one more. Ross is from 3 and he is done…he hopes.

      Anyway, with a lot of stuff it comes back to what we are comfortable with, which often comes from what we are familiar with.

      You ever come to Charlotte for a night and I am happy to watch your little man! No kidding. You know me, I take in kids and love em all the time!

  • I’m glad you wrote about this. I too read the original post and was somewhere between infuriated by its tone/content and shocked that a major website would run something so poorly written.

    To each, their own, but let’s not base accusatory parenting barbs on things like a study the author “remembered hearing about once” and an old Doris Day movie (it was about here that I almost totally lost my mind).

    I must have crafted and deleted five different responses to the original post and then decided against it. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to be civilized enough.

    But, hey, I’m just another bad parent who recently returned from her first week-long kidless vacation — so what do I know? 😉

    • Brittany says:

      Hope you had a great vaca! I really had this on my mind for hours yesterday and I went ahead and took the time to read and re-read and follow every link. Oh my it took hours. The movie reference nearly killed me. I did not click on that link. How ridiculous can it get?

  • MommaKiss says:

    a) thank you for NOT linking to said post because it doesn’t need more hits. My 2nd grader could write better.

    b) everyone is entitled to their own opinion and parenting choice. True, right? So for that writer to judge & blame was just dumb.

    c) I’m a total lover of vacationing without my kids. My kids are now 7 and almost 5. When the babe was 4.5 months old – we had to get the hell out, to recharge. We left the baby and his 2.5 year old brother with my in laws while we went to Key West. We drank, laid on the beach, got massages, got tattoos. Oh yes we did. Know what we didn’t do? Call home every 3.2 hours. We called one of the nights, things were fine – they had our number if there was an emergency – so we just enjoyed ourselves.

    These trips work for us. I go on trips alone. Mr. Kiss goes alone for fun, and for almost a year, he traveled for work. Every week, M-F for a year. The boys didn’t feel abandoned. Because we talk to them about how things had to work for us.

    I leave my kids any chance I get. That may sound callous, but it recharges me and gives them time with others and when I get back, I have renewed appreciation for their little selves.

    Thanks for writing this, and oops – novel in a comment!
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    • Brittany says:

      No problem. Not only did I not want the post to get more hits but I think the author’s point got lost anyway and the comments got mean so I didn’t want to send anyone else over. Yes, everyone should make their own choices based on their ow family dynamics.

      Trips work for us too except damn is is hard to find people to watch these guys 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! We first left our kids when they were 9 months and 2. With my parents, we went to Hawaii. In total we have left them 3 times for week long vacations. As a couple nothing is as important as time alone to reenergize, regroup and relax. You don’t realize how much stress kids create until your not with them. It’s allows couples to focus on each other. Happy couples make better parents. I can’t wait for our next adult only vaca!!

  • Carrie says:

    I took my first REAL kid free vacation a few months ago. almost 2 whole weeks away from everything. It was FABULOUS. I returned refreshed and recharged.

    Did I miss my kids? Of course. But parents need a break. Kids are a full time job you can never quit. And don’t get paid for. So why should have a vacation from them be such a horrible thing?

    My husband and I are planning a kid free vacation next June for his 40th birthday. We can’t wait to have some real adult time.

    Good response!
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  • Dana says:

    Thanks for standing up for vacation, strong marriages, trusting friends, and living in community. I am so thankful for people who love my children (boys ages 2,4,6) and welcome them into their homes for playdates and overnights. They are learning concepts like “house rules” and “at our table we eat this.” I hope it developes in them an appreciation for diversity, respect for other adults, and an even stronger understanding of friendship.

    I like my husband and want to spend time with him. With work, soccer and such, school, and family vacations, there is not much time for one-on-one. I figure the best gift we can give the kids is a marriage that lasts. So if I can book a 9 day cruise and find 3 families to watch them, then bon voyage!

  • Totally agree with you! We really need time away from our kids to strengthen our marriages from time to time. That’s nothing to feel guilty about!
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  • Hi. I am a journalist writing a story for a major national news outlet on the machinations that parents need to go through in order to take time away from their kids. If anyone has an anecdote they’d be willing to share on the record (ie: I need your name and location) I’d really like to interview you. For instance – did you have to arrange multiple sleepovers, pay a sitter a small fortune, drive hundreds of miles to grandma’s house to drop off the kids, etc. – Thanks.

  • Kiki says:

    We just returned from a 7 day vacation and it was the worst time I have ever had. I worried about my 5 year old the whole time because he started to display signs of a 1 or 2 year old including using the bathroom on himself granted he is the only child but the person that was watching him is a friend of the family and she has watched him when he was younger but this time he seemed different. I would never leave him alone while on vacation he will be going with us from now on. I understand we do need time alone but our child comes first

  • different strokes for different folks i gather. my folks had four children, and the strongest and best marriage any of us four have ever witnessed in our entire lives was my that of our parents. yet they never took a vacation without us kids. nor did they have us in daycare from 6am til 6pm, nor did they send us to overnight summer camps, nor 3day/wk preschool programs… yet still they didn’t feel the need to get away to ‘reconnect’ in order to keep their romance alive, nor the need to ‘recharge’ so that they could better deal with their children. their marriage lasted for almost 60 years, my father always professing how beautiful my mother was, kissing her hand and spontaneously dancing with her in the living room. we were part of their parties, bbq’s, celebrations, etc.. and we fit in socially from being exposed to all ages, and being expected to behave appropriately really came naturally from that exposure. when it was time for bed, the adults continued their partying, the kids all went to sleep in a slumber party fashion. it was wonderful growing up in a family where no adult felt they had to ‘get away’ from the children because they deserved a break. they didn’t want the break. (my mother always said that she and my father would have the rest of their lives together after we were grown, and wanted to enjoy every minute they had with their children because time goes by so fast) we are in our fifties and sixties now but believe me, we 4 have always known how lucky we were to have had the best parents in the world.

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