This day was special, we woke up and scurried around, everyone was excited to be playing hooky from school. We all hurried through breakfast, packed all of our luggage in the car, and off we went. We arrived at my parent’s home to cheers and celebration.
“Happy Birthday, Pax!”
My youngest son was turning 5 and we were arriving for his party. He was surrounded by his favorite person in the world, his cousin, 2 weeks his junior, and the rest of our family. We had cake, opened gifts and did what most all families do to celebrate such a momentous occasion. It was beautiful! As many parents do, I find it difficult to fathom that it was 5 years ago on this day that he graced himself into our lives.
A few hours later, the kids would be settled in, and it would be time to take me to the airport. My dad would drive me, accompanied by my daughter. The boys really didn’t care to go, they just wanted to keep playing.
Right now, I am sitting in a cafe in Impruneta, Italy. A small, mostly non-English speaking, village 10 miles south of Florence.
I recently read a piece in the Huffington Post by Lisa McElroy, entitled, Epic Struggle. In the story, Lisa discusses her desire to travel internationally alone, without her family.
In the post, Lisa, an associate professor of law, asks,
“Does my world perspective help me raise globally conscious kids? Or does my travel across the world mean that they miss out on something essential in what a mother promises her child?”
I’ll start with saying that I am the proud single-mother to three wonderful, and funny as hell, kiddos who have 2 parents that love them endlessly. My oldest son will be 13 this summer, my youngest son is, as you know, now 5, and my dear sweet daughter is 9.
I travel internationally for work and for pleasure. I have been creative enough to figure out a way to travel to places I love and make a living while I’m doing it. This does not always involve bringing the little people along. On average, I go for a couple of weeks every 3-4 months, sometimes more, sometimes less. This time, it will only be 12 days. I try to travel on their dad’s scheduled time as much as possible.
I sincerely feel that it is vital to my sanity to get away on my own from time to time. I know this, because I spent my first 12 years as a mother, not getting away. When I finally did, my entire world opened up. I was able to see my life with clarity, from the outside looking in. I made changes I felt needed to be made, both in my thinking and in my way of living. Traveling changed me, deeply.
When I talk to other moms about my journeys, I am usually greeted with offers of hiding in my suitcase, or curiosity as to how I pull it off with 3 kids. My friends are wonderfully supportive and are always the first to “like” all of the photos I post of my adventures.
However, many times, I am greeted with somewhat of a different point of view. Usually with a nod of the head, or eyebrows raised, I will get-
“Oh no! I could never travel without my kids! I have never left them for more than 1 or 2 nights, and certainly not to go to another continent!”
“We barely leave them to go out to dinner!”
“What if something happened?”
“I would be going crazy the entire time! I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy myself.”
The conversation usually ends uncomfortably abrupt and the subject gets changed.
Honestly, I get it. I used to be the exact same way. In the past, I hardly went two days out of the year without spending almost every moment with them. That’s why I had them, to be with them! Right?
I was pregnant or breastfeeding for almost 8 years, I homeschooled all of them for many years, and still homeschool my oldest. I have always adhered to the “attachment parenting” philosophy in meeting the needs of my children and I believe that love, more than anything else, will make them successful in life.
On any given day you may find me substituting at my daughter’s school, sitting in a coffee shop writing while my oldest sits next to me doing his own work, or just hanging out at home crafting something up. My favorite thing in the world is crawling into bed and watching a late movie with all of us piled in together.
Especially, when one is not kicking the other or endlessly whining about being touched or complaining that they can’t see!
I’m trying to paint a picture here… Am I the perfect mom? Certainly not. Though, I do spend the majority of my life-energy to make their lives pretty cool. I’m certain I do a fairly good job of that.
So, when I get these comments, I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to take them. Are they saying that I am an inferior mother? Implying that I love my children less or that I don’t care if “something” happens to them while I’m on another continent?
They’re right, something could happen. What would I do? I certainly think about it.
I have to ask, when did it begin that are our children are expected to be with their mother night and day for every moment of their childhood lives? What happened to the village?
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t connect with them while I’m gone. I will go to great lengths to get wi-fi so I can talk to them. This isn’t always possible, as some of the places I travel to are rather remote. I think there have been two or three times when there was just no way to connect. I hated those days. On one trip, I drove an hour every night just to get into wi-fi at the right time, so I could call my kids for 10 minutes.
