Why I’m afraid to tell you where we’re going on vacation

Florence, Italy at sunset (via romanticplaces.tumblr.com)

On September 19, Chris and I are going to Italy. Without our kids. And we’re going for ten days.

There, I said it. I’ve been so afraid to tell you and there are a lot of reasons:

One, I’m afraid you’ll judge me for spending money on a trip like this. (Or even having the money to go on a trip like this.) If your upbringing was anything like my husband’s, you’ll think I’m ridiculous. Why in the world would I judge you for spending money to go to one of the most beautiful places on earth?

If you’re from my world, your family only went on vacation to the mountains to camp in tents or drove in the minivan to visit family in California once every four years. If you’re like me, the only people you ever knew who went around the world for vacation (Not a mission trip!) were the ones who lived in uber-large houses and wore Ralph Lauren and played tennis and you couldn’t help but understand your separation from them. If you’re like me, you trained yourself just fine in your prejudice against the ones with money…

I don’t want you to think I’m one of them.

What does that mean? What does it mean to be “one of them”? I want to tell you how Chris and I have shared one car for the past nine years: how I’ve dropped him off at work, day after day, through every kind of job, or picked him up from the train station in the rain. Or about the early years when “our car” was my red, two door Mitsubishi Mirage with only one working door and a permanently opened sunroof with Plexiglas duct tapped to the top during Syracuse winter. I want to say how hard it sometimes is to strap the kids in at 6 o’clock pm to drive to the office when I really want to be making dinner so every one can get to bed on time. I want to say that we’ve sacrificed in this way so that we can afford to do something extravagant every once in a while.

But the truth is, my neighbors down the street (from our old house) share one car too and they’re not in a place where they can be extravagant. The truth is we still have so much more than most people in the world, by far. Choosing to spend money on this trip is a choice. It means we’re not spending it on something else. Is there something better? Should I be giving that money away? I don’t know. That tension for me is still unresolved. But I know I believe in beauty and art and feasting. And I believe in experiencing those things with my husband.

Another reason I’m afraid to tell you? This trip is vanity. It’s my own entertainment. My own time with my husband. We’re going to see beautiful things, taste delicious foods, tour vineyards, experience the culture. We’re going to meet up with friends we love and laugh and drink coffee slow and wear cute shoes and have long, uninterrupted conversations.

I can’t wait to have this time with my husband. I can’t wait to laugh with our friends, who share our exact same traveling beliefs: eat, read, see something beautiful, relax. Rinse and repeat.

I’ve mostly moved away from the view I once held that questioned how any one could spend the money to travel across the world simply for the sake of “vacationing.” Even as I can wax eloquent about many of the problems of short-term mission trips and my questions concerning the effectiveness of using our resources to travel to impoverished places instead of using our resources to equip local people in those places to be the ones to bring about change, I’m still so shaped by my former belief that traveling should be done for the sake of others, not one’s self. I still feel strangely guilty about a trip overseas that does not involve building a house or singing songs with little kids about Jesus.

And, last of all, I’m afraid you’ll think I’m a bad mom for leaving my kids. (Let’s be honest, you know enough about me already, you may already think I’m a bad mom.) I’m afraid you’ll read this, close your computer, and say, “Well I’d never leave my kids for ten days because I’m committed to fill in the blank.” (Emotional stability? Attachment? Your own sanity?)

I hear you. I’ve struggled with this and prayed through this and cried about leaving them. But when it came down to it, this is why I’m leaving my kids:

1. If there’s any man in the world whose love language is “experiencing beautiful things,” it’s my husband. I really believe that if I want to invest in my relationship with him, I have to get away with him and experience his love of culture, food and history. That’s not to say I don’t love culture, food and history too. I’ve been to Europe once before when I spent a week in Paris. The entire time I sighed in bliss at how any place in the world could be so beautiful. I always loved culture and food, long before I knew it was a thing to do so. In Paris (pre-kids), Chris and I drank wine and ate cheese, olives and a baguette for lunch every day in the park and I loved every moment of it just as much as he did. But Chris is not ruled by anxiety. He has not cried once about this trip. I could let my fear for my kids keep me from experiencing something so lovely with him. But if I do, I’ll miss out on the beauty.

