Monday, July 25, 2011

Guilt About Traveling Without Livy

(originally posted at Reepicheep's Coracle)

I am immersed in Mommy Guilt. For those of you who have experienced it, you know that it's worse than anything, even ginormous spiders. All good parents want to do what's best for their children, want to give them everything in our power, want to be a really great parent. And when I have doubts about a decision I am making about Livy, that's when I feel this awful pressing weight of guilt.

Here's the situation:

I am planning a 3 week trip to either England or to Turkey and Greece. Aaron gave me a trip for my 30th birthday, and we haven't ever gotten around to using it. This Christmas break is the time! Yippee! They thing is, I don't want to take Livy with us for the following reasons:

1. It will be romantic and awesome to go with just Aaron.
2. I don't think Livy will be very happy poking through museums, tons of ruins, literary sites for people she's never heard of, etc.
3. I don't really want to change my trip around to make it child-friendly.
4. It adds extra expense, which would have to come out of some other part of the trip budget.

The problem is that Livy, of course, wants to go. I worked it out with her, and we are planning a shorter birthday trip with her to Las Vegas, which I think she will absolutely love (and so will we, without changing the trip up too much) instead of a party. She isn't happy about missing out on our foreign trip, but that part is settled pretty well.

What isn't settled is my feeling that "good parents take their kids with them on foreign adventures." I feel like I am denying her a really neat homeschooling experience, and I am not meeting the ideal of the educated and well-traveled family.

My mom, correctly I think, tells me that it is impractical and a little ridiculous to even think about taking Livy on this trip. She would hate it at least a large part of the time, and we would not have as good a time. It would be a colossal waste of money, and there will be plenty of time for Livy to travel when she is a little older and when our interests align a little better.

But I still feel (at least part of me feels) that I am being a terrible mom. Shouldn't I want to take my darling with me on an adventure? Shouldn't I want to change the trip around and make it the kind of trip we could enjoy together? Shouldn't I think leaving her for three weeks is too much for me and especially over Christmas?

The truth is that I don't want to take her, don't want to change the trip, and think both of us will be fine (though we'll miss each other) for three weeks. So here are the things I am going to think about when unreasonable mommy guilt punches me in the stomach:

1. Normal child development does not require a trip to Europe. Livy can grow up to be smart, well-informed, and not provincial without taking this trip.

2. I did not go to Europe as an 8 year old, and it didn't turn me into a WWF fan whose favorite vacation is to a NASCAR race or to the world's biggest ball of twine.

3. Because Livy is almost 8, it is likely that she will have years and years to go to Europe after I am dead and buried. Now is my only freaking time.

4. It's not only okay, but good, to be selfish about pursuing my own values. I want to look at musty old books, portraits of people she's never heard of, and architecture she doesn't care about. I shouldn't have to give up those values.

5. Moms come in a lot of different packages. Just because I am not the kind that enjoys vacations more through the eyes of their children doesn't mean I am not a good one. I have many mom qualities that make me stellar, like my very high fun quotient, that aren't a part of the traditional mom image.

6. My relationship with Aaron is super important, and it's a good thing that I want to do things alone with him. Not only is it essential to my happiness, it's a rocking good example for Livy for when she has a romantic partner one day.

So, the bottom line is, I know I shouldn't feel guilty. I know I am doing what is best for me and not harmful to Livy. And yet the parenting ideal of taking the children everywhere and educating them with travel is hard for me to shake.

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