It has been a really hectic start to the year. I just want to begin this post by saying I find this topic incredibly difficult to be objective about. There are so many factors that go into needing a "break" and what that entails for every parent; and not just parent, every person. Some people desperately need a break but don't have the luxury of being able to have one. Some people don't have a village, and that thought makes me incredibly sad. Some people feel they can't leave their children, and I totally get that as well. Before I had kids (those famous four words...), I was never going to leave them. "I didn't have kids so other people could raise them". Is a sentence I strongly believed in... and then we had Isaac. And then I was struck down with severe PND/anxiety. And then we couldn't get Isaac to sleep. And then I went back to work. And then Reid got sick. The list goes on.
To sum it up; a lot has been going on. Just over two weeks ago, Reid was really unwell. I think the biggest reason for this was stress. Migraines, head spins, extreme fatigue. It really worried me and it took him a while to be OK again. During that time, I spoke with my Mum and asked if she would mind having Isaac for two nights so we could just "get away". I am incredibly lucky that my Mum already has Isaac once a week while I work on Fridays, and she usually has him that night as well and I pick him up early on Saturday morning. That break alone is more than a lot of parents get, I totally understand that and am beyond grateful. Friday nights, Reid and I usually crash onto the couch and then go to bed by 9pm for a full night of sleep (side note: Isaac is MUCH better than he used to be with sleeping, but some nights are still a struggle, as they are for all parents). I booked a holiday house for us in the beautiful little town of Orford, only a bit over a 30 minute drive from where we live and proceeded to get very excited at the thought of two whole days of relaxing with Reid. Then it appeared - the GUILT. This whole post is inspired by it, really.
How can I bear to be away from Isaac for two nights? Why don't other parents feel this overwhelmed? Why do I always feel like I'm drowning? Why do I need so much help from my Mum? She's already so busy and does so much, am I asking too much of her? I'm already away from Isaac 4 days a week while I work, why do I feel like I need this time away?
My mind then goes to every single parent I know. Do they ever feel like this? Do they think I'm a monster for wanting to go away? Are people just constantly judging me?
I have to argue with myself and weigh up every possible option and formulate an argument about why we are going away, just in case someone asks. Just in case they don't understand why we need this. Just in case they think I'm a bad mother who doesn't want to be around my child.
It's just not true. I love Isaac more than anything. I do find him exhausting, but aren't all nearly-two-olds? Our situation is ours, and ours alone. I am a better Mum when I realise I need a little bit of time to breathe, and I am lucky enough to have a great support system so that can become a reality. And the more I think about this little break Reid and I have had, the more I realise that it hasn't just been for us, it has been for Isaac too. Not only does he get to build beautiful relationships with people other than just us, but when we get back home, we will be more patient, more tolerant and rested enough to tackle the tantrums without melting down ourselves.
Every parent is different. Every child is different. I am a Mum who gets depleted really quickly while I try to juggle all the different things we have going on at the minute (more on that in another post). I am a Mum who needs to fill up my cup so I'm not a horrible person to be around. I am a Mum who believes in fostering independence in my son and him building relationships with other people. I am a Mum who works really hard inside and outside of the home. I am a Mum who needs time to connect with my husband and talk with him about topics that don't involve work or washing or whose turn it is to change Isaac's nappy.
I love my son, but in order to love him the best way I can, I needed a break. Reid needed a break. We were running on empty and that just wasn't good for any of us.
The last day and a half we have lazed around in lovely holiday home. We've walked on the beach, gone to restaurants and cafes, read books, watched movies, drank wine/cider, relaxed in a lovely spa bath and talked.
We needed this. We don't need it every weekend, but we need it occasionally.
I didn't go into parenthood thinking I would ever want to be away from my child. Now that I am away from him for longer than usual, I miss him like crazy, and know I will appreciate him all the more when I see him tomorrow.
I still feel guilty for doing this, but the more I talk about it, the more I am confident in my decision and realise how necessary it was for us. I still worry about being judged and people thinking I am a bad Mum, but I have to come to terms with the fact that I know what I need to do to love and cherish Isaac the best way I can. The term "it takes a village" doesn't exist for no reason. Parenting has changed SO much in recent years, the support of extended family just doesn't often exist like it used to. One or two people can't possibly be everything for one child. Our incredible family therapist, Nicole Kingston, so aptly put it like this in a Facebook post just as I was feeling at the lowest point about our decision to get away:
They learn different things from so many different people.
We can't teach them everything, we can't be perfect, we can't be their village.
They need so much more than us.
But isn't that a lovely thought. A freeing thought. We don't have to be everything.
We can relax.
We can take a breath. We can make mistakes. Knowing that they will get what they need from all those loving people around them.
The pressure is off.
Yes, we are very important to them, but we are not the only important ones.
I am so grateful that Isaac is loved by so many different people. Reid and I will always be his number one supporters, but we have our own supporters who we would be lost without. I have to be confident in my choices and beliefs, and right now, I believe Reid and I needed this time together. Most of the time we have just talked about Isaac and missed him and discussed where we will take him on a family trip we plan on taking soon, but we have had that chance to actually talk to each other, rather than just sitting, exhausted on the couch in front of the TV.
We love our son, but our cups were empty. Returning to him happy and relaxed and looking forward to being with him makes me feel like a good Mum. As I said before; everyone is different. Our reality is beautiful and messy and chaotic (and we only have one toddler!), and I know this little escape from that reality will make me all the more grateful to return to it.