2. I have an amazingly generous mother-in-law and mom and dad who are all willing to travel to Austin and split the time to be with our kids. When I was trying to make the decision about this trip back in January, I called up a friend whose kids are high school and college age and she gave me the advice that it’s always good for grandparents and grandchildren to have time together without parents around. I’ve thought about that a lot. When families live near each other their grandkids can have one or two nights with grandparents fairly often. Because we’re so far from our families, most of our visits with them include all of us in one another’s homes for long periods of time. It’s a gift to give our parents time with our kids without the stress of us around as well. With no one looking over their shoulders at how much TV they’re letting our kids watch or how much sugar is being distributed. Our parents are wonderful grandparents and I want to give my kids the chance to have undisturbed grandparent time, even if it’s hard on my worried mother-heart.

3. I’m so anxious about this trip that I think it’s good for me to let go of my fear and do it. Chris and I just wrote up a will so we’d be sure to have something in place for the kids if anything should happen. That made me crazy just thinking about it. But I needed to think about it. I want to control everything for my kids. I want to make sure I can keep them safe. But it’s a spiritual practice to let them go, to trust my mother-in-law, to trust my mom and their love for my boys, which is probably a lot stronger than I can understand. It’s a spiritual practice to believe that God will honor the time I give my husband and fill in the gaps with grace.

I’m not all deep here. I really want to go to Italy with my husband. And you better believe I’m going to eat lots of pasta and drink really good wine and stand inside amazingly beautiful architecture, and sleep-in and drink espresso. And I may be anxious, but I’ll be doing it with a heart that prayed over this decision. And the struggle is sometimes what matters more than the answer, right?


What about you? Are you judging me? What do you think about a mama leaving her kids for 10 days? Never mind, don’t answer that. I can’t take it.

  • Julie

    So I don’t usually comment, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while…and I’m always so encouraged by you.
    Have a wonderful time- this will be such a beautiful memory for you and our husband:)
    I’ve been to Italy- 3 times, always just for vacation, and I’m a believer….my family likes to travel. I’ve never really felt guilty about it. If you don’t have an airtight itinerary- I’d recommend you hit up the Amalfi Coast- it’s amazing! Oh, and take comfortable shoes……..you’ll do more walking than you ever thought possible!

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Eat, drink, rest, be. Laugh. Walk hand and hand with your man. This is soul care, and it is just as holy as those daily liturgies of dishes and laundry.

    Go out with joy; step forth in peace; we – your friends and family and readers – are all clapping our hands.

  • http://www.ilovedevotionals.com Wendy van Eyck

    Go. Be. Free.
    Investing in your relationship with your husband is important.
    Investing in yourself is important.
    A tired, miserable, unfulfilled mother doesn’t help anyone.

  • http://fionalynne.com/blog/ fiona lynne

    I think more highly of your for going. You will love Italy. It is staggeringly beautiful. I believe travelling is important, going on holiday is important. And your kids will have a great time with their grandparents!
    “Travelling – it leaves you speechless and then turns you into a story teller” – Ibn Battuta

  • http://loveiswhatyoudo.wordpress.com Jessica

    My husband and I travel together out of the country, without our small children, every two years. We didn’t plan it that way, but we get wanderlust every so often, so we go to Machu Picchu or Honduras or Rome just to get out. To me, we could spend that money on therapy or we could go every once in a while and look up and say, “There you are!” We love to travel together; it’s those shared moments that make the mess of our daily life no big deal. And I come from a family where we never had any money at all, but we still managed to scrape and save for some amazing trips as a family. We would never spend thousands of dollars on a tv or a car, but the trips we took are experiences that will always stay with me. I think it’s fantastic! Can’t wait to hear about it!

