Something everyone has an opinion on is mothering.
How to do it right, how to do it wrong and what you could be doing better.
Traveling with kids is seen to be acceptable. But what about traveling without your kids?
With the affordability of flights better than ever, our generation is traveling more than previous generations.
Having spent 2015 traveling the world with my three children (read more here), the benefits were bigger than I could have ever imagined. And while my two eldest children (aged 11 and almost 14) now want to settle and not travel for a bit, I still have the urge to travel some more.
As I contemplated the thought of travelling without children, I was in two minds. Am I being a bad parent, abandoning them? Or am I doing something wonderful — not only for myself, but leading by example, teaching my kids that it's important to care for yourself, as well as to follow what you desire in life?
Before we traveled last year, I had initial reservations about taking my kids out of school for a year. But I went with my intuition and we had such an incredible time. Our lives will never be the same, and the children's education was not impacted in any way whatsoever.
Could solo mama travel be a great thing too?
I already know I will miss my kids like crazy, but there's no growth without discomfort, and I'm all for growth.
It turns out I am far from alone with my travel aspirations. Mothers have been traveling solo for some time.
Social media has it's pros and cons. A huge pro for me is I have been able to access communities of worldschooling families, solo female travellers, mothers who travel and more. These women are so inspiring, and they supercharge my passion to do what my heart has been calling out for all my life.
After all, when you consider:
- Some working mothers have to travel for work
- Some fathers have to travel for work
- It seems socially acceptible for a father to have a ‘boys weekend', or head off fishing or camping, but as soon as a mother wants to go away, it seems more highly controversial
- In families where the parents have separated, whoever doesn't have the kids is free to do what they want anyway
Mothers Who Travel Without Children – Or Partners!
Patricia is a 26 year old mother living in Minnesota. She says, “He [my son] is my world! But it's healthy for both him and I to have some time apart. I think it's just as important for children as it is adults.”
Patricia has been on some short, memorable trips without her 17 month old son. Two of her favourites include eating at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and spending three days in Hawaii with her sister.
Deanna is a single mother who lives in Washington, and has been solo travelling since her son was two years old (now 6.5). She usually travels for one to two weeks at a time, and especially enjoys getting away from the bustle of city life, while being surrounded by desert sun and a handful of artists and unique people.
Deanna says, “Taking some time away provides a great refresh from all aspects of daily life, not just children. Additionally, you're able to have new experiences you can take home to share with your children, friends, and family!”
Missing The Kids When Traveling Without Them
Many mothers (including one I know quite intimately *cough*) fear they will miss their children while they are gone. For some, this may put them off travelling entirely. For others, they still head off, only be upset initially before having an amazing time. But for those who are seasoned travellers, they tend to adjust just fine.
Patricia says, “I did not necessarily ‘miss' my son during these times. Of course I love being around him, and it would have possibly been harder if it were a longer time frame. But it was so short lived that I soaked in every ounce of ME time! I am married to the most wonderful man who has no problems or hesitations about caring for our son on his own!”
Deanna finds she doesn't pine for her son either. “Every now and again I would see or experience something I felt he would enjoy, or would like to have a photo with him, but overall it's very easy for me to step away. I'm a natural introvert, so the silence is a great (and necessary) reset for me”.
How Long Should You Travel Without Kids?
One of the factors you may be wondering about is the duration of travel – how long is too long to travel without children?
Patricia says, “I think the amount of time mothers should travel is entirely dependent on their unique situations and reason for travel. How long someone might need to refuel themselves will vary. For me, three days is perfect. I am absolutely fine to do a week or two, but the opportunity and need have not yet presented themselves to me”.
Patricia's pros and cons for traveling on her own include:
- Being able to refuel/recharge
- Uninterrupted sleep
- Peeing alone
- Not adhering to particular sleeping schedules
- Not having to come in contact with another human's poop
- Enjoying more adult venues
- Allowing my son to be more independent and trusting of others
- Allowing family or my husband (whoever can watch him) real quality and bonding time
- Missing those cute smiles
- Not feeling needed
- Feeling lonely or bored
- Thinking of all of the things you'd rather be doing with them
- Letting haters think you are making a mistake
Dealing With Negative Responses
It's likely mothers who choose to travel without their children will come across an individual or two who will raise an eyebrow, think they're parenting wrong or being selfish.
