The Escape Hatch: Why All Parents Need One

In a few days my husband and I are going to Las Vegas, without our kids. On Sunday we’ll be dining at Picasso and going to see “O.” Just eight months ago we took our first trip alone, to Napa.

napa

It may seem a little selfish to be taking another trip away from our children again so soon. But you have to understand, our nanny (the most wonderful, kind, gentle, person on earth) is moving in less than two months. She’s been a part of our family since my son was fourteen-months-old. Up until that point I had never left him with anyone for more than fifty-seven minutes. Yes, I counted. After he turned one I came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to get a break (like, a real break) I was going to have to hire someone, schedule it and pay for it. After searching for a nanny and doing several interviews I stumbled upon the profile of a woman named Oz. The same weird nickname we have for my son.

It was serendipitous.

I knew she was the woman for us when during her interview she became distracted as my son wandered down the hallway, out of sight. She fidgeted in her seat and nervously asked, “Um, where did he go? Is there a gate at the top of those stairs? And you need better covers on these electrical sockets.”

I hired her immediately.

Over the last three years I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her. You know how every once in awhile you meet someone who seems too kind for this earth? That’s Oz. I’ve watched in awe at the natural ability she has to calm an agitated child with a gentle touch and a sweet, “Oh lovey, come here. What’s wrong?” I’ve seen her get teary eyed when talking about cruelty or injustice. She is love in human form. I will miss her presence in our life, and not just because she gives me a break from my children.

The clock is ticking my friends. Lately people keep asking me, “So have you found someone new? What are you going to do when she leaves?”

“Cry,” I say, “I’m going to cry very very hard.”

So I realized this is our last chance to take a trip without our children, for a very long time. Here’s the deal, I could find another nanny, but I will never find another Oz. It would take years to cultivate that level of trust in another person.

So, a few weeks back I was standing in the kitchen, looking at the calendar and realizing she was leaving soon. I knew if I ever wanted another trip alone with my husband it had to happen soon. Oz informed me she could watch the kids, in a little less than two weeks. We booked the trip quickly. There was barely enough time to build anticipation.

It felt different this time.

The trip we took back in February was a different story. We NEEDED the break. But lately things are good. It’s fall, still nice enough out that we’re out of the house a lot. We had a great summer, which included our first vacation as a family of four. The kids have been healthy. They’re involved in school and activities. Our youngest just turned two, and all of a sudden she seems like a person and not a baby. Life is fun.

Did I just say that?

But it is, it’s fun and we’re not really yearning to leave our babies right now. We’re more in the mood to go on a family trip to Disney, but as I said, last chance.

So here we go. It’ll be good.

But one of the things I’m going to miss most once our nanny leaves is the option of having what I call the escape hatch. Oh, the escape hatch, every parent needs an escape hatch.

 

R_Golden_Gate

My handsome devil in one of the greatest cities on earth.

In order to understand you need to read what I wrote last winter right before we left on our first trip without our kids.

Here it is:

I can’t stop seeing the children, and so many of them so little, so precious. Perhaps it’s just the truth of any given profession that you will see your work everywhere you go. When I did hair I saw everyone’s hair.

Or perhaps it’s just the truth of leaving my babies for the first time. I wonder how any mother could ever truly leave her babies.

My children, I love them, but they were smothering me with their neediness. The way children tend to do from time to time.

I cried “Uncle!” I booked a trip. Something I never ever imagined I’d do. I had watched friends with babies (like babies who still need bottles) go on seven day cruises or resorts in Cabo, without their babies. I could never do that. I’m not “that kind of mother,” I would tell myself.

Of course, I guess no one is “that kind of mother” until they are. Until they take the advice any counselor, priest or minister gives you in premarital counseling: put the marriage first. If the marriage is strong the children will thrive.

And so here we are.

Over the five weeks leading up to the trip I found myself feeling as though I had been gifted an escape hatch. When the days were long, and whiney, and snowy and I was trapped inside waiting for nap time only to look at the clock and realize it was only 8:50am, I would remember the escape hatch. I would relax.

And then an amazing thing happened.

I started to miss my babies simply thinking about not being with them. I would look at them and think, “How could I ever leave, even for five days?” I would hold them tighter, attack them with kisses. As weeks ticked by other Moms, jealous at preschool drop-off, would yell across the parking lot, “How many more days?” At first I wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Then I would remember. I would smile and say, “Oh, geez, I’m not sure. What is today? Hahaha!” But really I wasn’t counting down the days.

I was already missing my babies.

hotel_morning

The escape hatch, we will miss you and foggy mornings spent in hotel beds.