  • Danielle

    Tell me, what do you know about God? I know you know Him and I know you know His voice. He is a Father of good gifts. He is a God of Truth and Beauty.
    For a week you are going to seek Beauty.
    So, for a week, you are seeking God with your husband.

    It’s basically a retreat. ;-)
    Go in peace!

  • MLL

    I think the answer to your question is in the questioning. If you were not a great mom you wouldn’t even consider the “what if’s…” and you are indeed a wonderful mom. Your boys love for you is concrete evidence.
    Vacations/memories are always a worthy investment.
    I hope you have a fantastic time and God speaks to you in beautiful ways.

  • http://www.walkingintheslowlane.blogspot.com Holly

    I have to believe that God loves the beauty of Italy as much as you do and his heart will swell alongside yours with the goodness of it all. Soak it all up to bursting. You’ll need the gifts of this trip for years to come.

  • http://Formerlyknownasazine.blogspot.com Elissa

    Yay! Have a blast, guys!

  • Jeannie

    I agree with the person above who referred to a trip like yours as “soul care.” In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says: “Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many lives we touch.” So taking a trip with your husband will be good for you, your husband & your relationship with him, your children, your parents and in-laws. So you are doing a huge favour to many people and should therefore get yourself to Italy asap! Buon viaggio!

  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah

    What do I think? I think it sounds lovely and wonderful and good. Everyone needs rest, and we place it on such a low priority. I believe in radical soul care, and it looks differently for everyone.

  • http://annieathome.com Annie

    My parents went to Bermuda for a week every year when we were kids (work trip, heh…). And look how well adjusted I turned out!?! (Hmmm… Maybe that’s not so helpful…) Really, though, I have so many fun memories with my grandparents from those weeks at their house, and I’m so grateful for those sweet times. I would feel these same conflicts, Micha. I don’t judge you, friend. Soak in this gift (and share pictures with us!).

  • http://barefooton45th.com Lesley

    Micha- I am SO happy for you. Live it up, girl. Don’t worry about the kiddos, or feel guilty for leaving them, or feel guilty about the money. I appreciate this post though, because my husband and I have planned (and then cancelled) an Italy trip several times… for a lot of the same reasons (guilt over money) and now guilt over leaving Anna for an extended period. It helps to know that others have the same feelings.

  • http://www.justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com sillydoodah (dawn)

    Art and beauty and feasting with your husband? Sugar and movies and grandparent hugs for your kids? Yesyesyes!!! The kingdom of God is now. Rock those cute shoes!

  • http://www.helenleeauthor.com Helen Lee

    I don’t see anything related to vanity in your motives; I see soul-care, I see marriage-care, and I even see kid-care in that taking this trip will make you appreciate your kids all the more and be full of excitement for seeing them when you return. It sounds wonderful and I judge you not for the choice. In fact, I rather envy you. =) I will live vicariously through your wonderful posts, whenever you feel so led to post! (And if it’s well after your time in Italy, that would be terrific, too!) Safe travels!

  • http://www.kimvanbrunt.com/honestly-adoption-the-blog/ Kim Van Brunt

    Oh Micha. We’re so similar, wanting to find the significance and the reason and then if it’s something for me, finding the justification, the way out of self-induced guilt. Know this: Time apart shifts perspectives. Travel inspires creativity and change. And your marriage is the foundation of your family. There are a thousand good reasons for going, and you’ve already turned over and over all the reasons not to go… now? You just need to go and experience the reasons for going.

    I think you’ll find much more encouragement than judgment here. You definitely sound like your own worst critic, just like I am for me.

    I’ll pray the Spirit lifts your head and blesses you, that you would be able to let go of all you’re leaving behind sooner than I typically do (it takes me days), and that this beautiful retreat would bring more to bear in your life than you could have imagined.

