One of the amazing perks of Roo’s job is that after you’ve worked there for seven years they give you a chunk of money to go on a trip over the summer. We have been daydreaming forever about what we might do when her sabbatical year arrived. It seemed important to use the money to do something that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Neither of us have been outside of the country in years. Roo’s last international trip was when she was in high school and mine was when I was in college, and I’ve never traveled in Europe. I can’t even remember how it all came about, but we settled on Italy as our destination quite a while ago, and started making plans with a travel agent earlier this year. We’re going to Italy for 10 days in June. We’ll spend three days each in Venice, Florence, and Rome.
We thought about taking Tadpole with us for approximately seven seconds. First, we couldn’t afford the third plane ticket. Then we thought about taking a 3 1/2-year-old on a 10-hour plane trip, dealing with a preschooler with jet lag, and trying to keep a small person from running into precious artworks in museums. I love lots of things about traveling with Tad, but it’s not exactly restful. And traveling internationally is tiring in its own ways. Traveling internationally with the kid seemed like way too much. We are very lucky that Tadpole has grandparents who are willing and able to do take care of our kid, and who we trust to do it. Tadpole will stay with Roo’s parents for some of the time we are gone, and my mom will come stay with him at our house for the rest. He loves spending time with his grandparents, and has spent weekends with Roo’s parents before. He has been asking for a time when my parents can babysit him.
As our trip to Italy gets closer, I’m starting to realize that it’s really (hopefully!) going to happen. It has been a far-off dream for so long that it’s hard to believe that our departure date will actually arrive. But that means that the reality of Roo and me being away from Tadpole for ten days is also sinking in.
As much as I am excited about having some time off from parenthood, I am sure I will miss him terribly. And I’m worried about how he will handle the separation. My guess is that he will have lots of fun with his grandparents. But I also think he’ll miss us a lot. The longest he has spent away from us in the past is two nights, so ten nights feels like an awfully big jump for all of us. I imagine it will be pretty hard for Tadpole to wrap his little brain around the length of time we will be gone. He often asks for breakfast when he gets up from his nap, and none of our explaining can make it clear to him that it’s really not a new day yet, which tells me how fuzzy his comprehension of time is.
I keep trying to tell myself why it makes sense to go through with the trip.
This trip is a fabulous opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we are incredibly lucky to have it. I think it will likely be really good for Roo and me and our relationship. We will visit museums and walk around foreign cities and go on a gondola ride. I envision sleeping in, and dinner in candle-lit restaurants and long (uninterrupted!) conversations about art and culture. In the long run, it will be good for Tadpole if his moms have a stronger relationship. The last 3 1/2 years have been incredible and wonderful, but also intensely exhausting; I imagine I will be a far more patient parent when I return. The trip will be a great opportunity for Tadpole to have some time on his own with his grandparents. Because my parents live out of town, he hasn’t gotten to spend as much concentrated time with them, and I think they will all enjoy it.
I don’t buy into the idea that parents (usually meaning moms) should sacrifice everything for their children. The vast majority of the time, Tadpole’s needs and desires come first in our family. But I think it is okay for Tadpole to miss us a bit when we go out for the evening occasionally or even when we’re away for a weekend. And I sometimes do things to take care of myself that are less convenient or pleasant for him. But isn’t this trip taking the idea of self-care a little too far? Isn’t 10 days too long for a three-and-a-half-year-old to be away from both of his parents? I envision myself and Roo enjoying our candle-lit dinners while our child is on the other side of the world, feeling abandoned.
The plane tickets and hotel reservations are non-refundable (and are partly paid for with Roo’s school’s money) so it would be awfully hard to cancel at this point. And I don’t really want to cancel them. I desperately want to have 10 days off from parenthood and to have adventures with Roo and on my own. And that’s the part that makes me feel like and even worse mother.