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Surviving (and, at Times, Thriving) Without the Kids

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Sunday: We drop the kids at the airport with their grandmother. The Southwest area is a zoo, and I'm parked in the middle of the road. We give hasty hugs and kisses and the girls disappear. Since we're already in the city, we decide to hang out at a hotel, like childless adults, and have a lazy Sunday. I find myself twitchy; the kids, when they are around, always take up a share of my mind. Without that attention, I'm uncomfortable. So I have a Bloody Mary. It helps a little

Monday: In the middle of a high-priority work call, my cell phone rings. Once. Twice. Three times. Finally, I apologize and take it, assuming the worst. It's my oldest, who can't wait to tell me about the first half of her day. She is vibrating with excitement. After she's done, I flip back over to the work call. I feel guilty; more guilty than if I had to put her off if she was standing with me.

Wednesday: I take a two-day business trip, juggling calls to my wife and calls to the kids. The family has never been split in three like this, and everything seems a bit surreal. I return home and it's exactly as I left it. My wife and I don't leave much of a footprint.

Friday: I knock off early and do an early-evening trail run. I'm on mile 2 when I glance down at my watch: it's 5:15 p.m. I should be racing around, picking up, arranging for the Friday evening pizza delivery. But I'm not: There is nothing but me and the trail. I'm buoyed at first, but then spend the next 30 minutes thinking about them and secretly wishing I was back in the usual routine.

Saturday: Preparing for the return of the kids, I clean out the fridge. A week of cooking for two (or, more accurately, not cooking for two) means a lot of stuff needs to be thrown out. Cottage cheese, green onions, the better part of a half-gallon of milk. When I'm done, the fridge is nearly bare; only condiments remain.

I'm reminded of a time, not long after my first arrived, when I had to make a sudden trip to handle a family emergency. I slept on the floor of a work colleague's apartment; he lived in a hip apartment in a hip city and spent his time seeing hip museums and going to hip art openings. On the way up, I was envious. That was the life I had left when I became a parent. But after settling in at his place, I opened the fridge to grab a snack. Instead were two pint-sized containers of orange juice and a single sweet potato. That was it.

And, suddenly, I wasn't so envious. There was something about that empty fridge that suggested a certain lack of permanence and a certain lack of grounding. However messy my life was then, dominated by diapers and bottles and pediatrician visits, I was viscerally connected to family, and that gave me a great deal of fulfillment.

It was a nice week away, but the fact is that I couldn't wait to see the children again, to return to the chaos and the full refrigerator.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  July 30, 2009; 7:20 AM ET  | Category:  Work/Life Balance
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A full week is hard. But we've had a couple of shorter breaks this summer when my mom has taken the kids to the beach, and all I can say is, "hallelujah." My stress level goes down because life's logistics are so much simpler, DH and I get to spend unhurried time with each other, and I get to remember what life was like BK. It's nice.

And then, it's even nicer when they get home and we go back to our boisterous, busy, happy routine.

Posted by: laura33 | July 30, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

"I return home and it's exactly I left it."

There's a word missing from this sentence.

"But after setting in at his place, I opened the fridge to grab a snack."

Do you mean after settling in?

"I was vicerally connected to family"

Do you mean viscerally?

Brian, what do you tnink your life will be like when the kids leave the nest?

Posted by: jezebel3 | July 30, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Correction: what do you think your life will be like when the kids leave the nest?

Posted by: jezebel3 | July 30, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Our kids spend time quite a bit of time with their grandparents, over nights, weekends. Just last weekend they were at my parents and while it was very quiet - my husband and I were relaxed and thankful that they get the opportunity to be with them for extended periods of time. I didn't have that opportunity with my grandparents.

Brian, You need to relax. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about "life before kids" or wishing I was running around and ordering pizza. You should take advantage of these breaks from your kids and stop wringing your hands.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 30, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Our kids (7 and 6) are going to spend a week with their aunt next week and we can't wait. It's the longest we'll have been away from them and I'm so looking forward to it. I think these breaks have huge benefits for parents and kids.

Posted by: dennis5 | July 30, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Totally agree on breaks being super beneficial for the kids and for the parents - makes you really appreciate life and what you have (as others have noted).

And - it's just good to get a break in for yourself and/or with your sig. other sometimes!