    (Sidenote: My husband and I have done big trips to Europe twice (once after having kids), and after the first couple of days wondering what the kids were doing or checking my watch and calculating the time difference and thinking about their schedule, for a full week I didn’t think about them or fret over their schedules … I could finally let go of it, and it was AMAZING. Freeing, beautiful, and so good for my marriage. And also? We came home to happy kids and even happier grandparents. They LOVED the time alone with our kids, being able to spoil them and do things that we would normally discourage. Good for everyone, I’m being honest. I’m a big proponent.)

    • michaboyett

      Kim, I’ve been thinking about your comment all day. You’re right, we’re totally the same. Just hearing you explain how you were able to let go of it was really healing for me today. I believe that. I think I’m clinging to this fear and I’m praying that when I get there and am in the moment I’ll be able to release it. Thanks for your prayers, friend.

  • http://realconversationsbetweenfriends.blogspot.com/ Ann

    I love this post and love that you are facing your fears and going. I’ll be praying for a great peaceful time for both you, your kids and all the parents! I love reading your blog and I trust you are making the right decisions for your family even if they look different than other people’s. Its a healthy example to us all.

  • Kim N

    Micha, I am a mother to four amazing young adults. My husband and I took a number of trips over their growing-up years and though they were always glad to have us back, they also enjoyed their time with my parents while were gone. One of the things I would do differently if given a do-over of those years would be to pour much more energy and effort into the relationship with my husband. It is mostly just the two of us now and the gaps where I neglected him are apparent. All this to say GO! and take your whole heart with you!

  • http://tanyamarlow.com tanya marlow

    I know this thought-process so well! Money is so tricky and everyone spends theirs differently and doesn’t want to be thought extravagant but probably secretly judges others for being extravagant… :-)

    I think it’s money well spent, myself, but that’s probably because I come from a family where you were allowed to spend money on travel and culture cos that was a higher purpose, whereas saving for a house deposit or a new car was frowned upon (always buy second-hand) – and my husband’s family was the opposite (travel is extravagant, always buy new). So guess what? We bought the new car AND we go travelling! Not quite sure how we have enough money to do it, and it sounds reckless and spendthrift written down, but,but… we save in other areas and we still give loads of money away and (wow- it just goes automatically into self-justification, doesn’t it??)

    Anyway – I’m totally with you on the wanting to do it but not wanting people to judge me.

    And I’m SO excited for you! I want to ask loads of questions, like where you’re going, and whether you’re going to Florence (which is the part of Italy I’ve been to) – and it’s the PeRfECT time of year to go, and the food was flatter and saltier than I thought and the wine unexciting till it went with the food and then it transformed…oh! And the ice cream! It’s AMAZING!! I’m SO excited for you!

    P.s. if you do go to Florence – you must read ‘a room with a view’ by E.m.forster in situ. Culture and travel together. :-)

  • Melissa

    I think it’s wonderful!!! I have two small children and we take adult-only getaways all the time. Mostly short trips but once 8 days in AZ when our youngest was 9 months. It’s true that the kids bond best with the grands when we aren’t around. And right now is the best time to do these trips alone, when the kids wouldn’t appreciate the beauty anyway. Enjoy it all!!!!

