Emma is almost three years old and Julian is five years old. This isn't the first time that I left them. I left for three nights last year when I went to BlogHer in Chicago. It was difficult, but not horrible. This time though, it seemed much easier. It really seemed okay. I was thrilled to see them when I got back and happy to finally be able to hug and kiss them again. But I really was okay while I was away except for the one time I checked in by phone only to hear that Emma had kicked Julian in the face and there was blood everywhere and screaming in the background. That was not so great. Especially since I had to go right from that call into facilitating a discussion at the conference.
While discussing next summer's BlogHer in New York with Loukia (who is getting stressed about leaving her boys behind), I got to thinking retrospectively about what made it okay. After thinking about it for a while, I think there are three factors that made it easier and that made me comfortable being away from my kids and that made them comfortable being away from me:
1. Being verbal: Both of my kids language skills are at a level where I can have a conversation with them on the phone. Their comprehension is good enough that they understand where I am and that I am coming back. I can tell them about what I'm doing and they can tell me about what they are doing.
2. Sense of time: They both have a good enough sense of time that they understand approximately when I am coming home.
3. Comfortable with caregivers: They are both comfortable with and able to be comforted by the people who were caring for them (in this case my husband and my mother).
If it weren't for those three factors, I don't think I would be as comfortable. I would find it difficult if I couldn't talk to them, if they were hoping I would be home any second but not really sure I was ever coming back, or if they were not completely comfortable with the people I was leaving them with. I would never leave a physically dependent baby to go on a trip. I would find a way to bring my child and a caregiver along or forgo the trip altogether. But I do think that my kids and I, and our relationship, is now at the point where we can be away from each other for a bit without it causing undue heartache or stress for either of us.
It is freeing and it is rewarding to have come to this point without having to push it on my kids or to leave them before either of us was ready.
Have you ever traveled without your kids? Was it okay? What factors made it okay?
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on flickr