Last weekend was the first time since our baby was born (10 and a half months ago) that my husband and I have been away from the children for longer than a few hours. In fact we went away for a long weekend. We got the train up to Edinburgh, and along the way we threw our three children overboard into the arms of my parents, who took very good care of them for three days and three nights, woo hoo!
If you are married, I hope that you sometimes get chance to get away for a day or longer with your spouse. I know many parents who never even go out for the evening without their children – maybe you find yourself in that category. It might be that you’d love to have some alone time but you don’t have the opportunity – nobody to babysit being the biggest barrier I suppose. However I would like to encourage you to find a way of going out for the evening or longer, to spend some time with your spouse without your children. Five ways it helps us:
1. It helps us put us marriage first. In the busy-ness of life (the day-to-day blur of folding the washing and wiping things down and ‘Did you know it’s parents’ evening?’ and ‘Have you phoned the gas man?’ and ‘What does your mum want for her birthday?’ and ‘Whose turn is it to change the wriggly baby’s nappy?’) it’s easy to focus on the children to the point where they become the priority. This might seem loving at first, but what our kids need is for their parents to love and support each other. Biblically I should prioritise God, then my husband, and then my kids. So having a breather together, with no distractions, is great for our relationship, which is ultimately great for the children, too (good to remember that when feeling guilty for throwing them off a train).
2. It reminds me how lovely the children are. Taking a step back from looking after the children helps me to appreciate how precious they are and to remember their amazing qualities. I often get so bogged down in how hard work it is looking after them, that I forget what a blessing they are. Or I am just so busy doing the practical stuff that I don’t notice how fun they are to be with or how their characters are taking shape. Thinking and talking about them from a distance helps me to repent of this.
3. It reminds me that there’s a whole wide world out there, beyond the stretch of road between my flat and the school gate. My husband works in the real grown-up world, where people have exposable income, read the newspaper and talk about politics. I live in a world of pureed food, finger painting and Igglepiggle. And that’s OK, really, but for many reasons it’s good if I sometimes broaden my perspective. For one thing, it’s probably quite nice for my husband if I am a bit more aware of the world he’s living in. Also, one day my children will be older and it will help if I haven’t forgotten who the Prime Minister is or how to talk to someone who has never heard of baby-led weaning and doesn’t know a Bumbo from a Bugaboo.
4. It gives me time to read my book. Reading is good.
5. It helps me get perspective. We can have long chats about stuff we have been too tired/frazzled to talk about. We might even make some important decisions. Usually not, but it’s a start.
There are many more reasons to spend some time with your spouse, but I’m going to stop at five. I do think sometimes people can feel it’s very selfish to spend time without the children, so I just wanted to encourage you that it’s a really good thing to do. Everyone needs a holiday sometimes, not least mothers. And, in the words of Claire from Modern Family, when you go on a holiday with your children, ‘It’s not a vacation, it’s a business trip.’