Momsense: How to take time away from your children with your partner

By Andrea Howick & Lianne Castelino on June 13, 2013
“Just thinking about what you need to do to get away is the very thing that stops you from going in the first place.”

That quote, from sex therapist Dr. Laurie Betito, probably sums up most of the failed attempts by couples everywhere to plan a vacation away from the kids.

The idea sounds so enticing – let’s take a short jaunt, just the two of us. Then the planning begins. Babysitters need to be booked. Play dates need to be arranged. Food and sleep schedules need to be charted on an Excel spreadsheet. You’re not halfway done detailing every breath your children will take while you’re away – and you haven’t even begun to actually plan the trip. Exhausted, you give up on the entire notion of getting away.

“One of the problems is that couples can lose sight of each other because they don’t spend enough time alone together,” says Dr. Betito, a clinical psychologist and a practising psychotherapist for more than 25 years.

She says parents should not feel guilty about occasionally taking time alone, away from their children. “It makes you a more solid couple which is good for the kids,” she says.

The key, Dr. Betito says, is having strategies in place both before you leave and for while you’re away. Here are some tips:

1. Simplify

Don’t over analyze every moment the child will live in your absence. Make a simple plan for the sitter and book or suggest one activity a day to help things run smoothly. You can also cook ahead, if you have time before you leave. But Dr. Betito says to ask yourself: “Is it the end of the world if they eat some junk food / watch more TV / don’t wash their hands while I’m away?”

2. Plan a scavenger hunt

This is something Dr. Betito did with her own children when they were little. Hide dollar store items throughout the house before you leave. Then each time you call home from your trip, give a clue as to where to fi nd the treasures. This ensures long-distance chats will be tear-free. You still get to call home and see how things are going.

3. Forget the exotic

The important thing is that you and your spouse are getting some quality time together. A big vacation is not always feasible, but you can take a vacation in your own city. Book a downtown hotel or B&B and act like tourists … even for 24 hours.

4. Fly solo

Not everyone has access to childcare – a relative close by or a babysitter competent enough to take on all the household logistics for an extended period. But if you really need the break, you and your spouse can take turns holding down the fort while the other gets time away. Even just one rested, refreshed partner can get sparks flying.

5. Enjoy the break

You have taken all these steps to ensure a smooth getaway, so don’t obsess over what’s going on in your absence. The whole point is to do the things you can’t do with the kids around. If you can’t sleep in (many parents have lost the ability!) at least laze in bed, even if you have to force yourself. And remember to spend time being intimate with each other while on a break from parenting. It’s worth it!

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

By Andrea Howick & Lianne Castelino| June 13, 2013

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