And I've learned that leaving doesn't get easier. My heart aches and my guilt levels rise when tears are shed.
But I've also learned that leaving is good for all of us. It makes me a better mother when I take care of me. It makes me a better wife and role model of a healthy marriage when I spend solo time with my husband. It makes me a better person when I'm not solely existing to take care of other people and actually doing things I'm passionate about (like traveling!)
When we leave her, my daughter learns that she can live without us; she learns that we will always come back. So, while it may never be easy, I can be as prepared as possible - and I can make sure my daughter is, too. So, here are my top tips to ditch the mom guilt and travel kid-free.
1. BE PREPARED
Being prepared is crucial staying calm and reducing anxiety after you leave. Whenever we travel, I leave:
2. make it special for your kids
On our first long trip away (7 days!), my mother came to stay at our house with my daughter. Before leaving, I went to the dollar store and spent about $15 to get a small present for each day we were gone. They weren't extravagant presents - Play-Doh, bubbles, a puzzle, a toy dinosaur, a book, etc. Every day, my daughter was able to open a present from us; it helped me feel connected to her and made us being gone a little more fun for her.
3. Say goodbye
I know, this one seems obvious. But even if your flight is at 6am (meaning being at the airport at 4am), it is so important to tell your kids you are leaving and remind that that you will come back. Don't spend a ton of time saying goodbye - drawing things out might make it harder on you and them.
4. Take advantage of technology
Check in regularly - for us, that meant Facetiming with our daughter every day. We quickly learned that a couple of minutes was the perfect amount of time for us to say hi, tell her we loved her, and chat with her caregiver about any questions they had. If we talked any longer than that, she would get upset and cry; it's a live and learn thing, so adjust your timing as necessary!
Another bonus of our wireless world is that home is able to contact you immediately in case of emergencies, so make sure that they know the best way to reach you (text message, phone call, Facebook messenger, etc.)
5. Fill your cup, mama
Remind yourself: being away from your kids is ok. Taking care of yourself is ok. Investing in your marriage is ok. In fact, all of these things are incredibly important. You were a multi-faceted person before you became Mama; you need to take care of those parts of yourself as well. So, even if it's difficult, remember: you are doing a really good job. You deserve this trip. You've got this.