Who is taking care of them while I am gone?
This is who I leave my children with-
1) Their father. The affection they have for him runs deep and the feeling is intensely mutual… As it should be. His work brings him to travel as well, so we work to make it happen for both of us. All while our little ones are always well cared for.
2) My family. I couldn’t ask for a more loving and supportive family. What better place for them to be than surrounded by family that loves them? Being spoiled by grandparents, playing with cousins, getting way more sweets than they would with me… They are in heaven!
3) Friends. When need be, my friends are always there to pitch in.
If something happens, I know they will be in the best hands possible. I trust that their father or my family will do what needs to be done until I can return.
I am incredibly grateful for my village. I realize that we don’t all have that.
Lastly, when’s the last time you heard two dads engaged in a conversation with one looking at the other with discontent, eyebrows raised, judging his choice to travel?
Why is it we find it completely acceptable for fathers to travel, but not mothers? My dad was in the travel industry, and was always traveling internationally when I was a child. I doubt he ever heard much opinion about it.
Do mothers belong at home all of the time? Or, is it ok that we work, as long as we are home every night?
It’s traveling that makes me a better parent. My time to get away, work without distraction and return fully recharged with fresh Mommy Energy. Not only that, but my job allows me to be home with them during all of the times I’m not traveling.
It’s a win for all of us! My kids love what I do, they love the stories I bring back and they especially love digging through my suitcase for their rewards upon my return. That was always my favorite part of my father traveling.
In the mean time, as I sit here writing under the Tuscan sun, I am reminded of why I chose to live my life this way.
So, when Lisa asks in her article,
“Does my world perspective help me raise globally conscious kids?”
I’m going with, ABSOLUTELY!
When I get back home a week from Wednesday, I know I am going to be embraced by some really happy kiddos!
In preparing for this post, I asked other travel blogging moms how they felt about solo travel, here is what they had to say-
Theodora, from Escape Artistes, a single-mama that travels the world with her son, had this to say,
“I think time apart is pretty key for any family unit, be that partners, siblings, or parents and children. I travel longterm with my son, but he also spends stints of several weeks with his father: I really enjoy that adult time, the freedom from responsibility, the chance to do what I want, when I want (and to catch up on work!). We stay in touch while he’s away, and I’m always overjoyed to have him back, but he loves having the time with his dad, and I think time away from me is healthy too.”
Erin, from Travel with Bender, travels the world with her husband and two children. Here are her thoughts,
“I am a wife and a mother. I never want to be the type of wife that once the kids leave home my hubby and I have nothing in common any more. So we keep the love alive. We have date nights regularly and we take trips without our kids. As they have grown older they now ask us when they can go to Oma’s (grandma’s) again?
In 2011 we vacationed internationally 4 times from our home in Australia. In March we visited Singapore for 3 nights for my husband’s birthday without our 3 & 2 year old. In July we visited Bali with our kids and had a great family vacation. In October we made our way to Kuala Lumpa & Langkawi, Malaysia for 6 nights to celebrate our 9th Wedding Anniversary without the kids. And then in December we took a south pacific cruise with our kids.
All trips were important for 2 reasons. 1. For my husband and I to stay connected free of children and 2. For my kids to build relationships with their grandparents & aunts and uncles outside of us. We love travelling with our kids as you can see by our current 10 months non-stop world travel, but those moments without them are rare and special and remind us who we will be once they are ready to fly the nest.”
Geri, from Snaps and Blabs is from another world traveling family and had these lovely words to say,
“Some of my fondest memories of travel are from the 7 weeks-long around the world trip I did alone while pregnant with my third child. The freedom was invigorating. I could sleep, eat and talk whenever I wanted. I spent whole days walking around Tokyo, London, Budapest, Chicago or New York and most of the time, I had no direction and no plan. If I wanted to turn into a street, I did. If I wanted to eat, I did. And the only thing that could stop me was my own legs giving up on me, and they did.
Only another parent of young children could understand how wonderful this seemingly simple state of being could be. Four years later, I can testify that this frivolity of mine has not damaged my girls at all. In fact, I am already dreaming of my next lonesome trip and I hope one day they will not be afraid to face the world on their own.”