Between the time they were born and time they were 5, I took one night away from my twins. This was a night in hospital when they were 2, to recover from a c-section repair operation. I found the experience really difficult, and missed them so much that I had no desire for time off from them again.
Their father, Adam had had a total of 6 months away from them in their first 3 years, as I took the twins to stay with my mother in the UK for long periods of time. On top of this, he had had work weekends away. I had no jealousy or desire to do the same. I loved being with my kids, and missed them after just a few hours apart, however, from about 4.5 years I had started to feel a bit energetically ‘ground down’ and ‘running on empty’, in terms of what I had to offer them. Having two first babies at 27 was a full on life-changer, I wasn’t the same Hannah as before they were around.
I booked 16 days away in France for in 6 months time. I started to feel panicky. I hadn’t planned it to be so long, but a combination of factors meant it ended up being 21 days. I envisioned missing them like I did after a few hours for the entire duration, but on the other hand, the idea of getting up whenever I felt like it, making a cup of tea and seeing to myself first for the first time in 5 years, felt exciting and attractive. I planned to take long baths, long runs and go out for dinner without worrying what time I would be home.
The fact that every day (except the time of that operation) they had been the first thought on my mind in the morning. What were they going to eat that day, do, what other things did I need to do for them, etc. I felt bound-down structuring my day around their routine, everyday. Oh course this probably sounds selfish, I felt selfish to the point I wouldn’t admit these feelings to myself. There was slight resentment when Adam went on his latest work trip to Sicily. Although I didn’t admit it, it was time for me to take a break. Of course, many mothers with many more children than me don’t have the opportunity for such a break (I was lucky that this chance came about through a combination of factors) but many parents don’t have access to many things, such as nutritious food, it doesn’t mean it is not desirable for the welfare of everyone involved. Many people have to be involuntarily apart from their children, like I was for the operation, and that’s a different matter and feeling altogether, but ‘mummy burnout’ is now something I recognise, which I didn’t before this break.
I struggled the first two-three days, but then I got used to being without them. I literally found it hard at the airport to function without children to keep an eye on. Four passports are easier to keep track of than one, I kept forgetting which pocket I had put it in and with so little to do (relative to getting two people through security, remembering who had peed when etc) my brain was so relaxed it was stressful. I started to tear-up as I realised I was leaving the country without my little ones, but as I got in the queue for boarding, a family with 3 young boys behind me were having one helluva time. For some reason they were packing the boys full of sugary treats to keep them placated. The two-year old spilt a bottle of sprite over a guy next to them reading his book, and the other two were attempting to murder each other on the floor.
I started to root around for my headphones and thought, wow, I am one of those people hoping I am not near any kids on the flight, and soon I was relaxed and happy (forgetting I recently saw a hypnotist for fear of flying) looking casually out the window as London became a faint dot below.
Whenever I rang home on Skype, and started to hear ‘no put that down, stop that please, oh now I need to put that shirt in the wash’ I exhaled a sigh of relief, said my goodbyes and went upstairs in the luxurious chalet to do some Yoga and marvel at the view.
After 3 weeks away I felt like the person I was before having children, but even better. I can’t believe I used to have so much time! I even remarked that when I received a text from a friend regarding school uniforms, whilst wandering around Chamonix, that I had pretty much forgotten I had children and had thought I was an ultra-running singleton. Little things, like eating what I wanted when I wanted where I wanted, and even when having time off not having to think about later or tomorrow and the jobs piling up at home, were really a massive relief in themselves.
I don’t know if ‘miss’ is the right word, of course I miss my little ones, especially now that I am back in the UK and jobs like feeding the cat I feel I know they enjoy. Yes, ‘miss’ is the right word, I can’t wait to squeeze them and smell them and hear all their crazy stories, whilst Daddy no doubt sleeps on the plane.
I think it’s been good for him also, to have full parental responsibility and have to make decisions without consulting me. I will definitely be scheduling more me-time again. I love taking my kids travelling with me, and I don’t know if I would like to go away for so long without them again. I felt guilty spending money on meals and things for me, when I knew I could be eating at home and saving money to spend on them. I felt guilty when I saw the kids’ race or pony rides, nice playgrounds or animals or views I knew they would love. I tried to take pictures of everything so it was like I shared experiences with them. My daughter is obsessed with food so everyday wanted to know what I’d been eating and where. I feel I have more to offer them now and having had experiences I wouldn’t have taken them on: such as mountain trail runs in the dark, they get to experience it through my tales and photos.
It has been good to know that they can be just fine without me as their primary carer, and that they have bonded with their paternal grandparents whilst Adam was working. All in all it’s been a really positive experience. I cried when they left for 3 weeks, but it’s gone so fast. I’ve kept busy at times I thought I’d miss them and somehow haven’t felt the need to buy things to compensate for guilt.
I feel relaxed refreshed and ready to get back to my full-time job. Motherhood is a job, it needs to be considered that way and breaks when necessary are definitely healthy. I was losing my identity, and the longer I left it the more worn down I would have felt in the long run.
Thanks to everyone who advised me on how to enjoy 3 weeks away, everyone who was a part of this trip and everyone who made it a possibility!