When I started my own online business with an affiliate company, I did not realize how often the opportunity to travel would come up. The first company I paired up with had me traveling twice a year to conventions to network and learn tips and strategies from other partners to grow my own customer base, and to learn about upcoming products. This company ultimately didn't match with my value system, and I dropped them for another company that was a better fit. This company not only had me traveling for leadership retreats and yearly company conventions, but offered the opportunity to earn trips to tropical places! At the peak of my career so far with them, I found myself traveling 3-4x a year for company stuff, plus a trip or two with just my spouse for connection and needed R&R, PLUS family vacations twice a year. I'm getting out of my house and on the road just about every other month at this point and I actually like it.
With all of these fun opportunities I've chosen, the need to leave my children with a caregiver for 1,2, and even 5 days and nights has come with it.
When I realized that I really needed to go on these trips for personal growth, I knew I needed a plan for my kids. Why were these trips needed? I needed to see the companies up close. I wanted to feel out the culture and gain a network of people doing the same things as I was for support and validation. I wanted to LEARN more, so I could DO more. There is also a lot of evidence showing that destination events or vacations away offer a benefit to our minds and bodies that nothing else can quite take the place of when you are looking to focus your mind and really change something in your life.
But leave my babies???? What if...... they had trauma while I was away??? What if.......... what if...... what if???
Friend. I hear you. I KNOW the thoughts. We LOVE our kids So much. We've created daily systems for our mutual survival and even joy. :) We know their favorite foods. We know how to calm them. We understand their "tells", those little signs when they need a hug and when they REALLY do need to have boundaries re-enforced.
Here is the TRUTH: You have control over finding a care provider that will love them and care for them almost as much as you do. There are wonderful humans out there who want you to be able to get away and focus on something that means a lot to you. There are even some family members who love your kids almost as much as you do, who would love the chance to connect with your kids on this personal level and serve YOU in this way. Your kids won't have trauma being left with a caregiver who loves and intentionally cares for them while you are away. Your kids won't resent you or experience serious life altering set backs if you are away for a few days. Of course---------> there are exceptions. If your child is one of these, who has very high needs in certain emotional areas you obviously will have greater demands to find a caregiver. But I still believe it is possible for you.
One of the things I realized during the first few times I was away from our first little girl was that I was dwelling on scenarios that were really unlikely based on my chosen caregiver. What if she falls? What if she gets super sick? What if she doesn't sleep well? What if she doesn't eat well and feels hungry all the time? What if they caregiver doesn't recognize her hunger signs and she is super grumpy for them? What if they hate me for asking them to watch her for so long? What if......................... x y & z.
Friend. If you are are careful in your choice of caregiver, these scenarios, even if they happen, will be resolved in a short time. Sooner or later the caregiver will offer food. And if they are intentional with their care, they'll notice little signs of behavior change related to food and will learn to watch more closely on the eating times. :) And what if she falls or gets sick? Friend. If the caregiver loves your child, they will help them just like you would. Probably even more so because it isn't their norm. Trust me. The child will be well cared for if you've done your job in seeking out a care giver that will love your child.
Here are my top 5 things I ask about a potential child care giver for overnight trips:
Is this person experienced with kids of all ages?
How physically and emotionally healthy is this person? Can they hold my child? Can they cook a meal? Can they safely buckle my child in the carseat? Can they help bath my child? What kinds of foods will this person feed my child? What do they spend most of their days doing?
Is this person trustworthy? If they are very new to me, I will ask for 2 references, NOT family. I think over past experiences with this person and usually can decide with ease if this person will listen to what I ask and listen to the needs of my child with earnest intentions to care with integrity.
Does this person have a connection with my child? If I need to, I will ask the caregiver to come over for a few hours, over a few days to connect with my children and see how our home feels and runs.
Do I know that this person LOVES my children, respects my husband and I and how we parent, and will do their BEST for them while we are gone?
