The Nap Times

Hello Everyone and welcome to the September 2023 Nap Times! As many of you know, Nate and I just got back from our ten year anniversary trip to Alberta, Canada and Montana! It was unreal and if you have any questions about what we did there's a new post on the blog I will link below. The question I was asked countless times while gone was *how* we were able to go on an eight-day trip while leaving four young kids at home. The questions fell into three general camps:
  1. How do you deal with the anxiety of leaving your kids?
  2. How do you deal with the logistics of leaving your kids?
  3. What if you don't have family to ask?
All of these feel very valid and if you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that I struggle with quite the doomsday mindset when it comes to flying, and this trip was going to require a LOT of (seven…yes, SEVEN) plane rides. This newsletter is going to try and answer these three specific questions. 
I do want to preface it by saying that my situation could be very different from yours. Our kids might be different ages, you might not have family around to help, or other logistics could be a lot more or less challenging. I hope you are able to take what is helpful and leave what is not. I also know that for many getting away with your spouse feels nearly impossible, or like too much work to try for right now. If that's you, I pray it's a short season with some form of getaway on the horizon. And that getaway might be one night at a local hotel. Whatever you can swing, I do hope you can fight to make it happen because the work always seems to pay off tenfold in the benefits to our marriage. Life gets so busy and there are so many needs to be met both in our children and household. Getting away removes so many distractions and allows you a chance to be reminded who each other are…to laugh and rest together…to simply enjoy this person you fell in love with years ago.
That being said, getting away absolutely takes a lot of work on the front end. You need to find someone to watch your children and essentially train that person to do all of the many, many things you do in a day from the early hours of the morning till after the sun goes down. Lunches and pickups and bedtime routines. It is a LOT. It can feel overwhelming, but I think it is a really good exercise in letting go of control and trusting that your kids can be ok without you.
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the anxiety of leaving your kids
Here's four things that really helped me:
  1. Allow the day before the day before you leave (yes, you read that right) to be a special day with your kids. I say the day before the day before because the actual day before is usually really busy. You have caretakers you need to get instructions to,  packing to do, and laundry to fold. This can make the 24 hours before you leave a hard time to try and also be super present with your kids. Also, if the person watching them is family the kids will likely be really excited to see them and not care too much about spending time with you anyways. Let the day before all of this be a day where you allow yourself a little extra time to read another book, snuggle them longer at bedtime, or whatever it is that feels right to you. This makes the 24 hours before you leave a lot easier not feeling like you need to give them special attention AND do all the other things. (Note: the special attention is normally less for the kids and more for my own heart as their mom. They don't really even comprehend that I am leaving.)
  2. I had a mentor give me a really helpful visual a few years ago for when the plane takes off that I have kept with me that really helps me with flying: she told me to imagine the hand of God…like literally a giant hand…underneath the airplane. This hand raises the plane into the air, holds it as it flies through the sky, then gently brings it back down to the ground. Whenever my anxiety spikes, I close my eyes and imagine this hand underneath the plane, the hand of God who loves me, cares for me, and loves my children, carrying my plane through the sky.
  3. If you don't have one, get a will done well in advance of your trip. I say well in advance because nothing is going to spike your anxiety like thinking about death right before you leave. Nate and I paid to have an official will created and I was so glad it was done before well before we left. It's stressful to think through this worst case scenario, but it's important. But do it in advance so you aren't thinking through this right before you leave.
  4. See this as an opportunity to trust that God loves your children even more than you do. I know that can be hard to believe, but I find leaving my kids is such a good exercise for me to pry open my claws that are deeply clinging to any and all control and trust that Jesus is always with them, even when I am not. 
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the logistics of leaving your kids
Here's four things that helped us:
  1. Who was going to watch the kids was obviously the largest question in planning this trip. We knew we wanted to try and split this trip between both sets of grandparents (each doing four days as opposed to one set doing eight…that felt like a large ask we didn't want to make), and so we planned the trip around when they were available. Nate's parents live in Pennsylvania and a good eight months or so before the trip we asked them if there was any specific time in September that would work for them to come down and watch the kids. We double checked those dates with my parents, and then planned the trip around those dates.
