After spending 730 days straight with my kids, I vacationed without them, and I learned that I forgot how to be alone
- I finally got the time alone I'd been longing for, but at first I couldn't enjoy it.
- In the silence of my hotel room, I didn't feel like myself.
- I had to relearn how to be me again, outside the whirlwind of
The past year left me, like many others, wanting to find a moment alone, away from my children and partner. I'm one of the lucky ones who actually got to do it. I was gifted a quick getaway for my 40th birthday.
I imagined everything I would do without a child hanging off my body: Eat meals slowly without little fingers picking at my plate, sit by a pool without having to keep an eye on a wobbly toddler, take long, uninterrupted showers, and, of course, sleep in. It was enough to make me drool.
It wasn't everything I imagined at first
"I can't wait," I told my mom friends who swooned with envy. The need for that time alone was visceral in all of us, almost an ache in our bones. So, I was pretty disappointed in myself when, after arriving at my empty hotel room, I became overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness. I felt untethered, a rock orbiting in space never making it to the ground.
"Maybe you can bring the kids up tomorrow so they can swim in the pool?" I texted my husband, sitting at the foot of the hotel bed. I turned on the television, unused to the silence in the room.
As a mother, especially during the lockdown days of the pandemic, I had lost the ability to be alone and content. There had been many evenings that I waited for my husband to get home from work so that I could sit, and sometimes cry in my car, desperate for a space that was only mine. Now, with the world opening up, and the kids with a sitter or at camp for three hours each morning, I'm grateful for that alone time.
But in those few hours I'm kept busy with work, grocery shopping, or the other million small tasks that come with having a family with several children. There is always the business of the day, and a sense of the kids' imminent return that keeps me unaware of my self, my existence as one sole human being.
I needed to learn how to be alone again
After sending the text to my husband, I chastised myself for giving in to the loneliness so easily. The ability to be off the clock was something important that had been lost in the tornado of motherhood.
I thought back to a trip I took to Paris when I was 29 and childless. I had wandered the city by myself for a week, eating cured meats and chunks of baguette in whatever park I found along in my daily adventures, content with my own company. Eleven years later, for the sake of my sanity, I pushed past the loneliness and told my husband to keep the kids home.
The next morning I set forth on my mission of self-rediscovery. I moved slowly, making sure to let this gift of time and solitude stretch like taffy. I didn't rush my shower. I took my time getting dressed before heading out to find iced coffee, perusing the shelves at a bookstore and bakery. At the hotel, I found an empty lounge chair by the pool and read a book, sipping the coffee for three hours. By the end of the day, I was truly content, no longer feeling like a balloon that had drifted away.
The success of my trip wasn't only getting to eat meals alone and sleep in, but also to remember who I am without the whirlwind of motherhood. Just me, alone, with nothing to do.
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