This past weekend, my husband and I did something we have not done in nine years: we left the kids with a sitter and went away together. The last time we did that, our #1 was 18 months old. We left him with my mother, who was 74 at the time, and my older brother. Thanks to a friend who had access to an apartment in Manhattan, we had an overnight before #2 arrived.
We hadn't been away since. When you're pushing out babies every other year, it seems that right when you're getting back into the swing of things, you get knocked up again and the game continues.
When we lived in NJ, we had a great pool of babysitters to choose from. However, when we moved to Maryland two years ago, we were hard pressed to find anyone to help us. Our once, weekly date nights, became more and more scarce and then they disappeared completely. When we qualified for funding for respite care, aka, fancy name for babysitting, we still had no one to use that money with. You'd think it would be easier to find childcare in Baltimore, but it wasn't and it was frustrating. We don't have family to help us and when you have the situation we are presented with: five kids, three with autism, it is a tough situation and an energy suck.
Thanks to our NJ babysitter, Katie, who now goes to school at Arcadia University in Philly, we were able to have our night away. She began babysitting for us when she was 15; when we only had three kids. She was with us when the twins came home from the hospital, and held them when they were only days old. She was a natural. She could handle my house and my kids. And when she offered to drive the two hours and watch the kids, I was stoked. Because if anyone could handle my household, it was Katie, the 21 year old super-hero.
When I left the house with my husband, it was hard to believe that so many years had passed since we had quality time together. It was if the last 10 years had flown by and we had morphed into two people who had kids together and worked together to take care of them. Everything was for them and I was becoming a poster child for burn-out.
Knowing that Katie was there to mind the kids and having 24 hours of child free time, I could relax; perhaps for the first time in 10 years. I was able to focus on my husband and remind myself of who I was before kids(BC). I was reminded of the magic we had; that had been so subtly swept under the rug over the last few years. I was allowed to have a conversation with him that wasn't kid related. I was allowed to laugh, relax, finish a thought, a meal, and a drink, without being interrupted. It was a nice and rare moment that brought me back to a time when our time was more disposable.
We were married for six years before we had #1. My husband's work used to require extensive travel and I had the luxury of being able to accompany him to many foreign destinations. After #1 was born, we went to Italy and after #2 was born, we all went to South Africa, and when #3 was born, we were preparing a trip to New Zealand when he changed jobs and remained state-side. After that, our adventure travel days were over. We shifted from adventure to beach people. After the twins were born, we went to Jamaica once more and then we became the "no vacation" people, because it was too expensive to go anywhere. Seven tickets anywhere=too expensive. Plus, when you have kids, vacation becomes "same crap, different location", offering very little chance to relax.
We had 24 hours to explore Annapolis and it was like we were teleported back 10 years to our BC life. We didn't explore the city on foot that much, it was cold. But we drank wine, ate great food and slept a lot. I was allowed to reflect back to where we started and how far we have come. I was allowed to reconnect with this wonderful person whom I have been married to for almost 17 years and I was allowed to step back into the worry-free, stress-free person I used to be. It felt amazing.
I could laugh, I could live in the moment and breathe. I wasn't pulled in 14 directions and I wasn't required to spend my day putting out fires and dealing with meltdowns. It was a much needed break and the kicker is, that as much as I knew I needed a break, I didn't realize how much I needed that break. Sometimes, you don't realize you're standing on the ledge until you see the cars below, and for me, being allowed to step back and reconnect with my partner, I could see how far off the ledge I really was. Step away, slowly. Katie to the rescue.
When we came home, the kids, who usually run to the door to meet whichever parent was missing, casually glanced up when we returned together. We knew we left the kids in great hands and maybe that is why I could relax the way I did. Katie let us know that she'd come back again soon and give us another break. Score!
In the end, we wound up coming home a couple hours earlier than we originally anticipated. I guess when we checked-out of our hotel room and took a final drive around Annapolis, we were ready to head back to the one place we created together, the one place we had an equal stake in, and the one place that now defined us: home.