A Mom Traveling Solo- And Some Opinions About it

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.

Pax with his best girl, Gianna

Pax with his best girl, Gianna

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.

Costa Concordia as seen from Giglio Porto

My work…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Giglio Island Rocks

My pleasure…

 

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.

 

My Village

Part of my village…

 

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.”

What are your thoughts? Do you travel without your kids? Wouldn’t ever think of it? Wish you could?

Leave your words in the comments below. Contribute to the conversation!

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16 Responses to A Mom Traveling Solo- And Some Opinions About it

  1. wandering educators March 5, 2013 at 2:37 PM #

    i can’t travel by myself, because of my disabilities. i need assistance with transportation, and everyday things. so for me, this isn’t even an option – i can’t even fathom it!

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 2:54 PM #

      Would be great if you and Ed could get away together!

  2. Katie March 5, 2013 at 2:53 PM #

    I understand where you are coming from completely. Family travel is my angle so I travel a lot with my daughter but she’s in elementary school now and that’s put a damper on our travels (though some may argue we still go plenty of places). I do travel without her sometimes and don’t feel guilty about it. But sometimes I get it for traveling with her too. Like, “how could you possibly take your child to Mexico?” or “She shouldn’t be missing school!” So one way or another, people will ask questions and judge. Frankly, if we weren’t in a public school system, I’d pull her out of school more.

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 2:56 PM #

      I totally get that, Katie. My daughter’s teacher had a good laugh at the last note I sent in concerning her absence.

      I said, “Please excuse Sequoia from missing school, she was swimming with manatees.”

      I personally don’t feel that she “missed” school that day :)

  3. Colleen Lanin March 5, 2013 at 6:35 PM #

    As a fellow travel writer, I also travel from time to time without my kids. I love having time to myself to be responsible for doing only what I need and want to do in a day. I miss my kids and husband terribly when I’m gone, which is one of the benefits of traveling alone. It’s nice to get away to realize just how much I love them all.

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM #

      Colleen, perfectly said! I never suffer from parenting burn-out any more. I am so happy to see them again and can’t get enough of them I miss them so much!

  4. Jenna March 5, 2013 at 8:05 PM #

    I really enjoyed reading this post and identified with many issues you bring up. I have felt the pull of both sides–I never traveled without my older son until just recently, and then the trips I have taken without the kids were wonderful and, as you said, made me a better mom. We also travel with them separately–my husband takes the older one to Brazil sometimes since it’s hard for us all to go, but that’s not a preferred solution. I think it’s great that your kids get quality time with their father and the rest of your family when you are away.

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 3:00 PM #

      We have done the same thing with travel, due to affordability. They still get to have the experiences and it’s great for them to spend that one-on-one time with the other parent. It is still a struggle to go without them, but I think we all end up benefitting in the end.

  5. Keryn @ walking on travels March 5, 2013 at 11:59 PM #

    This and your cappuccino post (ha!) are my favorites I think. As mothers we beat ourselves up over everything. If it’s not travel, then it’s because we go to work, or we are on the computer and ignoring our kids for a portion of each day (guilty!) Since my second child was born I’ve been craving time to myself more and more. It’s not just because I am the only female in my house (the cat doesn’t count), but it’s because my sanity needs a break. I need time for me. I need to reconnect with my husband. I need time to lay my responsibilities aside for a few minutes and remember what makes me who I am. Yes, I am a mother, but there is so much more to me than that, including my photography and writing. Thank you for the reminder that it is OK. This year I am actively trying to find ways to leave my kids, and also find friends and family who can watch the kids for a few days so hubby and I can slip away. With all of our family 3000 miles away it’s not easy, but we can figure it out. Thank you for inspiring me to press on!

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 3:05 PM #

      Thank you, Keryn! We really do beat ourselves up far too much. I love what you said about being so much more than a mother. For so long, I solely held onto my “mother” identity and started to feel the effects. My kids love what I do, they are inspired, impressed and influenced! I love that I am learning to balance being all I can to them and for myself. They are so much better for it, we all are. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

  6. Lady March 6, 2013 at 6:20 PM #

    I find it interesting that so many people are quick to judge. I think to travel alone or with a family depends on one’s mindset, and will, we have friends who have never left Canada who tell us constantly that we are wasting money on travel. . I love travelling, traveled by myself, for work, with friends, with my husband, and now as a family – so I feel lucky enough to experience it all. We have left our son with good friends for a night, but we have never left the country – mind you, that might change as he gets older.

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM #

      Thank you for your comment. I love how unapologetic you are! It’s exactly as it should be. Kudos to you for pursuing your passions and figuring out how to balance it all!

  7. Tina March 8, 2013 at 7:14 PM #

    I long for the day to travel alone! The day is coming soon, very soon. The only time I have ever been away from my children, all alone, was just over 2 years ago. My grandmother was dying and I needed to go see her. I was away for a week. Although it was not a vacation and not the most pleasant of circumstances, I still enjoyed the freedom. I was able to see a glimpse of the beauty in taking this time. I am a mother of 5 children and I know the times apart are healthy for everyone. When my youngest (4 1/2 months) is a bit older………….I am out of here!!! Just for a break though! As I am writing this, 3 of my children are with a piece of our village and with friends, and it is TOO quiet ;)

    • Laurel March 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM #

      Tina, thank you. I applaud you for knowing that it is something you need to nourish yourself. When my babies were little, I would always tell myself, “This is my job right now, this is where I’m supposed to be.” The time for you to have a bit of a get-away is coming. You are doing a beautiful service to yourself and your children by being with them at this special time. So wonderful having a village too :)

  8. Carly August 27, 2013 at 2:47 PM #

    Thanks for sharing this post laurel, it’s certainly good to read someone else’s thoughts on leaving the children (and the comments below also) and as you know i’m dealing with the guilt of leaving my 2 boys for my upcoming trip.

  9. Sarah Fazendin March 24, 2014 at 9:27 PM #

    I loved reading this! And totally agree with Geri’s comment; “Only another parent of young children could understand how wonderful this seemingly simple state of being could be.”

    Getting away to relax, have some freedom to do what you want and return to your family re-charged is really important. And it’s different if you’re traveling with friends or even your significant other.

    I’m a relatively new mommy travel blogger, and just posted a blog this weekend about why solo travel can be a very good thing for moms. I’ve found it to be a very interesting conversation, lots of different views on this topic for sure!

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