Here are my 5 things that I do to PREPARE my child for when I will be gone:
I talk about my trip. I always let them know exactly what is happening, regardless of age. I am not sure how much or how little they take in and understand at each age, so I just put it all out there. However, I've learned to start talking to them about it only the DAY before if they are under the age of 5, or else they get really worried about it and wonder when I'm leaving every minute. The concept of time isn't solidified in their minds at this age. Over the age of 5-6 I will talk about a longer trip (2+ days) a few days before. And for extended trips 5+ days, I will talk about it for about a week before we go so they can visualize and be emotionally prepared.
I talk about the caregiver, in the same time frames as before according to age and length of trip. If it's a new caregiver they've never had before, in that week before the long trip I'll have the caregiver come over a few times so they can make a connection to my kids.
I make a packing list for them if they are staying at someone else's home, and they help me pack their bags and check everything off the list. This has become so important, as I not only help them see what is necessary for them physically, but I get to see what is necessary for them emotionally. They often suggest items to bring that I hadn't thought of. The teddy, the doll, the special blankie or photo by their bed, etc. We talk through that they'll have what they need.
I type up a "daily schedule" for them to take to the caregivers, or post on our refrigerator, and they go over it with me, and more often than I'd like to admit, they point things out that I forgot. This daily schedule includes when they wake up, when they usually eat with 3-4 of their favorite meal options listed for reference, when they nap or have quiet time, when they go to school, what they need to take, when we start evening routines and what that includes, and any medications, and extra curricular activities. I always give the caregiver dominion over the schedule. I mean, when I'm gone I can't control that anyway. I let them know what we'd prefer, but let them know that we understand that whatever happens is best. If the caregiver is coming to my home for the duration of our trip, I have a meal plan on the fridge and make sure to shop for that meal plan so that the caregiver doesn't have to come up with food ideas or wonder what to make or how. I've even premade some of the food so it was just a heat up kind of thing.
I make an emergency envelope with their health insurance info, papers with my signature giving permission for the caregiver to act in my behalf in case of emergency, and some cash (usually just $50) for random stuff that may come up that we forgot or can't foresee like a medical copay, or diapers or whatever. I show this to my child so that they know that if something happens, they will be cared for. I find this is also useful to have my kids know where this info is in case the caregiver forgot about it in a time of crisis. I seal it, so I know if it was tampered with and to double check it before the caregiver goes home or we pick up our kids. Honestly though, we haven't ever had this envelope's seal broken.
I feel like once I've done these two lists, the kids, myself and the caregiver feel more than equipped to have a successful time and I feel at peace saying my good-byes and enjoying my trip.
I usually tell the caregiver that we may call once a day, but if we don't, not to stress on it or remind the kids about it. In fact, most of the time we don't call as it seemed to upset our kids when they were younger to see us and want us. Whereas when we just left and came back, it seemed like they had a more peaceful time, and a few caregivers we've had care for our kids multiple times agreed that it was easier when we didn't call. Now that the older ones have phones, we can communicate on trips more, but really, we don't need to and often we truly enjoy feeling totally focused on the purpose of the trip.
What ages have I left my kids?
The youngest was 3.5 months. It was my daughter who was bottle fed breast milk, and it was only 1 night and I had pre-pumped enough milk for her and I left her with my mother who I trust easily and who was more than capable. We dropped my baby and her older sister off on our way to a leadership training as my mom doesn't live near us. We haven't ever left one of our babies younger than a year for more than 1 night as a couple. Whereas, I have left them with my husband and felt totally find with that. My husband is a very present and intentional father and cares for the kids just as well as I do.
Who do you usually find to help with the kids?
Fortunately we have family close (within 3 hours drive) that we trust and respect. Mine and my husband's parents have been willing to care for our kids multiple times, as have a few of my sisters who live near by. But we haven't always left on trips when it worked with family members' schedules, and have had to learn to look to our community to find a suitable match. For extended trips away, I've felt my kids do better in our own house/sleeping in their own beds, so I've looked first for young women (age 17-20+) in my church family who live nearby who have a car, who I know their parents and they can easily just come stay the night and make simple meals and take kids to school etc. I've also "farmed out" my kids to several neighbors/friends who's kids are friends with my kids. This means that my kids were separated into different homes for 3-4 days or for the duration of our trip. This is my least favorite way to do it as there is so much more leg work involved on lists and communicating what the plan is for departure, activity needs and when we'll be back, how to connect with us, but it does work. My friend, make friends in your communities so this is an option for you! There are SO many good people out there who would love to get to know you and love your family and would love to serve you in this way.
