We leaned over the railing of the cruise ship balcony and realized life as we had known it was about to change. We were on our “babymoon.” Soon, we would be parents.
To that point, we had enjoyed five wonderful kid-free years of marriage. We began to wonder … Would this be our last getaway alone? The thought lingered as we watched flying fish chase the wake of our ship.
The realities and responsibilities of parenthood can be overwhelming. Expenses increase, sleep decreases, and time alone can quickly be reduced to a few moments in the bathroom. The thought of going away on vacation can not only seem like something from a fairy tale, but it can also feel wrong, as if we are depriving our children somehow.
But is it okay to get away without the kids and enjoy time away as a couple?
Why you need to get away without the kids
As we wrestled through this question, some answers came quickly; others took a few years to figure out. This is what we discovered.
1. Your kids aren’t the only ones that need attention.
Caring for a new baby takes a significant amount of time, but marriages need attention, too. Childrearing changes you a little each day. If you don’t take time to connect without the kids regularly, you can quickly lose sight of the love that drew you together in the first place. A strong relationship will likely handle a short season of neglect, but you’ll need a plan to ensure that your “short season” doesn’t become the new normal. A marriage left on autopilot too long will eventually crash.
2. Divorce hurts.
I grew up as a child of divorce and understand the damage it causes to a child’s heart. I also know that no one ever stands at the altar expecting to one day be divorced. By prioritizing your marriage over your children, you take an important step toward protecting them from that pain. Your kids may miss you while on a date or a short vacation without them, but that is a small price to pay to protect against a much longer and more permanent absence.
3. Happy Marriage = confident children.
It’s hard to hear our kids cry for us as we walk out the door on vacation. But contrary to how it seems in the moment, when children see parents loving each other, it provides security and comfort. They learn, no matter what other drama is taking place in their lives, they can always count on their parents to be there for them. This stability provides the base from which they can venture out into the world and take risks. If you want confident children, invest in your marriage.
4. It’s not all about them.
A critical truth to learn in life: The world doesn’t revolve around you. Sometimes we have to tolerate situations we don’t like. Your children may not be used to you and your spouse doing something that doesn’t cater to their interests. They may not like that you are going away without them. But what you are doing is ultimately in their best interests. Besides, the sooner children realize that some decisions cannot be manipulated with a tantrum, the better.
5. Kids learn how to respect and obey others.
When children are left with babysitters at an early age, they learn to respect and obey other adults. They learn their parents are not the only ones who have authority. This is foundational to their ability to succeed in school, obey the law, hold a job, and function in society in general.
6. Kids learn that you will keep your word.
By getting away without the kids for a few days, you teach them that your word can be trusted. You said you would come back, and you did. Next time you tell them something they are inclined to doubt, they’ll remember you are trustworthy. By showing them real-life examples of your verbal integrity, they learn the value of keeping promises themselves.
7. Less fighting.
No child wants to live in a house dominated by constant fighting. Fights happen between you and your spouse when frustration levels reach the boiling point. The more time you have to talk to your spouse without interruption, the more opportunities you have to cool things down and gain understanding. More talking = less fighting.
8. More laughing.
When there’s less fighting in the house, everyone gets to relax and have more fun. The entire mood of the home changes as tension levels drop. Rather than shouting over “spilled milk,” everyone is free to brush it off and laugh as they work together to clean it up.
9. Kids learn how to love their future spouse.
It may be hard to imagine, but one day your little girl will be someone’s wife, and your son will be someone’s husband. The kind of person they pursue and the kind of spouse they ultimately become will depend largely on the example you set. If they see you regularly taking time to invest in your marriage, they will do the same when the time comes.
10. You demonstrate God’s love.
I’ll admit, this one is probably going to go over your kids’ heads for a few years, but a good healthy marriage actually gives them a picture of God’s love for them.
In the Bible, the church is called the Bride of Christ. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to be in a relationship with His Bride (you and me). (See Ephesians 5:22:25-33). When you prioritize and make sacrifices for your spouse, you give your children an example of the kind of love that God has for them in a way they can understand.
Getting away without the kids is a gift to your marriage
When we disembarked from that cruise ship, we knew our life would soon change. But we were determined our commitment to each other would not. We decided to continue our pre-baby habits of regular dates and yearly romantic getaways.
The first time we left out daughter, she was only a few months old. The guilt was intense, and it was hard to keep from cutting our time short to rush home. But we knew that what we were doing was ultimately in her best interest.
We didn’t always have money to go someplace elaborate. Sometimes we just sent the kids over to a friend’s house for a sleepover and enjoyed a staycation. But I’m glad we had the courage to get away without the kids as often as we did. Our daughter has grown into a confident and caring young woman and has a clear understanding of the kind of marriage she wants to have one day.
But what is perhaps even more amazing is that after 25 years of marriage, I still can’t wait to spend time with my wife.
Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Orlando, Florida, with their two children. You can learn more on their blog, YourEverAfter.org.