It was not the first time I was leaving my daughter for a work trip. But it was the first time after two long years. I was excited to go, but I already felt guilty even before I left.
Will my child be okay if I leave her for four days? Will she forget about me? Am I being selfish for leaving?
It turned out that I was not alone in having these feelings. This feeling of guilt of leaving your child behind is shared by other parents, mothers especially, who have to travel—either for work or leisure.
Adding to that guilt is how Filipino culture seems to look down on parents, again mothers especially, who find time to enjoy themselves without their children.
The ironic thing about it is that some parents try to use this argument as a defense of their own insecurities. It’s not unusual to hear or read comments online like, “I may be a single parent, but when I go out, I take my kids with me.” (That first part of the sentence can be replaced with, “I may not be rich,” or “We don’t have this or that.”)
Such is said or written thoughtlessly without realizing that there is no competition on who is the better parent. And neither will your circumstances make you a bad one.
Malou Treñas, a mom and counseling psychologist, talked about the benefits of parents having “me time.”
“It is important to have ‘me time’ not just away from the kids, but also away from work, away from your responsibilities. Go out and do something that nourishes your soul or fuels your energy,” Treñas told Lifestyle.
She said “me time” does not always mean a trip. It can be a day with your friends or a spa day. Just find a time where you can be alone with your thoughts, without a little person demanding your attention.
“I think it’s important to understand that you are more than a mom. You also need to recharge and when you go back home, you will be better for it,” said Treñas.
In a past interview, stationery line kikki.K founder Kristina Karlsson said her “me time” is at 4 a.m. when her children and husband are asleep. She uses the time to design and be creative.
This is what a “me time” can do. It is a chance when you can just be yourself and reconnect to who you were as a person before you became a parent.
“We all have a lot of challenges and stressors. Of course, you love your family. You want to take care of them. But there are days when you, as an individual, need that moment to relax and do activities that you enjoy away from worrying about everybody else’s problems,” Treñas said.
‘Children will survive’
The pandemic allowed everyone to be together at home. This made parents more involved in their children’s education and growth. Being a hands-on parent is a good thing, but there is more to it than being present in your children’s lives all the time.
Treñas said you can make children feel that you are there for them even if you are away, if they feel that they can tell you anything. That you will be there to help them with their problems, whether you discuss it with them on the phone or in person, without them feeling censure or conflict from you.
“Children will survive the occasional trip of mom or ‘me time,’” she said.
When do you know if you can leave your child for an overnighter or even a week?
Ask yourself if there is a trusted person that you can leave your child with. It can be your spouse or partner if they are not coming with you. It can be the grandparents, titos or titas, or even a longtime helper.
Another thing you need to prepare is a list to orient the person you are leaving your child with, on what to do in case of an emergency. How and where should they reach you? Where are the medical insurances of the child if there are any? Who is the doctor and what number should be called in the emergency room?
Getting over feelings of guilt
To get over the feeling of guilt, Treñas suggested focusing on how a break or a trip can make the household better.
“Think of the time off or away from them as a recharging tool for you, so you have more batteries for them,” she said.
These “batteries” will give you more patience with handling your kids. When parents are stressed out, they unknowingly pass their frustrations on to their children. They become crankier and there is more conflict at home. Just because you are physically present doesn’t automatically mean that they feel you are there for them. This is why a break, if you can afford it, is beneficial for the entire household.
Treñas shared that the first time she left her son, he was 11 years old. She was so worried about him even though it was just an overnight work trip. However, the next time she had to do it, her son was the one who told her to ease up and relax. She said it made him feel independent.
“Again, it’s a case-to-case thing. Some children may really need you to be there for them all the time. I think it’s necessary to go out and tell them that you need to enjoy but you’ll be back. Find ways to spend quality time with them so they won’t feel lost without you,” she said. INQ