Imagine you win a free trip to a Caribbean island… but the only catch is, there is only ONE plane ticket provided, and you’re married with two kids.
How would you feel? What would you do?
Miraculously, this just happened to me, and what it revealed was striking.
Flash back to a few months ago when I was speaking on a panel at the Boston Globe Travel Show. On a whim, I stopped by a tourism booth with two 4-foot-tall inflatable flamingos out front.
“What’s going on here?” I asked, as one does when one encounters inflatable flamingos with a horde of humans flocking around.
“It’s a contest to win a free trip to Bonaire!” sang the woman behind the kiosk. (I discreetly Googled “Bonaire” and learned it was an island next to Aruba in the Caribbean.)
“Oh, of course — Bonaire!” I replied. “How do I enter the competition?”
“Pose with our flamingo friends, post the photo on social media, and we’ll draw a winner,” the gentlewoman responded. “Done,” I declared, zipping over to embrace the bobbing birds.
We took the photo. I won the contest! Then… I suddenly had ONE plane ticket to Bonaire.
Now, I love my husband and kids so very, very much, but I must confess: the vision of a week of quiet, clear, solo thoughts and actions was delicious as ice cream.
Feeling guilty and freakish, I ran the reaction by a group of local mothers.
“GO ALONE AND LOVE IT,” they all belted in unison.
“All I wanted for Mother’s Day was a day to be left the heck alone,” one confessed, “but how do you tell that to people you love so much? It’s hard for me to articulate this push and pull of desires.”
Fast forward to sitting on the couch with my husband.
“Let’s see how much plane tickets cost so that I could come to Bonaire, too, and maybe also the kids,” my spouse cooed, trying to soothe what he thought was my upset at the prospect of traveling alone. “You’d be bored just hanging around that island for a week, right?”
“Mmmgg,” I muttered vaguely.
We searched flights, and they were stratospherically expensive.
“Oh nooooo-hooo,” I semi-convincingly sighed, thoughts drifting towards long, solo walks… writing, uninterrupted, all afternoon… leisurely browsing 12 lunch places before picking one… not “hearing” the thoughts of anyone but —
“I don’t want you to come,” I blurted. “I want a break from ‘hearing’ everyone’s thoughts.”
“What?” my husband replied.
I went on to explain, best I could, how being a wife and mother too often turns into a marathon of guessing and attending to everyone’s needs. Feminist marriage though we have, this fact is still true.
I grab the silence of alone time when I can — I walk the 3 miles home from work every day so I get that moving meditation plus an hour home before everyone else returns — but having a whole week to myself would be revitalization incarnate.
Bless him, my guy immediately got it.
“That makes perfect sense,” he said. “Why did you wait so long to tell me what you really wanted for this trip?”
Truth. I gave thanks and embraces.
Until I became a wife and mother, myself, I always assumed married ladies and moms wanted to be with their families non-stop, and if they didn’t, they were — actually, it didn’t even occur to me that they might not want to be with their families non-stop. Silly me.
So let us sing it from the swings: if you’re a wife and/or mother, it’s all right to want some alone time! Thank you, spouses and kids for supporting us as we recharge our superpowers. We love you!