Coping on my first night away, by Sarah Kearns
- Planning is the key to a stress-free night away from your kids
- You will probably have a harder time dealing with it than your kids will
- A happy mum means happy kids
Written by Sarah Kearns
It was the longest I’d ever been away from my 3 kids. It was just 3 nights, but it seemed like an eternity.
My partner Brad and I were taking a trip to celebrate his 30th birthday. An idyllic cruise. A chance to get away from it all, just the 2 of us. We were leaving the kids with my mum and sailing off for a few days of rest, relaxation and quality time together. Great in theory, right? But when you have 3 kids aged from 13 months to 6 years old, ‘getting away’ is easier said than done. From the moment we booked the tickets, my mind filled up with reasons not to go.
Facing my doubts
All 3 of my kids were of different ages, so they each had different needs. For the oldest, Knox (6), it was the school run – lunches, uniforms, homework. Finn (3), my middle child, had separation anxiety. And Teddy, at only 13 months and breastfeeding every 5 minutes, had his own demands.
I kept telling myself that there was no way this could work. How could I get on a boat, sail off and leave my mum to take care of my kids? I shared my hesitation on my Instagram Stories, letting my followers know that I wasn’t sure I should go. But the encouragement flooded in: “You need to go. It’s good for you.”
They were right, of course. At the heart of it, I realised I was stressed because I was worried about how the kids would react. It’s easy to convince yourself that they need you. That they can’t be without you. They need you to breastfeed, to put them to sleep. While we make ourselves the centre of our kids’ world (and we are), they’re actually very capable little people. They’re incredibly flexible and resilient. We don’t give them enough credit. In the end, they weren’t stressed at all.
Taking it step by step
In the weeks before the trip, I included the kids in the preparations. I’d tell the boys we had 5, 4, 3, 2, one ‘mummy’ days and then 3 days with Nan. As each day passed, we would cross it off. When it got to departure day, even Finn was excited. That knowledge definitely helped me get on the boat.
Teddy, only a little over one, couldn’t understand that we were leaving, of course. To ease him into it, we made sure he had lots of time with Nan in the lead-up. I would leave him with my mum for blocks of time, including around nap time, so she’d have the chance to put him down to sleep. We also made sure they were together when he wanted to feed so he’d get used to taking the bottle. He quickly became happy to eat and fall asleep in Nan’s arms. And as I discovered, it was only when I was there that he would get upset.
When you have multiple children, your brain just naturally works out how everything fits together. For Mum, I literally wrote down everything in a list. Mum’s a great mum, but I felt better knowing that I’d communicated to her that Knox needed the right socks with those shoes. That it was a formal day, not a sports day. That his homework needed to be done. And I put lunch orders in before I left. Giving my mum one less thing to worry about gave me one less thing to worry about too.
Learning to let go, trust and relax
As it turned out, I was the only one who was worried. As I look back, all 3 kids were just, “Bye, mum.” They were totally happy – even excited. When I dropped them off at Mum’s, I’m sure they would have cracked an ice block open before I’d even turned the corner.
At first, on the trip, I was totally fine during the day. But once it got to night time, I started to get really anxious. Thoughts crossed my mind: Mum won’t be able to settle Teddy. He won’t go to sleep. He’s only 13 months, so he’s going to think I’ve just dropped off the face of the Earth! The first morning I woke up, I was straight on the phone to Mum. I wanted to know how he was, whether he was OK. Calmly, she replied: “I‘ve just sent you a photo of him eating breakfast. He’s very happy.”
After the first night, I relaxed and truly enjoyed the rest of the trip. Brad and I went out the next night, had a couple of drinks and danced. We ate lunch at the front of the boat, looking across to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, agreeing that this was amazing. We needed it. It was beautiful to reconnect and have a bit of ‘us’ time. And I knew I could enjoy it, knowing my kids, and my mum, were all okay.
Taking time for yourself
The first night apart was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was worth it. Taking the time was a weight off my shoulders. It was a chance to take a deep breath and just be me again – a person enjoying the company of someone I’ve chosen to spend my life with.
Everyone deserves a day off. And when your cup is full again, you become a better mum. Kids are very sensitive to our emotional states. If mum’s not well, nobody’s well. If mum’s not happy, nobody’s happy. It has a flow-on effect. If you’re struggling, you’re not going to be able to give them everything that you want to. A happy mum means happy kids. It’s essential that we mums put ourselves first sometimes.