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.