As I zipped up my suitcase, the knot in my stomach grew tighter and tighter. Was I forgetting anything? What if they needed me? Should I make my Midwestern kids practice a tsunami drill, just in case?
Leaving your kids while you travel is never easy.
There are lots of logistics to planning a grown-up getaway and many parents skip adult vacations altogether because it’s too overwhelming to think about leaving. But escaping for some time alone or with your spouse is always a brave act of self-care and is a healthy part of parenting.
If you’ve been thinking about a little trip away from your kids, here’s a guide to make sure that the stress of leaving doesn’t keep you from the adventures that await.
Your Guide to Leaving Your Kids While You Travel
Make sure your will is up to date
It’s the worst case scenario but if something where to happen you need to have something in place to let your family know what to do. Make sure you let people know where this document is kept.
Prepare your kids mentally
Talk about your absence ahead of time so your kids have to time adjust and ask questions. Make sure they feel reassured about the plan and address any concerns they have. They might surprise you with the small worry that’s heavy on their minds – like will the babysitter know how to sing my favorite song?
Make a general schedule for your caregivers
Even if grandparents or other family are the ones helping out, take some time to type up a general schedule and some specific details about how your kids typically spend their days. It’s not meant to dictate their time together but if they don’t spend a significant amount of time with your kids, it can be helpful to have your instructions to guide them. Make sure to list any important family rules, espeically if you have older kids who might try and take advantage of a new caregiver. I also like to have details about proceedures like the pick up line at school or bedtime routines so that it’s easier on everyone.
Leave some fun surprises for your kids
It’s fun to tuck special notes under their pillows or leave a envelope per day to open with a short note or knock-knock joke. These little surprises help kids feel like you’re thinking of them and let them focus on the fun part of being away from mom or dad. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just something little to let them know you’re thinking of them. I’ve also left a new movie or game sometimes, to give the kids and their sitter something fun to look forward to.
Stock the fridge
If your kids are staying at your house, make sure to stock the fridge with easy meals and basics for lunch making and snacks. I like freezer meals (homemade or store-bought) that give our caregivers options but don’t have to be used up if they decide to do something different. You could even schedule a grocery delivery if you wanted to make it really simple.
Medical Release Forms
It’s a good idea to leave a simple medical release form that gives your caretaker permission to seek medical treatment if needed. There are sample ones online and you can print it out. Make sure to include your insurance information for your child on the form. We’ve had to send my kids to the doctor with a caregiver more than once and this permission form makes it a little easier. Just be advised that each doctor’s office has a different policy and may need other forms of treatment authorization.
Activate Your Tribe
If you’ve got a strong support network around you, don’t be afraid to activate it when you’re headed out of town. Even if it’s just to be on standby as a back-up plan, it’s ok to let people know you need some help. Most people are more than willing to help out and will appreciate being asked, especially since it means you can reciprocate.
Let Go (without guilt)
Finally, you’ll reach the point where you have to let go. For some parents that’s easier said than done. Remind yourself that your kids are in great hands and that you’re only a phone call away…and then get on the plane and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned a break to relax and be a grown-up, so take advantage of every minute and know that your kids are having a fantastic time without you!
Does the guilt go away?
Yes, yes it does…as you’re sipping your Mai Tai poolside or quietly stroll with your partner along the sidewalk, you’ll feel that knot in your stomach completely unfurl and you’ll wonder why it’s taken so long for you to do this. Plus, you’ll rest assured that you’ve prepped your kids and your caretaker for everything they’ll need while you’re away…even if a tsunami hits Indiana.
What’s your best tip for leaving your kids while you travel? What’s the hardest thing about leaving your kids for a grown-up getaway?
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