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There's Nothing Wrong With Leaving Your Family Once a Year

Photograph by Twenty20

Sometimes as parents, we need a hard reset. I can tell I need one when I start groaning that every time I sit down to relax, someone announces, "I’m hungry!" Or my life starts to feel like a perpetual Groundhog Day of waking up at 6 in the morning and feeding people. Or my purpose seems to be chiseled down to the busy, thankless work of tending to the endless laundry and dishes, and nagging the kids to eat and get dressed and brush their teeth.

To give myself something to live for in the dreary depths of winter when our whole family suffers from cabin fever, every year for the last few years, I’ve planned a spring weekend getaway—to get away from my family. This year, a close friend and I spent the weekend in an Airbnb rental a few hours away on the Maine coast.

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When I got to our home for the weekend, I was struck by the simplicity of my surroundings and by its tidy, streamlined charm. It provided a stark contrast between our family home, which is, in this thick season of child-rearing, perpetually clogged with toys, paper and laundry pileups.

The feeling of open space wasn’t just contained to the apartment we rented. By Saturday morning, I could feel myself uncoil. My body relaxed as I realized the only one whose needs I’d have to take care of that weekend were my own.

The only one who’d wake me up would be my own bladder.

The only person I needed to worry about feeding? Me.

For an entire weekend, I sipped coffee while lingering in my pajamas for the morning. I caught up with my friend over delicious Thai food. I wrote. Stretched out on the couch, I read an entire novel from start to finish.

An. Entire. Book.

The sheer demands of parenting can threaten to erase our own desires, our dreams, our depth—the person we used to be.

But the point of my annual weekend away isn’t about what I accomplished or even how much I relaxed. It’s about remembering that there was a version of me that existed before my kids were born. That version devours books, dreams about revisiting Spain, and takes long, winding walks. She loves road trips and pajama days. She eats snacks in bed and goes to concerts. An older version of her will exist when my kids are grown.

While mothering reshapes us and matures us, while it stretches the muscles of our hearts and our patience, the sheer demands of parenting can also threaten to erase our own desires, our dreams, our depth—the person we used to be. By taking a weekend away from my husband and kids, I get reunited with myself.

And, away from the trenches, I have the space to realize how much I love my life and how lucky I am to have two healthy kids, a loving husband and a career I adore.

I have a chance to miss my kids.

And they have a chance to miss me.

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When I return, they tackle me with hugs and exclamations of “MAMA!” We huddle together like puppies. I take in their smell, the way their hands feel in mine.

I come back more present. I soak in my kids’ sweet faces, amazed by how fast they are growing, how big they are getting. I drink them in, delighted by my son’s unstoppable energy and the sweetness of my daughter’s singsong voice.

All that space I created over the weekend? It’s overflowing with love.

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