If parenting is a full-time job, does it come with paid vacations?

The answer, I guess, is: it depends.

One way of looking at it is that full-time parenting (I mean, stay-at-home parenting) is a paid vacation. But I don’t know. Stay-at-home parenting is a break from work, it’s true; it’s just that, depending on the kind of household help you have, it’s a vacation that involves a heck of a lot of work, and not the kind of work that you are used to, either. And it’s not all fun.

Then, of course, you can always go on vacation with the kids. This is especially easy before the kids start going to school, and Amit and I have actually made a good attempt at this, with trips to Binsar, Lakshadweep, and an abortive trip to Leh to our credit. The moot point about traveling with small kids, though, is whether, from a parent’s perspective (and especially from the perspective of a stay-at-home mom), this can be considered a holiday at all. There’s actually more work to be done when you’re away from your regular set-up, and many variables that are worryingly difficult or impossible to control: travel times, meal times, nap times, quality and quantity of food and drink available, toilet availability and cleanliness and usability…

There is another option: leave the kids with someone, the most likely candidates being their grandparents on one side or the other, while both parents go on holiday together. Without passing a value judgment of any kind, I have to say that this option is not for me.

And there’s at least one other option that I can think of: holidaying alone. Or, to put it more precisely, each parent taking a holiday separately, while the other stays home with the kids.

In Binsar, while I was still recovering from the trauma of the drive up (which had both kids retching and puking for three straight hours), I decided that this was the only alternative left to us. Staying at home with the kids all day, while it has its joys, is not – in my dictionary – the definition of a holiday. Neither is holidaying with two two-year-olds.

It’s not that I’ve never traveled alone before; I have, on more than one occasion, and both for business and – on separate occasions – for pleasure. I have to admit that at first I had my doubts as the to “pleasure” aspect of traveling alone, but now no longer. While it’s great to travel with a companion, it’s also nice in a quite different way to travel alone.

But, in the past whenever I traveled alone, I left only Amit behind; next time, I’ll be leaving Amit and the kids.

The longest I’ve ever been away from the kids till date is when I took a day-long trip to Pondicherry and back (for some adoption-related paperwork). That time, Mrini was terribly upset with me and refused to come near me for hours after I returned. That really hurt – the more so because I was totally unprepared for such a reaction. But they are a good bit more grown up now, and if I tell them I’m going away and that I’ll be back in a few days, they will understand it, won’t they?

When Amit travels on work, the kids don’t fuss much about it. They do ask after him sometimes, but they don’t seem upset or anxious in any way. But then, they are used to him going away from home every morning and returning in the evening. With stay-at-home moms, it’s different.

In the past couple of months or so, they have grown accustomed to my going away from home from time to time, usually leaving them in the care of Shaba-aunty. They’ve never seemed put out by it, nor upset when I return. So does it mean that they’ll be ok if I disappear for a few days at a stretch?

The other day, something went ‘click’ in me, and I decided it was time to put the kids to the test. I would take a short three-day break, get away on my own, lounge by the sea, read a book or three, eat, drink, sleep, and not worry about a thing. Then I’ll come back, and we’ll see how the kids cope with this. Amit, of course, will be at home with them for the entire duration. This should work.

I have, of course, several complex and contradictory feelings about this: guilt and selfishness and a reprehensible sense of self-indulgence; all covered over with a thick layer of pure, delightful anticipation. Amit has been totally supportive about it, and in fact I think it has even prompted him to go ahead and book his own holiday later in the year, which is good because it helps me feel a little less guilty about mine.

But all the guilt and questioning notwithstanding, I’m planning to go ahead with my solitary vacation. What do you think: is it completely selfish and self-centered to do this, or only just a little?

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12 Responses to If parenting is a full-time job, does it come with paid vacations?

  1. Nish says:

    I totally understand and support your desire for a vacation. Go ahead and enjoy without the guilt !

    However, that is really not an option for me, as I am a working mother, and the guilt of taking a vacation, heck …even going out for dinner alone without my daughter would kill me.

    Nice blog and enjoy yourself !

    http://nishitak.wordpress.com

  2. Sadia says:

    I don’t think you’re selfish at all. I’ve recently been thinking hard about that question we all get … “How do you do it? How do you manage twins, a job, and a life?”

    Here’s my conclusion – parents have to take care of themselves first and foremost. This isn’t purely selfish; it’s a matter of family survival. Only when we’re fulfilled as people can do more than just go through motions as parents, husbands/wives, and employees.

    Enjoy your holiday.

  3. doug H says:

    Sadia makes a good point. As for myself, I guess I’m rather ambivalent on the issue. I remember as a young child being left with a favorite aunt and uncle while my parents went on a second, and possibly 3rd, Honeymoon. Since my Aunt spoiled me terribly and we enjoyed one another’s company, I was as happy as a clam. (That’ a common expression, but I think it would be difficult to actually verify the degree of happiness a clam is capable of experiencing.) In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that I somewhat regretted the return of my Parents. No more being fed chicken soup under the kitchen table while I barked like a puppy for another spoonful.

