Fun without the kids: Guilty

This week's guest writer is Amber Marsh, who lives on Vancouver Island. As an Okanagan transplant, Amber very much enjoys the lack of snow. When not being ‘Mom’, she loves to read, write, travel, and volunteer on various community groups

Fun without the kids: Guilty

By Amber Marsh

Our tickets were booked, our bags were packed, and the in-laws had arrived to babysit our kids, five and two. 

We were off to San Francisco to celebrate our 10th anniversary, and it was our first trip together sans kids. 

I was beyond excited. 

But when I told friends that we were headed off without the kids, many of them responded with dismay, shock, and foretellings of gloom and doom. 

“Oh, I could never leave my kids for that long, I’d miss them too much!” 

“Aren’t you worried they won’t be cared for as well as you care for them?” 

“Could it traumatize them, Amber? Maybe make them clingy?”

This started me wondering, would I miss the kids too much? Would I have trouble enjoying my vacation while worrying whether they were getting enough sleep, enough play time, and not getting too much sugar? 

The worry mounted. Would they be crying to sleep at night because they thought I had abandoned them? Would I physically ache to have their little arms around me? 

Yes, my friends’ words sat heavy, and dampened my enthusiasm.

When the day came and it was time to go, I prepared myself for tears, not just from the kids, but maybe tears from me as well.  

But all I felt was excitement, and the kids - well, they barely said goodbye before they were dragging Nana off to play games. 

And that’s when I had the epiphany: I wasn’t going to miss them. And I didn’t miss them. At all. 

We had an amazing week in San Francisco, and on those occasions when we did call to check in, the kids weren’t interested in talking to us because they were having too much fun discovering who they were when they weren’t with us.  

The next few years saw more kid-free vacations. The Bahamas, Martinique, and Hawaii, and every time I enjoyed the freedom. 

I could eat my food warm, sleep a full night without kids calling for me, wake up at a reasonable time in the morning. 


Inevitably, though, I had to field the questions when I arrived back home. 

“So, didn’t you miss them? I start to cry when my kids are away for a few hours!”

“It’s so weird that you didn’t miss them, Amber.”  

And then I’d feel guilty. That I revelled in my child-free hours and days suddenly seemed like a bad thing.

I am a mother. One of my primary responsibilities is to care for my children, to be available to them, to heal hurts, to help with homework. 

Women, when they become mothers, are expected to drop their established identities and pick up the new ‘mother’ identities. They are expected to happily carry those new expectations without looking back at who they once were. 

They are expected to feel guilty for having fun without their children, or, even worse, having more fun without them. 

Being a mum doesn’t negate me as a person, though. It doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to enjoy being away from my children, and it doesn’t mean I need to be on call 24 hours a day for the rest of their lives. 

This past summer, my husband was working out of town, so to save on childcare expenses while I was working, the kids went to stay with their grandparents for almost two weeks. 

For the first time in over a decade, I had the house completely to myself. I called the kids just twice, and only made those calls because it felt as though it must be some kind of parental requirement.

After all, what kind of mother doesn’t feel the desire to talk to their kids?

When I asked my son the requisite, “Do you miss me?” he said, “I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings, Mom, but I don’t.” 

Was my heart torn apart by this? Hell no. I was elated. I told him I didn't miss him either.

They were having a grand time without me, and I felt foolish for caving to the perceived expectations of others. My kids have identities beyond the ones I see when I’m with them, and they need to discover those personalities just as much as I need to regain mine. 

Now I tell people straight out that no, I don’t miss my kids when we are apart. I accept their looks of dismay and disbelief, and see it as a lack of understanding that a mother’s needs are not defined or constricted by the fact that they have children.  

There was a time, shortly after my first child was born, when I wondered if I was going to lose my ‘self’. I wondered if my life would forever be wrapped up in that small chubby grasp, and I’d be defined only as ‘Mom’. I’m happy to say that although I still very much love taking that small hand in mine, it is also very blissful to let it go.

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