My husband and I currently live in the thick of parenting. For the past couple of years, we’ve literally felt like we’re out in the wilderness, with our only goal being survival. We live in Brooklyn with our four young boys, away from family support and facing challenges we have never faced before.
How do you take four kids on the subway? Can I manage school pickup when the schools are 20 blocks away — with the exact same pickup time? How do you feed a family of six on a tight budget? Can you care for four kids while making sure no one is left out? How do you parent all of these kids differently according to their own personalities without losing your ever-loving mind?
We’ve come to accept living our lives in varying states of crazy. We’re changing diapers, getting kids to and from school, keeping the house in order(ish), wiping butts, picking up toys, having chats about feelings and consequences, doing dishes, taking the kids to the park, the sprinklers or to throw a ball around. There’s always something to be done, yet nothing ever feels fully accomplished. And this is exactly why my husband and I decided that we needed to get away.
For a few years, we discussed different ways to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Little did we know when we were making these plans just how much we would need this break. We decided we were going to fly somewhere far away to celebrate by ourselves. But life was busy, the kids were still so young, money was tight — a plethora of reasons not to go. A lot of times before we left, we found ourselves thinking, “There’s no worse time to go away on vacation.” Actually, there was no better time to go away on vacation. Why?
1. You get to clear your head
Imagine letting go of all of the stressors of everyday life. Let your brain relax. Stop making mental to-do lists. Stop making actual to-do lists. My brain feels like a beehive. There’s always a buzz — and not the alcohol kind.
Did I pack the kids lunch? Who did I make plans with today? Is today trash day? When did the kids last brush their teeth? When did I last brush my teeth? Do I need to move the car for street cleaning? Did I leave the laundry in the washing machine overnight again? When we were away, I was able to shed my responsibilities, and only look out for myself. The buzzing faded, which created room for some physical and emotional shifts to happen.
2. You get your partner’s undivided attention
During our normal family routine, like strolling the avenues or spending time on the ferry or at the park, my husband and I usually focus on what the kids are doing. Mainly for their safety, but also someone always wants to tell a story, ask a question or be observed doing a new trick. Yes, we chat along the way. Often the kids entertain themselves for a while before we have to referee an argument or tend to an injury.
However, outside the four walls of our home, most of what we’re doing, saying and thinking revolves around our boys. On a kid-free vacation, it’s the complete opposite. No one interrupts, pipes up with needs to be met, and (hopefully!) no one gets injured.
3. You can actually have an adult conversation
Even at home, Seth and I take time for date nights. We’ll do a date night swap with friends or our amazing neighbors will watch our kids. Yet even on date night, we don’t get to talk about all of the things on our mind. We want to, but there’s no way to wade through the rest of the stuff that’s going on in our lives in two or three hours before getting to the conversational treasure. It feels impossible.
However, when we were away, we basically had one long date night. We took our sweet time talking about things that have been weighing heavily on our hearts. Over long dinners, we talked about our hurts, fears, struggles and exhaustion. We were able to talk about things we have been learning, things that have changed within us, revelations of self awareness and anxiety. We talked about a lot of BIG things and processed a lot of emotions, and the amazing thing was we didn’t come to all of these conclusions alone, we came to a lot of them together which strengthened us as team Hoffman.
4. You get to be a “couple” again
When you take a kid-free vacation, no one looks at you like a family. Other people see you as a couple. People walk by you on the street without any idea you birthed a child or two — or more. As a couple, no one gives you the side eye when entering a restaurant, an airplane or a boutique, as you do if you were followed by a gaggle of children. When you vacation as a couple, you don’t say, “Don’t touch that,” “Keep your hands to yourself,” or “Don’t lick your brother.” You actually wander into stores, look around and not have to worry about your child hiding in the window display or knocking over all the fragile things.
5. Your kids need a break from you
Dare I say they need a break from you as much as you need a break from them? Do we get sick of saying the same things to our kids on the regular? Yes. Do they get sick of hearing those same things? Absolutely. We often find a change of scene or a change of routine can work wonders with our kids — and ourselves too, if we’re honest.
We needed the chance to miss our kids and appreciate their sweet, fun and energetic personalities. They needed the chance to miss us and appreciate our snuggles, stories and bad jokes. Being apart from one another helped us to be more patient and understanding, and helped our kids to be more grateful for our family unit and the support and love it offers.
This two-week vacation to Italy was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Partly because of the things we saw and the things we did — the Colosseum, paddleboarding in the Ligurian sea, getting lost in Venice — and partly because I reconnected with my most favorite person in the world. We want to make our marriage a priority. We value our marriage as the important thing we’ve ever committed to, and consider it absolutely, 100% worth the investment.
For more on my Italy trip, head over to www.brooklynboymom.com
Rhianon Hoffman contributed this post. Rhianon is a mom of four young boys; Hudson (7), Wyatt (5), Amos (3), and Brooks (19 months). She loves to honestly share about the challenges of raising small children, funny observations, daily unfortunate mishaps, and creative ways to engage with your kids. She loves being as authentic and transparent as possible, and hopes to create an encouraging space in which readers can reflect and reimagine their identity as parents. Rhianon and her husband Seth live in Brooklyn, NY with their little dudes.