    On the other hand, your girls first experience in life was one of rejection. Even though they’re probably no longer conscious of it, it’s bound to have incorporated itself somewhat into their basic makeup’s. So I don’t find Mrini’s reaction surprising. She was afraid of being abandoned again, and when you returned her she wanted to hurt your feelings so that you wouldn’t go away again.
    However, as children, we have to begin to learn to deal with what life is going to throw at us. The fact that you explained to the girls that whenever you go away for a short time, you’ll always be coming back; and that they seemed to understand that is a positive thing.
    All in all, I guess the important thing is that they’re provided with enough pleasant activities to keep them happy while you’re having your much deserved vacation (holiday). Eventually, when you take occasional trips by your self, they’ll come to realize that you’re going to return, and they’ll stop being fearful about it.
    And I do think, were I in your position, that I too would require the occasional alone time to regenerate from the stresses of being a stay-at-home, full time mom. It strikes me more as being a necessity that an action performed out of selfishness. (Even if there is a small element of selfishness involved.)
    So, my advice would be to reassure them calmly and repeatedly that you’re going away for a short time, but you’ll soon return. That you’ll always come back because you love them.
    And then try to make sure that they’re kept in a happy environment and given plenty of attention, and also that they have enough activities to keep them occupied, to help take their minds off your absence.

    And then go on your holiday and relax and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

  4. Lubi :) says:

    Go.

  5. doug H says:

    Wish I’d thought of that, lubi.

    lol.

  6. Supriya says:

    It is also possible that far from being considered a full time job, full time momming may be regarded as the easy way out – a comfortable way of life. The mom who chooses to not pursue a hard core career may be seen – even by her own family as an unambitious waster of education and time.
    The fact that it is not so in your case makes you really lucky – so do enjoy yourself on your vacation. 🙂 And who said being selfish was a crime? AS for feeling guilty – you will do so whatever you are doing. Some guilt is a part of our everyday life – whatever choices we make in any situation imaginable.

  7. poupee97 says:

    Sadia: Thanks for the encouragement! I think an advanced degree of selflessness and self-sacrificing-ness is not built into me (or maybe into anybody normal). So the attempt to be unrealistically selfless and self-sacrificing only causes deep frustration, resentment, or at least disappointment later on in life. But of course, one can’t be too self-centered either, and neglect the kids/family in the bargain. It’s always a matter of finding a balance.

    Doug: About the early rejection etc… I really think that is more an awareness that we adults have, than something that is even embedded into the kids’ subconscious. Really at one day of age, even the subconscious is too young to know that it’s being rejected. Or at least, that’s what I think, but what do I know? Anyway, as you point out, they have to learn consciously at some point, that people who go away do come back. Mostly.

    Lubi: Thanks! 😀

    Supriya: Actually, even if it is regarded as the easy way out, as the comfortable life (which, compared to a family with two small kids and two working parents, I suppose it is, in some ways; remember I did say that it could be considered a vacation in its own right), and even if my own parents/family were to see it as such, that wouldn’t bother me. It’s more to do with my own feeling that it takes a pretty selfish mom to leave her kids with their dad and disappear in pursuit of leisure and fun. Even if it is only for a couple of days. But, as you say, some guilt is inevitable.

  8. andaleebwajid says:

    Yes, guilt is inevitable and it does seem selfish but I’m not passing judgment on you. In fact, its wonderful that you can choose to do this without feeling the extra load of guilt that comes from people in my moms generation which some how manages to rub itself on people like me, directly or by implication. But this guilt which you feel is perfectly normal and I won’t hypothesize about you or the kids, but just want to say that you should shut that voice inside you for a couple of days and just go! How I WISH I could do something like that and you have NO idea how envious I am of you!!!! 🙂 Go enjoy!

  9. andaleebwajid says:

    Hey! It was nice meeting you yesterday finally! 🙂 Will drop by at the park to see you and the kids more often.

  10. Arun says:

    that guilt feel is good to have.. no need to brake it!
    you can go around with that and come back.
    at the max you would be on a huffing puffing trek on some hill top or sitting on a lazy beach gazing at the sunset which i dont think the kids would be missing big time! 😀

    btw, where is it this time?? 😀

  11. poupee97 says:

    Andy: It was good meeting you too!

    Arun: I wish it were a trek… that will have to wait a bit. It’s going to be a beach only. 🙂

  12. AM says:

    The only guilt that you may feel at the end of it all is that you ate and drank too much at the resort :-).

    I am going to have a ball with the kids, totally break their routine, feed them what they shouldn’t eat, keep them awake till they demand to be put to bed, go swimming, go driving in the new car and the old car, visit all my friends and do all other manner of things unsuitable for them. After all, it’s should be a vacation for them also, isn’t it :-)?

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