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?