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She's Leaving Home

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Sometimes getting away with your girlfriends can teach you something important about your marriage.

Tracy McArdle: Well before Swine Flu Mania, I spent five fun margarita- and sleep-filled days in Mexico with old girlfriends from back when I had a waist and an I.Q. My kids are 9 months and 2 years, and most of my mom friends were aghast to hear I was leaving the kids with Dad for 5 days. Some told me they hadn't been away in years. Others said they'd be so worried over what could happen (the sitter lights the house on fire with a joint, the baby accidentally ingests Liquid Plumr) they wouldn't have a good time.

woman at the beach

And I thought: Either you married the wrong guy, or you're a control freak. Or (poor you) both.

So I packed bad magazines and garish toe polish, grabbed twice the cash and half the clothes I'd need, and went ... away. After the obligatory I-arrived-safely-what-did-they-have-for-dinner call, I didn't call. Or e-mail. I didn't text or twitter. I hadn't even left written instructions. I defiantly, selfishly thought, he knows how to take care of the kids. This isn't the Navy! I don't need a written schedule for daily life! I figured if anything went wrong, I'd hear.

And when I did call, on the last night after several sangrias and way, way too many chips, I heard. I heard the fatigue and stress in the first "Hi, hon."

"How is everything?" I ventured. "Well," he sighed, "I don't think Ella is coming back." Ella is my most trustworthy babysitter. She does laundry and the kids love her. Did I mention she does laundry? "Um," I said patiently, "why?"

He told me he'd been surprised that there were no set systems in place for Ella. They had a disagreement over what the kids were eating and when. My style is loosey-goosey, hour by hour with babysitters -- because I'm usually around to answer questions and give direction. His is a firm schedule based on consistency and the ability to leave for several hours to -- oh, I don't know, go to a fishing-rod-building class, for example.

I felt awful, and I figured he was stacking up multiple deposits in the "weekend pass" favor bank. When I got home, I realized that we'd learned something important. We parent differently. We direct people differently. And we needed to communicate more. Because if we were more like the Navy, things would have been easier for him while I was away. And what's wrong with that?

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
RachelAZ May 27, 2009, 2:11 AM

Am I the only one who doesn’t fully understand the point of the article???

Robin Ahigian May 29, 2009, 11:02 AM

Finally, someone who can share the challenges of co-parenting with honesty and humor. Good for her for taking a vacation and learning something about her marriage in the process! AND for being honest about it publicly.

Anonymous May 29, 2009, 12:20 PM

I like your writing; I found myself wishing it were longer.

me May 29, 2009, 6:13 PM

At least she didn’t walk out, leave the dad with the kids, got her own place and was a mom only when she wasn’t partying [like a friend did!]

kiki June 8, 2009, 4:28 PM

you are so lucky you were able to get away AND relax. your husband is a trooper, i dont know any husbands in my circle who would have done that. you need to take care of yourself because all we do as mothers is take care of our family but we are members of our family as well. i think it is especially hard for women who came late to motherhood to stay home for years on end with no vacations. good for you!

Christina Lynch June 8, 2009, 7:15 PM

Great article! So true! Moms should be able to get away for a few days and leave dad in charge, without phone calls or written instructions. Dads do it all the time. I bet in the end it was rewarding for everyone (except the nanny).

Betsy June 11, 2009, 4:06 PM

As always, Tracy is as searing honest as those chili rellenos she probably downed with the sangrias. And brave, did I say that? Not calling home is important—as is the facing up to re-entry. Thanks! Congrats to Dad for stepping up, too.

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