Why Parents Need to Get Away

Joanna and I had been married a couple of months when we house-sat and babysat for some friends.  We went over the first evening, just before they hit the road for a two-night getaway.  As they were hugging their three children good-bye, one of them asked his Mom, "But why do you have to leave?"

image courtesy of Mulsanne via flickr
Her answer marked me, our marriage, and our parenting.

"We need to go away so we can be a better Mommy and Daddy."

I'm sure this 3-year-old boy did not fully understand what she meant.  But he was submissive, and I'm sure he liked the idea of having "a better Mommy and Daddy."

That's the first memory I have of learning that taking a spouse-only vacation is not just good for a marriage, but also for parenting.  So, every year we have gotten away just by ourselves (no kids, no friends), usually for two nights.  Even when Hannah was 7 months, we went to a Bed & Breakfast about 45 minutes away, and were gone for less than a day.  The manager, upon learning why we were there, remarked that she's known people who have gone for years without a night together away from kids.

(And this is not just about having a night in your house without kids.  There is something about getting out of your house, with a different feel and less of a chance to be distracted.)

Has it always been easy for us to get away?  Not at all.  It takes time to plan, emotional energy to engage each other, the willingness to trust your kids with someone else, and money to make it happen.  But it is fruitful and totally worth it.  How?
  1. Example for your children.  Your kids need to see that, besides your relationship with God, your relationship with each other is the top priority in your life.  What kids want from Mom and Dad is to hear and see that their family is full of love and security.
  2. Example for others.  Similarly, putting marriage as a priority is a testimony to those around us. Yes, God is our loving Father, but think which relationship God uses to describe believers' relationship with Jesus.  Marriage.  Jesus is the groom, and the church is the bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).
  3. For the next season in our marriage.  The danger is that if you focus all your time and energy on the kids, then when they leave your home, you are left with a spouse that you really don't know any more.  Unfortunately, we've seen this with parents of friends.  You probably have too.
  4. Grow our kids.  For most kids, having to say good-bye to their parents is difficult, especially at a young age.  But they need to learn to trust Mom and Dad's decisions, and being left with a care-giver for an extended period of time gives them another opportunity to come under their parents' authority.
  5. Grow ourselves as parents.  At a marriage conference years ago, the speaker said, "Kids don't have separation issues; parents have separation issues."  He was speaking from the experience of having "clingy" children himself.  While this may not be completely true at face value, there is a lot of truth that parents (especially mothers) tend to have a hard time letting go.  In my experience with kids, I've seen numerous occasions where it's the parents' nervousness that rubs off on the kids.  Kids tend to absorb our anxiety.  It's easy to get consumed with thoughts of control and worry.  We need to trust God with our kids.
  6. Chance to plan, dream, discuss, and share.  It's really hard to have deep talks and vision-casting at home, even after the kids are in bed.  Face it -- we're exhausted by that point.  Even with a dinner date, our time is limited.  There is something special about getting away alone together, with no other agenda except to share your heart and focus on your spouse.

When was the last time you had a night away with only your spouse?  Where did you go?  (Share your ideas so others can "borrow" them.)  Even more important, when is the next time that you are planning a night away without kids?

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  1. Sounds great! Know anyone who wants to come house sit for 3 wild boys, a hormonal autistic 12yr old, a baby, 2 big dogs and an iguana? Sounds like an experience someone could make into a movie.

  2. So valuable - taking time to be a couple!

    My husband and I are celebrating our 27th anniversary on Friday and we've made it a priorty to go away as a couple (without kids) since we first married.

    Our kids are grown now and it's like we're newlyweds again - we're so excited to be together in this next phase of our life. It feels familiar and good to be just the two of us again.

    Even though we're "alone" in the house as a couple, I agree that it still is imperative to go away to dream, discuss and share.

    Robert and I love to drive, so our last trip was up to Canada and as we drove I read out loud the book 'Poke the Box' by Seth Godin. It gave us a chance to discuss ideas and plan. Our next trip is to Florida in August where we'll be completing John Maxwell's leadership program. We try to do at least one seminar/workshop etc. a year to add value to our marriage.

    Again - great article! (I followed your link from your comments on Michael Hyatt's post on May 24th!)

  3. I love the idea bout doing a seminar / workshop. Great way to live out and demonstrate commitment and value.

  4. Please don't encourage women to leave a nursing infant overnight. It can cause lots of problems, not the least of which is the woman feels guilty for continuing to breastfeed even when she knows it's what is best for her child. My husband and I occasionally get away for a night or two, but we always take with us anyone too young to be separated from mom.
    --Elizabeth, mom of 4 and lucky wife of one

  5. Elizabeth --

    Thanks for this insight. In no way did I want to come off too strong on moms of nursing infants. Health should always be a consideration, of course.

    But it has worked for us, and many other couples we know. When our 3rd child was young (less than a month), we went away for 2 nights and took him. But the we also left the other 2 when they were each less than a year (Hannah at 7 months, Elijah at 8) with no severe effects for their health.

    Each situation is different. But the point of my post was to encourage parents to make their marriage a priority. In this culture, I see the trend is going the other way -- to put their child's wants ahead of the marriage needs.