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The best thing you can do for your kids: Get out of town (without them)

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Nick and I spent last weekend in Saint Petersburg, Florida for a friend’s wedding. We dropped the kids at my parents’ house on Thursday night and left our house at 5 a.m. Friday morning. We got back at 11 a.m. Sunday. It was the longest we’d been away from our kids together in a long time and it was, in a word, fantastic.

 

Also: I didn’t really miss the kids. Mostly because I knew they didn’t miss me. They were with my parents, who they adore, and my sister, Meghan, who is in town with her fiancé and fiancé's sister, plus my sister, Melissa, and her family were around all weekend (they took Al out to dinner Friday night). In other words, Alex and Nora had a three-ring circus to entertain them and they were in great hands. Hands I knew would feed them well and bathe them and make sure they got to bed at a decent hour, all things that helped me relax. Which I did like champ. And, frankly, we needed the time away from the two of them.

 

Of course it helped that the hotel was great, the city was gorgeous, the weather was perfect and every meal we ate (oysters, shrimp, mahi mahi, etc) was better than the last. And it just felt good to have each other’s undivided attention. The most important relationship in my house is 100 percent the one I have with Nick. If we’re not happy as husband and wife, nothing else really matters. To insure this, we get out together a lot. We go to dinner, we hang out with friends, we’ll even take an afternoon run to Costco (weird, I know, but this is actually fun for us). I interviewed a marriage expert recently who said the most puzzling thing he sees with parents these days is that they think the best thing they can do for their kids is to put them before their spouse. To never leave them with a sitter, to spend every possible moment focusing on the children. When the truth is, the best thing they can do for their kids is to have a happy marriage. To have a relationship—and a life—that exists outside of the parenting world.

 

Nick and I are firm believers in this (just ask our well-paid babysitters). But the entire weekend away was something we hadn’t done in as long as I can remember. And there is nothing quite like having two full days of no diapers, no whining, no fighting, no coaxing anyone to eat, no endless interrogations about anything and everything. The bride and groom are both super laid back, and their vibe rubbed off on everyone who came to town. Both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding didn’t start until 6 p.m., which meant we had a lot of free time to explore the beautiful town.

 

Here are all the ways that getting away with Nick totally rocked:

 

Flying without kids. HEAVEN. As a childless person, I always loved flying, loved perusing the magazine rack, buying a snack, then zoning out in-flight, completely relaxed. Then I had kids and airplanes and airports became a source of great anxiety and stress. Not last weekend. No strollers, no diaper bags, no sack of treats and toys and games that the kids inevitably grow tired of before we even reach cruising altitude. I read Us Weekly and watched Water for Elephants on the way down and watched Crazy, Stupid, Love on the way back. I can’t remember the last time I watched two movies in a weekend let alone in flight. The trip would have been a success with just that….but there’s more!

 

While we were down there, I bought and almost finished a new book—Truth and Consequences, Life Inside the Madoff Family—which is FANTASTIC and written by a friend, Laurie Sandell, who had exclusive access to the family. Seriously, order it now, you will not be disappointed. Though you may be tired because you will stay up way too late trying to squeeze in just one more chapter, as I have done every night since I bought it.

 

Nick and I got to sleep in on Saturday. I’m not a mom who complains about lack of sleep because my kids sleep great and so do I. But there is nothing quite like staying in bed until 10:30. It was, perhaps, the highlight of the weekend.

 

We took long walks along the bay and talked about nonsense. Nick and I really like each other (should be a no-brainer with the person you choose to spend your life with, but, well…) so getting to spend long hours alone together—not parenting, not working, not entertaining or surrounded by friends—is always a good thing. It’s just a thing we don’t get a lot of lately. We stopped into an art fair and bought the kids each a hand-knit hat (neither fit, which would have pissed me off more had it not been for the fact that I had such a great weekend).

 

We ate long lunches both days—with wine, which was perfectly doable because we got to go back to our hotel and nap it off (rather than try to parent through a post-lunch haze). I freaking love lunching and Nick and I are always on the same page in terms of the type of food we want (raw oysters to start? Yes, please!) and just how gluttonous we feel like being.

 

Every time I had to go anywhere, I only had to dress myself. And, once dressed, I didn’t have to worry about snotty noses or sticky hands rubbing up against me.

 

I could go on but now that I’m home and Alex is upstairs running around screaming  (parent-teacher conference day) it’s just depressing me. Of course, when we walked into my parents’ house and the kids came running to hug us, it felt awesome. Going away was great and coming home to our kiddos was great as well. Knowing what a handful my kids are these days (more on that at another time), we brought my parents a nice thank you gift. Partly because we knew they deserved it and partly because we’d like to ask them to watch our “energetic” offspring again. We played with Al and Nora at my parents’ house for a while and then loaded them into the car. Then, as if to remind us just how lucky we were to get out of dodge, the kids started fighting over a stupid plastic toy they found on the back seat, and then the entire ride home and the following 45 minutes were a blur of whining, crying, punching, kicking, time outs and temper tantrums. Nick and I kept exchanging “holy shit is this really happening?” looks. Perhaps it’s time to plan another getaway!

 

So, when was the last time you and yours got away sans kids? Was it for a night (that counts too!) or longer? I highly recommend it (in case you couldn’t tell). Obviously it was easy for us because we could leave the kids with my parents (the other times we’ve gone away, Nick’s parents have flown in to watch them, which is awesome). And this time involved airfare and a hotel, so next time will probably be a roadtrip but seriously, any little bit of time you can sneak away works wonders. What’s your policy on leaving the kids? Ever do it? Plan to do it?

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