  • http://Hehungthemoon.com Melissa

    I can’t help but give 2 foodie recommendations in Rome. Rome – oh, my love. Al Bric is my favorite dinner place. It’s a small out of the way restaurant that is full of locals. I found this place on my first visit to Rome and have been back 5 times, always making time for dinner here. The guy that runs it, Maurizio, will help you decide on everything from wine, pasta, dinner, and cheese. It’s all in Italian so I need his help and he never disappoints! It’s lovely. I can’t say enough about Al Bric. 
    A wonderfully fun lunch place is Osteria Enoteca der Pallaro. It is open for lunch and dinner but they never have a menu. The mama runs the kitchen and the papa runs the front of house. She cooks what is fresh and available that day and he brings it out and tells you how to eat it. He was a trip. The food was so stinkin good. That mama knows her stuff. And they bring out so much. We were full-to-miserable when we left. 
    Those were our favorites. They are both in Trastevere and close to Piazza Navona.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Yup, been there, done that with the guilt and all. Let.It.Go. Pray for deliverance and fly away, free as a bird. Your kids will flourish and you will re-discover yourself and one another. We left our kids for two long trips (two weeks each) and they had a grand time…and so did we. We also left them for overnights or afternoons or mornings – quite often with one grandparent set or the other – and it was a win-win for everybody. Have a great time – just be sure to post pictures! (I’m with the Amalfi coast suggestion if you have the time – it’s a long way from Florence, but it’s spectacular. Positano is to die for).

  • http://phyllislorenzmft.com phyllis lorenz

    Hi Micha,
    Go guilt-free, go!! And ENJOY!! I am so happy you get to do this, and want you to consider it a gift to your darling boys!
    “The greatest gift you can give your child(ren) is a stable and healthy relationship with your partner.” John Gottman, marriage researcher/ psychologist. You are nurturing your relationship, and that is a gift to them. Remember, as the flight attendant says, “Put your own mask on first …” because you are worthless to those who need you if you do not have usable consciousness. Self-care is a good thing. Go and enjoy, already. Do I need to say it louder: GO AND ENJOY!

    btw, I am a “trained professional”: speaking as a (now retired) flight attendant, having raised my kids as a flight attendant, I know the guilt etc. I am also now a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist so it is my professional opinion that you go in joy and peace. I LOVE Florence and know you will come back with so many musings, and spiritual insights to share, which IS your gift and call.

    And, while I also know the impending move is difficult, I for one am eager to have you back in the bay area and hope to meet up with you once you get settled. Be well. Phyllis Filkin Lorenz (Nancy’s sister-in-law!)

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    My family never really went anywhere on vacation and that’s why I know it’s important. I just want to hug you and call you honey (or maybe sweet pea) and remind you that making memories is an important thing to do.

    When we joined the neighborhood pool, I had a similar freak out, because it seemed so bourgeoise. And I am not that. But there aren’t really fancy people and other people. We’re all just people.

  • Trisha

    I miss you already! I haven’t been reading your blog regularly and I haven’t been keeping in touch with anyone since we left co-op. I swore I wouldn’t be one of those moms who just dropped off the face of the Earth when their kid left co-op but here I am.

    I love the way you are able to expound upon your anxieties about all this. You seemed so cool and calm and sure of yourself when you mentioned it in person. I grew up like you and still haven’t traveled – it’s a dream I hope to accomplish some day soon. I have a lot of friends who enjoy traveling and do it a lot and I think it’s good. I think it’s good that you’re leaving the kids. I can only imagine how hard it is – especially with writing up the will – but it sounds like it will be good for the whole family.

    Have a wonderful time! And I do hope to see you even though I know it won’t be here. Maybe another city another time.

    • michaboyett

      Trisha, I love seeing you here today. And I can’t tell you how much it soothes my anxious insides to hear you say you think it’s good that I’m leaving the kids. We could still see each other in Austin! Let’s try to make it happen? Seriously.

  • michaboyett

    Such good words for my heart, friends. Seriously, I feel ministered to in a good, good way. I should respond to you all. But my eyes are sleepy. Instead? I’ll do it on my post tomorrow. Which I’ll consider a sort of sequel.

    Love and so much thanks,

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  • Lyndsey

    I think it’s cool that you’re willing to wrestle in front of us. But you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone but God. (And maybe, to a lesser extent, your local church community.)

  • http://withoutcaringtwopence.wordpress.com/ Shannon

    Ha! Another terrific post, Micha. It sounds like we had very similar family vacation styles growing up! These other kinds of vacations are such rare gems that I’m pretty sure it’s okay to fully revel in them. :) Have a wonderful time!

