I just went on a trip. A really, really big (10 day) trip without my kids or my husband.
It was wonderful and amazing and a whole bunch of other exaggeratedly positive descriptive words… and it was also a massive source of anxiety for me in the months leading up to it. What were the main things I was worried about? Here, let me list them:
- Being away from my husband and kids for 10 days.
- Also flying.
Now, I won't pretend to be an expert on overcoming flight anxiety. What worked for me was, according to my therapist, "focusing on right now" and "painting a picture of the trip after the flight." That's a highly-condensed version of a few months of therapy, so take that with a grain of salt.
Leaving my kids and husband, though? That was a little different. I was just nervous because I knew I was going to miss them a lot.
So how do you get over the fear of missing your family? I can't promise miracles or anything, but I can throw you some tips based on my recent adventures.
Disclaimer: I was extremely fortunate to have my parents take me on an amazing trip. I realize that, due to a million different reasons, not everyone can just hop on a plane and leave their family for 10 days. If that's not in the cards for you, maybe just try for a few hours by yourself at Target or behind a tree two houses down... I think most of these tips will hold up either way.
1. Wait for a time that your kid (or kids) are screaming at the top of their lungs about something ridiculous, like the fact that a carrot is too orange. Listen to the screams. I mean really immerse yourself in the experience. Now, immediately walk outside. Do you hear that? The not screaming? That's what your trip's going to sound like. Keep thinking about the not screaming.
2. Pay attention to the times you use the restroom alone. It doesn't happen often, but every once in awhile the stars and planets align so that conditions are perfect and you actually get 2.5 minutes to sit on the toilet in peace. Remember that feeling, and use it for hope. You will likely get hours of child-free restroom time during your trip.
3. Invest in some super futuristic high-tech video call technology. Like FaceTime or Skype. All joking aside, knowing that you can still see those faces you love so much and listen to them talk incoherently about Minecraft for 27 minutes whenever you find Wi-Fi is reassuring and a great way to get your family fix before you get back to the relaxing.
4. Give your dirty dishes a smug smile and laugh like a Disney villain. It's vacation. The dishes aren't going to be your responsibility. I mean, they might be your responsibility when you get back… but no one can take that blissful dish-free time away from you. No one!
5. Step on a Lego. Seriously. Do it. Hold on to that sharp, eye-splitting, brain-stabbing pain and think of it every time you start to get nervous about leaving. Think, "Yeah, I'll miss them like crazy… but at least I won't be stepping on Legos."
6. Imagine how happy they're going to be when you get home. Alright, alright, alright. I'll be the first one to admit that I use humor as a coping mechanism when I get nervous or emotional, so I'll try to be straight here for a few minutes: Your kids are going to be so happy when you get home. The looks on their faces when you show up will be an incredible payoff, and the perfect cap to a much-needed break.
"You can't pour from an empty cup," and all that jazz.
Here's the thing with taking some time off for yourself: you need it. Not everyone gets the chance to do it, so if you do get the chance, you've got to snap that up like the last brownie at a family reunion. I don't know why, but it's hard to relax when you're a parent. There are always so many things you should be doing… so much time you should be spending with your kids or your spouse. That's not going to change. We all know the parenting guilt starts at conception and basically never stops, so it's important give yourself a little love… and even a little break every once in awhile.