Have you ever had a bad experience?
We haven't ever had a truly "bad" experience. "Bad" in my mind means one of our kids was ill treated, molested, or lost or neglected in someway. "Bad" in my mind means my kids experienced lifestyle habits that are damaging like drugs, alcohol use, pornography viewing, only eating or being offered junk foods as nutrition sources, or being emotionally abused. We've only ever had minor instances where the kids did get sick while we were gone, and they did need constant care and monitoring which was hard for the caregiver and we were worried but unfortunately out of the country and really didn't have an options. We had a caregiver once who didn't follow any of my instructions (claimed they never saw them) on medications that were needed which resulted in a lapse of health for one of my kids that was recovering from a hard illness, but it wasn't "life and death" so we survived it.
What are the benefits of leaving your kids? Why go on so many trips without them?
I've known since my first child that for me personally I need regular, scheduled time away from motherhood demands to regroup with myself and rejuvenate my mind and soul. Motherhood is hard for me. As much as I love it, and aspire to be a great mom and believe with all my heart that I was born to have a family and be a mom- It is hard for me. I've had to do parenting classes, take relationship workshops, learn about emotional health, and more to feel Joy & peace in motherhood. As I've gotten older, I've learned through reading, therapy, life coaching, and more personal experience and communicating with other moms and dads that it isn't just ME that has a real need to go to destinations to be able to focus on important things, rejuvenate my resolve on certain goals, and to reconnect to myself and my spouse. I've learned there are definitely benefits to not only traveling to see new things and meet new people, but benefits to quiet time to really think only about ONE thing at a time. When you are a mom with multiple kids, your brain is constantly thinking about all the emotional needs, school schedules, upcoming appointments, in conjunction with your own needs, goals and schedule. Our brains do NOT multitask. That is a myth that causes our selves to believe that we can "do it all" but we cannot. The mind can move from one thought to another super fast, but we cannot actually do more than one thing at a time and the more we force our brain to bring So many things to the surface over and over we experience more anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, body aches, and overall unwellness. We can't be our best selves for our spouse OR our kids if we don't take time away. BUT---- if we take regular time away to calm it all down, refocus on what REALLY matters, get some sleep, let the emotions heal, have some FUN, and boost up our happiness it literally creates a reservoir to pull from when we go back to our demanding schedules raising children.
How many trips away do you plan and how often?
As of the time of writing this, we schedule one long trip away every YEAR as a couple, and I schedule time away by myself every 3-4 months for a few days and I encourage my hubby to do the same. We schedule two long trips as a family twice a year, and short getaways every 2-3 months as a family. Since we have been doing this particular scheduling for 3-4 years now, our marriage has bloomed to a state we didn't know was possible, our family loves our trips and have built super close relationships, and I feel an overall family love and spirit of peace and strength that I always hoped my family would have! Before this particular schedule was in place our travel was sporadic and really didn't benefit us as it does now. We were traveling out of reaction (only for special family events like weddings, or because we "had" to for work stuff) instead of intention. The effect was honestly more than anything else, stressful taking time out of our days that we felt wasn't something we wanted, but were expected to do. You can make the point that if we changed our mindset about the travel it could have benefitted, and you are right. But until 5 years ago when we started understanding mindset training and prioritizing personal development we simply didn't know how to do that, to my personal regret. Happily, we have shifted mindset on those reactionary travels, and quite enjoy them now and have learned to see the potential opportunity that exists in them. :)
I hope that this post helps you see that you CAN get away without the kids, and that it IS worth it for your health as a busy mom doing amazing things in the world!
All my love and belief in your goals and intentions-
PS: If you are a mom who would love to learn how to work from home and earn income to be able to go on trips and would love to learn how to schedule it all---- I invite you to consider getting on my waiting list for my new online business course designed specifically for moms "Business Basics for Online Mompreneurs"! EMAIL ME now and get on my list. EMAIL:
:) We launch in Feb 2020!