Deanna says she has received many negative reactions, for example, people telling her she should, “Just focus on being a mother”, or tell her she's “being selfish”, and “shouldn't pawn her son off on others just to travel”.
Patricia, on the other hand, hasn't had to deal with much negativity.
“I've been fortunate enough to not receive much backlash from others. I do involve my son in so much of my life, but I come across some people who make comments like, “That must be nice” or “Man I wish I could just take off whenever I wanted” or “I could NEVER leave my child!” My advice is to listen to your instincts. Forget what others are saying about your adventures and listen to what your heart tells you. Then follow it! You MUST take of yourself before you can truly take care of others.”
The benefits of traveling without kids are huge, and outweigh someone else's opinion or blueprint of how everyone should live. They include:
- The act of self love. This has to be the biggest reason to go travel (or do whatever your bliss might be). We all need it, yet so many of us deny it to ourselves and wonder why we feel so exhausted, resentful, anxious and depressed. The more we give to ourselves, the more we can give to others.
- Being able to connect with ourselves.
- Being able to connect with other family members, friends or even our partner if we travel with them too.
- It gives your partner the chance to step into your role if you're a stay/work from home mother.
- Knowing that you CAN leave your children to a capable carer and have a great time (and need to do it more often!).
- Because you don't have to miss out on what you love. Don't wait until the kids are 18. Each day in life is a gift, and sadly, if we delay things, they may never happen. You are so much more than “mum”.
- Modelling self care and a sense of adventure to your children.
Should Mothers Go Travel On Their Own?
So, should mothers head off and take a trip without kids from time to time?
Travel isn't for everyone, but for those who dream of travel, it's definitely worth making it happen.
“If they're able to, they ABSOLUTELY should travel without children! I know for me personally, it makes me a better mother. Stepping away for a moment hits the recharge button,” says Patricia.
She adds, “I will be honest in saying I love to travel with my son more though. There's something so special about sharing precious moments with him. Also he's so well seasoned – he's been on 8 round trip flights at 17 months old and has YET to have a temper tantrum on a flight (which I'm sure will happen tomorrow as the two of us take off for Alaska).
Deanna says, “Mothers who are interested in traveling without their children to simply go for it. If they've never taken a trip without their children and are unsure how they'll feel – start small! Try a “staycation” in the same or nearby city, or perhaps a weekend trip to a destination easy to drive to.
I encourage whatever type of travel is most desired. If you're a mother who is lusting for sun and fancy cocktails, it's okay to getaway to Hawaii and relax – on your own! If you need a romantic recharge with your partner – do it! Or perhaps there's an exotic location you've been wanting to check out, and you want to party in Thailand. Being a mother does not mean you suddenly no longer get to have adult privileges. It just means you have to be more careful about your health and finances while on the road, and to ensure your child is with someone safe while you travel.”
If you have a small baby and are breastfeeding, you might want to wait until your baby is a little older, to protect the breastfeeding relationship. Accidentally weaning due to your trip might leave you feeling awful for your decision.
It's time to to banish the stigma that mothers must be confined to the role of caretaker of others, until her children are adults. Depression and anxiety rates are sky high. Until we give ourselves permission to regularly replenish our cup with what we love doing for ourselves most in life, we'll continue to feel unfulfilled and exhausted.
There's no right or wrong. There's simply what you would do and what you wouldn't do. One person's blueprint or way of doing things isn't the way the whole world should do it. Each day is a gift. We simply don't know if we're going to be here tomorrow. So today should be a day fully lived – not a day where you're burnt out, miserable and unhappy.
How do you want your children to remember you?
Recommended reading: find out what happened when I went on my very first solo trip to Lomani Island – an small, adults only resort in Fiji – 5 Things I Learned When I Took A Holiday Alone – Without Kids.