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March 10, 2006

I'll Have a Piña Colada with a Splash of Guilt

EcardescapeplanWhen we decided to leave our 7-month-old daughter with Grandma for a few days last week we got a few sideways glances from people. "How can you leave your daughter at such a young age?  Aren't you going to worry about her? What if she forgets you?  I could never leave my child at that age."  They might as well have been saying, "You're a bad parent, and your daughter will resent you and take drugs and club baby seals for pleasure and put you in a nursing home and unplug your respirator someday." My response? "Mind your own god damn business."  And after that?  "Everyone needs a break sometime, it's OK to admit it, and probably healthy to act on it."

Let me first mention that most people were very supportive, and even jealous.  We also have the advantage of a local grandparent who we completely trust.  If our child-care options ran out after the Babysitter Bandit and the goth kids down the street, I'd think twice about jetting off to Jamaica for a few days, too.  But most of the people who made comments were the same people who won't bring their garbage to the curb without dragging the Pack 'n' Play with them.  We were invariably criticized by friends who timed their baby's nap schedules with the precision of a NASA mission, or who panicked when their toddler wobbled to within 50 yards of open water without water wings.  These are the people who need a vacation far more than we do, but could never enjoy it because they can't let go.  If I were a betting man (and occasionally I am) I'd say that their kids have a slightly better chance of growing into the Menendez brothers than others.

You know what else?  I didn't feel guilty leaving her behind.  I did feel guilty about not feeling guilty, and we would occasionally asked ourselves between mai tais if there were something wrong with us for not missing her more.  But like any time you spend too much time with someone you inevitably get a little tired of seeing them.  You still love them and care about them, but a little time to yourself feels great and renews your internal well-being.  Sure it's selfish, but it reminds me of what they tell you on airplanes just before your flight leaves:

"In the event of a loss in cabin-pressure, an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling.  Place it over your head an breathe deeply.  Make sure your own mask is secure before assisting others."

So if you're thinking about going away, but are having a hard time deciding if you should bring the kids or not, don't let your guilt hold you back.  Take them because you want them there, not because you feel like you need them there.  If you plan well--and relax--then everyone will be better for it. 



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