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I was Mom Shamed For Vacationing Without My Kid

My first international trip was to Montego Bay, Jamaica with my best friend. I was around 25 years old, and my daughter was just a bit past one year old.  My 2nd trip was a fast follow just a few months later, a trip to Aruba and I had a blast!

My family had always done road trips throughout Florida and South Georgia growing up but I never got the opportunity to travel abroad.  In high school, I made an All-Star cheerleading squad and was invited to participate in a New Year’s Eve parade in Paris, France but my family could not afford to send me. Our Senior Trip was to Washington, DC and I missed it because my family couldn’t afford it. That was how I grew up thinking about travel – as something people like me could not afford. 

So imagine how excited I was when my best friend and I successfully found an $800 5-day trip to Jamaica including flight and hotel! I could (barely) afford $800!! I had saved up and stalked Expedia.com for weeks up on weeks before we found that trip deal and now traveling was FINALLY available to me!

The bestie and I in Ochos Rios in 2005

Shortly after booking my trip to Jamaica, a coworker offered to host a group of us at her parent’s timeshare in Puerto Rico, all we had to do was pay $300 for the flights. Because I had already been saving for my Jamaica trip, which I thought would be $1,200, I happen to have $300 handy. Unfortunately, she found out that her parent’s PR timeshare was booked and “only their Aruba timeshare” was available (must be nice!). But the flights to Aruba were double the cost of the PR trip. I would have to drop out. Before I could break the news to my coworker, she surprised us by saying her dad felt bad about the mixup with the timeshares and offered to cover 50% of our flight cost so we could stick to spending only $300 to get there! HOLY WOW! for the price of $1,100 I was going to Jamaica and Aruba!!

Me and my coworker/friend crew in Aruba May 2005

At the time, I was working full time, enrolled in grad school full time and a mom to a very active little girl who was just over a year old.  My days started early and ended late – between feeding and dressing an infant, getting to work, leaving work to go to class, picking up said infant, feeding and bathing that infant, then studying and completing my homework late into the night or wee hours of the morning.  It was exhausting and felt never-ending.

The trips to Jamaica and Aruba offered a reprieve, an opportunity for me to step away from the responsibilities and pressures of my everyday life and just enjoy being alive. 

Horseback riding in Jamaica

I returned from my Jamaica trip refreshed and relaxed, ready to pour myself back into my daughter, my job, and school.  I returned from my Aruba trip inspired to live a great life – to work harder, to be a better mom, and to give myself and my daughter a well lived life.  Travel more, do more, be more. I had so many plans for our future and my eyes were opened to what was possible for me and for my little girl.

Boat riding in Aruba

The day after I returned from my 2nd trip, a coworker of mine pulled me to the side and asked how my trip was.  He then felt the need to share with me a bit of wisdom.  He was older than me and had been working and parenting much longer than I.  He told me it was incredibly selfish of me to go on trips without my daughter, especially considering how young she was. He told me that as a new mom, I would need to learn to sacrifice for my child and to learn that my life was no longer my own. 

I nodded my head respectfully and listened to him chastise me for “abandoning my child” and “behaving selfishly”.  When he was finished, I simply said “I have made many sacrifices for my daughter, even before she arrived in this world. I know I will make many and more sacrifices for her throughout the rest of my life. One thing I also know is that this is my life, she is a part of it. It’s my job to live my life to the fullest and teach her to do the same. Happy women make great moms.”

Over the next 15 years, I would go on to take no less than 50 trips without my daughter, some for work, but most for pleasure and yet she still has managed to feel loved, supported, and provided for. Go figure. 

Relaxing in. Tulum, Mexico no kid in sight

I still, to this day, think about that man’s comments. The superior and assured way in which he delivered them. I still remember being completely amazed at the audacity of him and utterly confused as to why he didn’t get that I might need a break, especially considering the rigor of my daily schedule being a single mom, full-time employee, and full-time graduate student.  Apparently not even those things had earned me the “right” to enjoy some time away from my child.

I have heard so many women share similar stories over the years – being shamed for doing things for themselves, taking time for themselves, and definitely taking for trips by themselves. 

It seems the only time it’s acceptable for a woman to be away from her kids is if she’s with her husband.  I know for a fact had I taken a trip with my (non-existent) husband, my coworker would have thought nothing of it. He would have commended me for taking time to strengthen my marriage, especially with a new baby. It is only when we moms choose to do things that only benefit ourselves and no one else that people assign judgement for our actions. 

Moms only trip in Costa Rica

I normally talk to the women who are the receivers of these judgments and offer some encouragement to “do you”.  But this time, I want to direct my message at the people who deliver this judgement to moms and attempt to make them feel ashamed or guilty.  

Shut the fuck up.

You have no idea how hurtful your judgements are. Moms place more than enough pressure on themselves, they don’t need you making them feel bad for unplugging for the sake of their own sanity. You are not qualified to tell someone else what their child needs. We parent for 7,300 days minimum (that’s 18 years times 365 days), taking a few of those days every year to travel solo or with friends will not hurt our children.  In fact, if we just took 1 trip per year for that 18 years, that’s only 90 days out of 18 entire years! That’s only 1% of the days we spend spend parenting…ONLY 1%! Stob begrudging these women a measly 1% of their 18 year tenure as parents to take for themselves.

Our lives are ours, not our children’s

Plus, happy women make great moms

So, feel free to reserve your judgement and keep it to yourself.  If you really want to help, offer to watch these kids while we’re gone.  K, thanks, bye! 

My Daughter chatted with me about being shamed for traveling without her

https://youtu.be/pO2WSrgpQkY

For all you mommas out there, I now run moms only trips for my community Wandering Moms to help women take time out for themselves and to connect, bond, and have an amazing time with other mommas. Here are the trips I have coming up in 2021:

Apply Your Own Mask First Momcation in Riviera Maya, Mexico – January 14th – 18th

MUVALAND: Mother’s Day in the Motherland in Cape Town, South Africa – May 4th – 10th

Yacht Momma Momcation in British Virgin Islands – September 29th – Oct 4th

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