  2. We made a document that went through every single day we were gone. I wanted it to be something where whoever was with them could flip to that specific day and know down to the hour what happened. I didn't want them to have to remember things like “pickup is at 2pm except on Thursdays when the kids stay late for dance." Instead, I wanted them to flip the page to Thursday, September 21st and read “3:00 pm: pickup girls from dance." Many days were purely copy and paste, but I knew that would be more helpful than having all these little additions for the grandparents to remember. Another example: Saturday, September 23rd read "(9:00 am, JR baseball game, needs: baseball pants, glove, bat, and helmet, address: ____). I wanted them to flip to the day and know they had everything they needed for that day. This was more work from me on the front end, but it really helped me feel like I was leaving them with everything they needed. I also left a little sheet with some meal ideas of things we already had on hand – anything to make it easier on them! I was a little nervous they would find the document too structured but both my own mom and my mother-in-law told me it was so helpful to have. They aren't used to watching the kids day in and day out…this gave them some semblance of a schedule and what to expect each day. 
  3. Timing: we purposely planned our trip for when the kids would be back in school. We knew that small amount of structure (and break for the grandparents!) would help everyone. School for you might mean tons of sports and after-school activities and feel more work than summertime. If you have the flexibility to plan a trip for when it best fits your schedule, think through this and plan accordingly.
  4. If you can, ask friends/neighbors/teammates to help with pickups and drop-offs. John Robert needed to stay late one day after school so we asked a classmate's parents to bring him home that day so my parents wouldn't have to do another pickup. So often people that live nearby are so willing to help if you ask them!
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Nate going over the doc with the grandparents!

What if I don't have grandparents to ask?
I know for many asking a grandparent is out of the question and can make you feel really stuck when trying to plan a getaway. You aren't sure who to ask, not to mention the thought of paying someone on top of paying for the trip! I asked a few friends as well as my own mom (who left the four of us with a beloved babysitter many a time – once to go to Australia!) for their advice. 
  1. Consider splitting up the kids: one friend who has four kids said she and her husband split the kids up among friends/family. The older two go stay with their cousins while the younger two stay with a sitter. This is easier on a sitter who might not be able to handle four kids or if the older two have a different school schedule than the younger two. Simplified the logistics of having four.
  2. I asked my mom about leaving us with a sitter (which my parents did on multiple occasions, once to travel to Australia!) and she said she always left us with a sitter that had babysat multiple times and they felt really good about. That sitter had the numbers of anyone who could help in a pinch and they also tried to get any of us with sports a ride with another teammate so the sitter didn't have to do that part. Mom said it was a ton to coordinate but worth it. If you have a sitter like this you could always ask if they are comfortable and then start with an overnight or weekend trip and see how it goes.
  3. Factor the cost of a sitter into the trip budget: go ahead and know what you want to pay someone and have that be a part of the budget for the trip. That way it doesn't feel like this huge added on expense but rather something you have planned and thought for already.
  4. Redefine what “getaway” means for you in this season. It is totally ok if the most you can swing is one night away right now. That time away is still so good for your marriage. Whatever you can make work, fight to enjoy it, knowing that a different season might allow for more time.
Ways to make it easier on the people watching your kids
I talked with mom and these are some ideas we came up with for helping the person watching your kids (this was fresh for mom since she just watched mine!):
  1. One of the hardest parts for the person is oftentimes the food. Especially if it's someone who doesn't love to cook. Leave money for takeout, get a few freezer meals they can heat up or some easy convenience foods like macaroni and cheese and frozen nuggets. You can leave a list for them of all the options.
  2. If you have pets, consider boarding them or having a neighbor watch them. This might not be necessary but if your kids are young and demanding this is simply one less thing for someone else to have to do.
  3. If you are saving money by having family watch your kids, you could pay for a babysitter to come one afternoon or evening to give them a break. Again, this might depend on the ages of your kids (and your parents!) but it could be a nice thing to offer if you are able.
  4. You can have a cleaner come before they arrive (if they are watching at your house) so that's one less thing you are stressing about before you leave, OR schedule a cleaner to come at some point while you are gone (so the person watching your children has a midweek clean done for them), OR get a cleaner to come once you are home and tell the grandparents/sitter not to stress about having the house super clean because you have a cleaner coming. All this to say, cleaning is it's own beast of a job and you could lighten that load if you are able to swing it financially.