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A weekend away

My wife went away to the cottage this past weekend with a few girlfriends from college. It’s an annual event. The participants change slightly each year depending on who can escape work and family responsibilities, but there’s a core of woman who come each year to drink a bottle of wine or two and catch up on each other’s lives. It’s one of her favourite weekends of the year.

It’s also one of my favourite weekends of the year. Not that I want my wife to go away every weekend, of course, but it really is good for her, and for me, and for the kids, if she goes away now and again to have some time and space to herself.

She gets a chance to have a break from her responsibilities for the weekend, not just in the superficial sense of having nothing planned but in the deeper sense of being removed from all the things that normally fill her life. When the alarm was mistakenly set off at work over the weekend, she didn’t have to hear about it. When the kids wanted to have a sleepover, it wasn’t her issue. She couldn’t clean the house, answer email, take the kids to the park, or even watch her favourite show. She had to take some time away and just rest, which is wonderful.

Going away like this also lets her get the stresses of her life off her chest. She’s close enough with all the women there that she can tell them pretty much anything, but she doesn’t have to see them regularly, so again, she can tell them pretty much anything. She can talk about work stress without it getting back to her work, church stress without it getting back to her church, and husband stress without it getting back to her husband. It’s a time where she can talk and share and vent in a safe place. All of which means that she comes home feeling lots better than when she left.

But having her go away is also good for the rest of us. My kids especially always end up realizing how much their mother does for them, how much they take for granted that she’ll be there to shuttle them around, remember things for them, help them with their chores, and so forth. They also realize how much they miss it when she isn’t around to dispense hugs and kisses and story readings. Every time she goes away, it’s a reminder of how much she really means to them.

The same is true for me, of course, but having her go away is also a chance for me to spend some time in ways that I can’t while she’s around. I usually go down to the library and get a pile of the weird, experimental movies that I love and she hates. I go to the beer store and get a selection of the crazy, one-off brews that amuse me but she can’t stand. I go to the grocery store and get a few of the stinky cheeses and spicy meats that I eat with a fork and she tries not even to smell. I love it.

The point is that having her go away now and again is good for everyone in a whole variety of ways. And it’s also good for everyone when I go away for a weekend, as I do with a group of writers each spring. Then it’s my turn to get away from my responsibilities, my children’s turn to realize that they do actually miss having me around, and my wife’s chance to spend some time doing the things she loves.

I’m not sure how long it’s been since you or your spouse has gone away like this, but I think it’s important that you do. Work trips don’t count. Family vacations don’t count. Couple getaways don’t count. Those are all great for their own reasons, but you need to get away by yourself sometimes, and your spouse does too. Make a deal. Trade weekends. Do whatever you have to do. But make sure that you both have the chance to get away.

Luke Hill has been the parent of birth kids, adoptive kids, foster kids, and just-need-a-place-to-stay kids for fourteen years. He’s had experience with kids in homeschool, public schools, and alternative schools. He’s been a teacher, a camp counsellor, and a coach. He’s also taught parenting courses for Children’s Aid for almost a decade. When he isn’t working with kids, he’s a writer, a publisher, and the director of a non-profit organization that supports book culture.