It had been two years since my last real vacation. An eternity in my book. No wonder I felt tired! Or was that my two year old? While too much time had passed between my Anguillan piña colada and my present holiday (1054 days to be exact), I guess this gap in my travel timeline was normal under the circumstances. These circumstances being parenthood.
For many new moms, I know the first trip without kids can be anxiety producing so romantic getaways are often put on hold for when the babies are older (hopefully before the last child moves out). I understand and appreciate why this might be the case, but I’m not this mom. I have never worried about leaving my son for an extended period of time.
This isn’t because I’m not attached to him and he to me. Rather, I’m sure my comfort level with saying farewell stems from my firsthand knowledge that children don’t suffer and generally have a good time even when they have to say au revoir to mom and dad for a short (or long) while. I shuttled between my divorced parents’ homes in California and Illinois since the beginning of time and turned out fine and scar free despite hundreds of goodbye hugs, so my son surely could survive five days without his beloved mama. Of course, any separation anxiety for both of us was eased by Grandma acting as babysitter during my time away. (Full disclosure: I’m very aware that familial help makes traveling sans kiddo that much easier and worry free.)
So, boarding a plane to Hawaii to join my husband for a business trip for five days didn’t give me pause. And even if the final destination weren’t Waikiki, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash about leaving home for a workweek’s worth of uninterrupted me time. My bags were packed before I was asked to go.
Because this was not only my first vacation away from home without my child but also because it was my first trip in forever where I wasn’t accountable to anyone—not even my husband who was occupied with the business-y things business men do—I had grand visions of how I would spend my free time. My daydreams went something like this: sleep, roll over and sleep some more, wake up and lay in bed, fall back asleep, finally join the world to eat some pineapple, head to the pool or beach, sit under a palm tree and read a book, order a drink with an umbrella or fruit wedge, get wet, read some more, eventually shower and get dressed, eat dinner, go to bed, wash, rinse, repeat. Boring by all accounts, but just what I needed.
And guess, what? My Hawaiian vacay was exactly that, with a few surprises.
First, no one warned me that a mother’s body with its altered circadian rhythms plays cruel tricks and forces her awake at 5:30 AM even when her early riser is 3,000 miles away in a different time zone. This felt so unfair since uninterrupted shuteye is what I craved and needed most. Eventually I went back to sleep, but I never slept past 8:00 AM and it took days (sadly) to naturally sleep through the night. And blame it on Murphy’s Law, but the night I finally fell into a deep, long-lasting slumber my husband’s client called our hotel room before 6:00 AM! In the end, I only enjoyed two nights of good sleep. However, I shouldn’t complain when I’m in paradise (maybe it’s okay to whine just a little?).
Second, never in a million years did I think that I’d tire of the solitude. I’ve survived life as an only child, yet the constant peace and quiet wasn’t music to my ears. By the third day of my trip, I surprisingly felt lonely—not in a homesick way, but in a manner where I missed having a companion to share things with even if this connection proved nothing more than sitting silently next to each other in chaise lounges and occasionally commenting on the amped surfers. Being away from my son and husband made me realize how fulfilling all the crazy in my life actually can be. Who knew I thrived on the go-go-go lifestyle of a toddler? I didn’t.
Finally, a to-die-for view of the Pacific, palm trees, and Diamondhead from the vantage point of my hammock wasn’t enough to turn off my mommy thinking cap and lull me into a permanent dream state. Instead, I constantly evaluated every aspect of the vacation from the hotel amenities to the beach’s undertow to the nearby restaurants through my mommy lens. As I enjoyed my days, I always kept a running mental list if it was a kid-friendly spot that my son would love. There is a wading pool and waterslide; my son would love these. The ocean is so calm we could safely take him out in a life jacket unlike the rough surf at home. Ah, yes, they offer hotel babysitting, coconut painting, and ukulele lessons. By the end of my very first vacation as a supposedly carefree adult, I was already planning to bring our son on my husband’s next business trip back to the island. Go figure.
While my first vacation without my son threw me a few physical and emotional curve balls, I can’t wait for my next opportunity to travel solo. Why? Because I not only get to enjoy flying first class (thanks to a free airline upgrade), paddle boarding on a moment’s notice, mai tais for lunch, but also because I’m reminded that, even if there are dishes in the sink and a few sleepless nights, my own little slice of heaven waits at home.
Sarah enjoys sharing the West Coast way of life—sun, sand, and a sense of balance—with her husband and toddler son, the Little Dude. Formerly a lawyer by day and aspiring creative type by night, Sarah now practices the art of motherhood, ongoing interior design, writing and editing, and Bravo TV watching from her home in Los Angeles, CA. When she’s not cooking asparagus for her son (he eats it by the bunch),Sarah loves to grab lunch at LACMA, search for the perfect French bakery, bliss out at yoga, and drink the occasional mojito. You can also findSarah musing on motherhood at her blog Salt & Nectar and on Facebook and Twitter.