  • Jeff

    Worried about leaving your Kids to be with your husband? You are a victim of our “let’s worship at the alter of our kids and make sure they are always at the center of the universe” that is so pervasive and detrimental today. The BEST thing you can do for your kids is invest in your relationship with your spouse.

  • Debbie

    I read this as my husband and I are dropping off our youngest child for his freshman year in college and I’ll tell you what-it’s a huge gift that we are looking forward to the adventure of being empty-nesters rather than dreading it. God gives good gifts-husbands and children and good food and wine and beautiful landscapes and talent that can create masterpieces of architectutre, art, and music. Don’t deny Him the gift of lavishing ALL of His goodness on you by inappropriate guilt, angst, or anxiety. Go and enjoy and be thankful!

  • Karen

    You don’t need to defend your decision to travel. Go, have a wonderful time, and nurture your marriage. :) I always find that God speaks the loudest to me when I’m on a trip out of the country. Or maybe it’s just easier to hear Him when I’m not distracted by life.

  • http://kimfromthesouth.blogspot.com Kim

    I understand your anxiety, but you’ve also come to the correct conclusion that going with your husband on this amazing vacation is the right thing to do! And for the right reasons. Your kids will have a BLAST being spoiled by their grandparents :) And you’ll enjoy a special time in a special place with a special person. God gave us all these good things to enjoy.

  • dina

    I’m behind on my emails, but I imagine you in Italy right now; your kids enjoying time with grands. I remember the similar struggle when Jim and I were going to Paris for our fifth wedding anniversary. I was still nursing and I couldn’t imagine leaving my 11 month old. I felt anxiety and unrest, but as I prayed, I felt God tell me the best thing I could do for my children was to go and put into my relationship with my husband. Coming from a family with divorce, I knew what he meant.

    I gave up, somewhere along the line, that I had to be the one that took care of my kids all the time. What I found was there are many rich things they can learn from others that I could never teach them. Occasional they learn things I don’t want them learning and I am sad by the loss of innocence. But the fact is, being away from mom and interacting with people not their parents and without their parents around is good for them and good for their understanding of who they are apart form their parents. It helps them see that they are part of a larger body. When the kids were little, we used to take a teen with us on trips to help with the kids. Those teens are now grown. One just had my daughter as her junior brides maid at her wedding. Rich relationship develop and it is good!!!

    Now on the note of money, I can’t help you. Jim and I are leaving for Italy in OCT for our 20th wedding anniversary. I do feel guilty about spending money on luxuries, even though different from you, I grew up with money and luxury. I don’t know the answer, but I will tell you a sermon that gave me some freedom in this area. I always felt such guilt around money and the enjoyment using it could bring (including great vacations); but from the pulpit at Good Sam, came these words, “You will be held accountable for all the things God gave you to enjoy that you didn’t enjoy.” All of a sudden, rather than feeling guilt over all the wonderful blessings I had, I felt it was wrong to feel that way and instead I was to give thanks for them, without guilt, but with joy! Old habits die hard (so guilt can crop up), but my advise to you is, enjoy Italy, be in awe of what GOd reveals to you in the art of those who painted, sculpted and built in his name. Use this as if a quiet time, where God can talk to you in new ways and Praise Him and Thank Him that you have the money to travel!

    And of course use it to pour into Chris! Boun Viaggio!

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    i’m so excited for you!! my husband and i went wine tasting in california for five days this spring, our first trip away, too. it was our tenth anniversary, my in-laws watched the kids, and it was delicious. we need to step outside our Mama and Dad roles sometimes and remember how to be Us. your kids will have a fabulous time with their grandparents, and my goodness, you are in for such a treat! enjoy it for the gift it is and savor each beautiful moment. pleasure is from God, and i’m inclined to think that most of our guilt is not. enjoy la dolce vita, friend.

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