The first time I traveled and left my kids at home (with my perfectly capable husband!) I started crying in the shower at 3:00 a.m. as I was preparing to go to the airport. I panicked and told my husband I wasn’t going. After he talked me down a bit, I decided to start driving to the airport…just to see how I felt. Then, I decided to park and just go into the airport and since I had my boarding pass already, I eventually went through security, sure I would hightail it back out of there. At the gate, the agent must have thought I was unstable because I kept asking questions about maybe going the next day instead and what if I got to my connecting airport and then wanted to some home or what if I got to my destination but wanted to come right back?! Finally, at 6:00 a.m. I called (and woke) my close friend who frequently travels without her kids. She said she knew exactly how I felt and that the reason she goes away from time to time (other than the super vacations she enjoys with her husband) is that she sees how great the experience is for her kids—they practice their independence and she sees how confident and happy they are when she returns. Well, I got on the plane, all weepy under the watch of the concerned gate agent who saw me crying, and the minute I was in the air, I was completely fine and glad that I was on my way. My four days away with friends was such fun and of course, my kids were happy as could be while I was away. They did all kinds of fun things with my husband that they wouldn’t have done with me and what my friend said was true. They grew up a bit while I was away and I think it was really important for them to have that time without me. I try to remember now, even when I am with them, that they won’t develop confidence and self-reliance through me stepping in, but from my stepping back.
To get concrete, we did FaceTime every night and it was fine but I think that frequent communication can sometimes make it harder for the kids depending on who they are and how they are feeling at the time. As kids get older, a quick phone call before bed is usually nice, but when they are young, it can possibly throw them for a loop. You have to do what works best for your kids and it might be through a little trial and error. Oh, and bringing back souvenirs for kids always make them appreciate your solo travels a bit more.
If you find yourself wanting or needing to travel without your children, and feel the same nervousness and fear that I do, don’t let it stop you. Plan that trip. Head to the airport. Get on the plane. It will be OK…probably even great!