Last year my husband and two-year-old daughter went on an overseas trip together to spend time with his family in the UK. They were gone for almost three weeks. I stayed at home...
No big deal. Right?
And yet the reactions I received to this event from fellow mums were surprising and revealing. Those I ran into while going for a walk around the park (without a pram!), grabbing coffee, or buying cheese and chocolate in the supermarket all expressed mild shock: “What! Just the two of them?” or “I can’t believe you didn’t go!” followed by concern, “that’s going to be really hard on him” (ie. my husband).
No, I didn’t go. I work full-time, overseas trips are expensive, and it’s more important for my in-laws to spend quality time with their son and only grandchild than it is to spend time with me. I love them but that’s how it is. Yes I missed the two of them terribly. But my daughter had the time of her life surrounded by doting family, and I slept past 6am for the first time in years and actually got some sh*t done.
Why is a father taking a trip with his young child even slightly controversial? My husband is a devoted, hands-on father (as most are?). He and my daughter are close, and he’s perfectly capable of taking care of her. On his own.
I know quite a few expat women who’ve settled in Australia from the UK, France, Sweden etc. and soon after having a baby here took off home to spend months with their families, more often than not leaving their partner behind. No one raises an eyebrow or says to the father “you’re not going with them?” in an accusatory tone.
The surprise that our arrangement was met with seemed to subtly reflect how other families operate from intense separation anxiety between kids and their mums to fathers who can’t be trusted or aren’t willing to be wholly responsible for their child for an extended period of time.
I suspect these dynamics aren’t entirely real, but maybe some parents have never even tried a bit of “role reversal”. For any mother it’s not ideal to be away from your delightful and extremely cuddly toddler for three weeks. But it’s not the end of the world.
My daughter is being raised to be adaptable, independent and adventurous, and to feel equally secure with both her parents. This isn’t the first holiday her and my husband have gone on without me and it probably won’t be the last. Especially if my husband gets his way and we become an extreme camping family.
If I had more time and more money perhaps I would’ve gone away with them. But probably not. A clean house, lie-ins, and uninterrupted Netflix evenings are as good as a holiday.
Image: Raegan Glazner