When our daughter turned one, we celebrated by leaving her with grandma and grandpa and went to Italy. Our tour group was kind of shocked at first, but once they got to know us, they got over it and we had such a good time together. And as much as I loved that trip, we loved coming home to see her again even more. It was (for us) ideal.

I recall another mom in our daughter's daycare class lamenting that she had to take a business trip soon and she'd be away for three days, two nights. She said she'd never been away from her daughter for that long. I couldn't relate!

I also think it's a critical thing to remember 1) what YOU like to do when you do have time to yourself because as others have noted - someday the kids will grow up and leave and 2) what you like or enjoy about your relationship with your spouse. Because again, once the kids are gone, it will be just the two of you.

Posted by: stephs98 | July 30, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

jezebel: I've made the corrections in Brian's post.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | July 30, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

i'm with Brian on this one.

time away from my family reminds me how lucky i am and how much i love them with all of the tedium and all of the chaos.

a weekend away with friends is a wonderful break, but i always look forward to returning home to my family.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | July 30, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Last night our family had dinner at a friend's house-- she has no kids, and is unmarried. Her refrigerator was packed to the gills.

Brian, your friend made a choice to not have a lot in his fridge, but LOTS of single folks choose otherwise. In fact, if you hadn't gotten married or had kids, I bet you would have had a full fridge too, as it seems something that is meaningful to you.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | July 30, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I would love a week break from my kids. Must be nice to get one and also complain about it.

Posted by: jimward21 | July 30, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I can relate to Brian. I really miss my kids when I am away from them for more than a night or two. A week seems like a lot at this point. But on the other hand, a day or an evening without the little ones is just heaven. So we try to get those in regularly. But I am not ready for extended periods without them yet.

Posted by: emily8 | July 30, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"...he lived in a hip apartment in a hip city and spent his time seeing hip museums and going to hip art openings."

Hip, hip, hip = smug married's code for "I'm not hip, I'm just better."

At what point was this guy thriving without his kids as the headline implies?

Posted by: Shamrock0317 | July 30, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

At what point was this guy thriving without his kids as the headline implies?

Posted by: Shamrock0317 | July 30, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

During the threesome! Pay attention!

Posted by: jezebel3 | July 30, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

My kids have gone to overnight camp for several summers, and people always ask me if I miss them. Well, yes and no. I enjoy the time without them (some of which is also without DH), but of course their absence has an impact.

This summer DD (age 16) has been overseas for the last month, and DH and I certainly have not missed the teen drama. And DS (age 11) seemed to enjoy the peace and quiet too.

Posted by: justme22 | July 30, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm with cheeky on this one. Enjoy where ever you are or in the wise words of Ram Das, Be Here Now.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | July 30, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Hah! 7 days! Piker! :-)

I'm about to do a 5 week stint. Mrs. Blade has a job assignment that overlaps travel of mine. So, I took the kids down to Costa Rica to stay with the grandmother and then fly back tomorrow. Then it's 4 precious weeks of solo time while the kids and Mrs. Blade enjoy the sun, sand, and pool.

I love the kids (3 1/2 year old twins), but it's difficult to get much done while they're up and active. And by the time 8:30 rolls around, my get up and go has got up and left. So, my assignment for the next 5 weeks is to get a lot of extra work done at the job and on the place. Well, that and drink beer and roll around in the mud.

BTW - Jez's last post is fall on the floor LMAO.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 30, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

So I went back and reread for the threesome and couldn't find it. Sob.

Posted by: emily8 | July 30, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

@emily - You have to read between the lines (and the sheets).


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 30, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Younger son has turned into Mr. Social Butterfly over the past year. He's off to overnights with a half-dozen different friends at least every week or two during the school year, and it's up to 2-3 times a week during the summer.

Yeah, I miss him like mad. I'm so glad when he gets home, and he grabs me and squeezes me around the middle. And when he measures his height against me, and hopes that this time he'll *finally* have become taller.

Older son and DH don't seem to miss him as much as I do. And the house and routines are smoother and quieter.

Posted by: SueMc | July 30, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

i know what parents really do! the first time i 'snuck' home from school to visit my parents i caught them runnin around naked! not a shirt and undies .....BUTT NAKED!!!!! i just about died laughing....after that on always new when i was coming!! LOL

Posted by: nall92 | July 30, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Now I understand why my parents send us to sleep away camp every summmer for at least a month. It was more for them than us! I will start saving now so DS can go in 8 years or so!

Posted by: Laura118 | August 3, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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