A local friend of mine is about to head to Mexico for a week on a girlfriend getaway, and she’s never been away from her kids for that long. She’s nervous about it, even though her school-age children will be in the capable care of her husband and mother-in-law. I assured her that her kiddos will be just fine without her — and given enough pina coladas on the beach, she’ll be just fine without them, too! Here’s what I suggested for her to make the separation as painless as possible:
Be upbeat about it: If you are freaking out about leaving the kids for a week, they are going to freak out, too. If you present the situation as something that is perfectly natural occurrence in your family, everyone will be more at ease. “You know how you have playdates and sleepovers with your friends? Mommy’s having her own sleepover playdate with her friends!” Assure them that, yes, you’re all going to miss one another, but you’ll be home very, very soon.
Schedule some fun events for them while you’re gone: The more occupied they are, the less they’ll miss you. Get Dad (or Grandma or your best friend) to take them out to a pizza dinner, or to the local rec center for a swim, or a movie. Schedule playdates for them with their buddies.
Make-ahead favorite meals: One sure-fire way to let your children know you’re thinking of them while you’re out of town is to prep a few favorite dinners and stick them in the fridge or freezer so that their dad (or caregiver) can heat them up quickly and easily.
Leave them letters to open each day: For every day you’re gone, write a quick little note and put it in an envelope with the date or day of the week on it. Post them somewhere central, say on the cupboard in the kitchen, so every morning, your kids can wake up to a message from you. If you know your itinerary (or you can fudge it), you might write, “Mommy’s going snorkeling today! I hope I see some colorful fish.” Or you could send them good wishes, “Have fun at art class after school!” Add in little stickers or chocolates, and they’ll think you’re the best Mom ever.
Test Skype before you leave. If you think it will help your kids to see you on a screen while you’re gone (and it won’t make anyone miss one another more) consider some Skype or iPhone FaceTime. Test it all before you leave to make sure both parties (you and the adult at home with your kids) know how to make it work successfully. I suggest not trying to connect “in person” every day – but before you leave, say you’ll try to catch up via laptop or iPhone once or twice while you’re away. (It would stink to make promises that you’ll “see” them daily, then have trouble connecting to wi-fi in your hotel. There’s always the regular ol’ phone!)
Of course, the very best way to make it easier on all of you when you travel without your kids is to start doing it when they are babies. An overnight here or there… a long weekend away with your spouse… a spa vacation with girlfriends… the more often you do it, the more natural it is for you and your children. They’ll learn at an early age that it’s perfectly fine for Mom to take time to recharge her batteries away from home (everyone survives without you!), and that you’re so much more refreshed and rejuvenated to embrace mothering duties on your return.
Do you have tips for keeping things running smoothly at home when you’re out of town? Please share in the comments!