Childless Vacation

This response to this post is amazing! Thanks for all of your notes on Facebook, Instagram and via text. I’m so glad many of you are finding this thought-provoking. Please feel free to share this with your network of friends. Also, if you’re reading this on a mobile device – I apologize for the vertical images appearing horizontal. I’m trying to figure out that issue.

Some will cheer me. Others will judge. But I’m just going to say it…

If your youngest child is weaned, you need to go on a vacation alone with your spouse.

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not a munchkin in sight

Jason and I recently returned from an amazing week away together. It was life changing.

It wasn’t until our plane landed, car rented, room checked into, bags unpacked, first night of solid sleep in years complete… we realized it. We really needed this. Like, really needed it.

We shook off the cobwebs that comes with hours of peaceful slumber, sipped our coffee made with heated up bottled water and VIA Starbucks packs, sat on our little porch overlooking the Sea of Cortez with it’s occasional plume of spray from a surfacing gray whale and we sighed. Deeply.

We survived.

Since Kenton was born in May 2011. 31 months previously. We survived. We kept our heads above water. We kept a baby boy alive. We conceived and bore a daughter. For nearly 15 months, we also kept her alive. Our children were healthy, happy, and at home. 1,200 miles away. Which is why we were able to see it….

Survival was in our rearview mirror.

We did it. We high-fived each other. We tossed back shots of tequila.

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And sucked down ridiculously huge margaritas. With beer. Because… why not?

We went fishing in the deep.

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 We caught five yellowtail tuna.

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We ate one for dinner that night. It was amazing.

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We shopped.

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We indulged in fine dining.

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The Maguro Lime Roll at NickSan – life changer right there.

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 We read.

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We laid in the sun. We slept in. Took naps. Watched two seasons of Scandal in three days. Drank some more tequila.

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We enjoyed the success of survival. We were pleased, as we should be.

Two kids in 16 months is a lot.

October 2012. Kenton, 16months. Camile, one day.

October 2012. Kenton, 16months. Camile, one day.

December 2013. Camille, 14.5 months. Kenton, 2.5 years.

December 2013. Camille, 14.5 months. Kenton, 2.5 years.

The most important part of this trip was not the high-five to surviving the last 31 months, not the uninterrupted conversation, not the resort atmosphere, crazy adventures, or tequila.

The most important part of this trip was a scheduled meeting.

Since our newlywed days, we’ve been told to hold a weekly “marriage staff meeting.” A designated time during the week to discuss the “boring” stuff: finances, calendar, projects, goals, unresolved issues, etc. We were good for a while, and then we had kids.

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perceptionreality photos by O'Grace Photography

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photos by O’Grace Photography

Kids are awesome and all-consuming. Time away provided a better view of where we were. From that vantage point, we could see we were ready to move past simply surviving. Survival is in the past, it’s time for our family to THRIVE. Time to shift out of neutral. Stop treading water and start swimming. We are so gosh-darn proud of ourselves for what we’ve accomplished, but we know there’s much more in store.

We had several conversations over our week together in Cabo, but designated one day to a staff meeting. We found a little harbor-side restaurant, ordered a bucket of beers and a couple of margaritas. We had pen, paper and a list of macro topics to discuss:

  • General goals – personal and family
  • Family calendar for 2014 (travel)
  • Finances/Budget
  • Household projects
  • Career decisions

It was a no judgement zone. We allowed each other to be open and honest withour fear of hurting feelings. We are on the same team. God brought us together for a reason. While we are similar in many ways, we are vastly different in others – thankfully, in ways that make our partnership successful. We both have weaknesses. We both have a supportive partner bold enough to point them out. In love. And help the other improve. We push each other toward success.

The discussion ultimately spurred us to some major decisions. I’m not going to share all of them with you, but I will share a few:

  • Wake at 5:00am together. Every weekday.

The conversation that day resulted in a significant change to our family’s daily routine. Something we’re now one week into and already seeing the benefits.

We realized the only time of day we have control over is the early morning. We are apart during the day and the evenings get booked with commitments, or we’re exhausted, someone has to work late, etc. In the mornings, our kids are generally good about staying in their beds (not necessarily sleeping) until 7:00am. By waking up together at 5:00, we have two hours to ourselves. Our first priority during that time is coffee. I wish I could say it was the Lord, but that comes next. First, we get coffee. Then, we sit on the couch, Jason reads a devotional and we pray together. We have not been good about praying together in our marriage. Especially since we had kids. Part of the perspective our time away provided was the realization prayer had to become a part of our daily routine in order for our family to succeed. In a very sneaky move, God arranged for our pastor to deliver an incredible message on prayer the weekend after we got back from Cabo and before we began our new routine that Monday morning. (Check it out here, if you’re interested.)

After that time, we can chat about what’s ahead for the day. Make sure we’re on the same page for the evening. Then, Jason gets ready for work and I make breakfast for everyone – hot, healthy, yummy breakfasts – and prep his lunch (a result of our budget portion of the staff meeting). By the time my kids need me, I’ve finished making the food, putting away the dishes, started a load of laundry, found a few minutes to throw some make up on, checked email & social media, and had a second cup of coffee. When my kids get up – I AM ALL THEIRS. That is HUGE. That’s not how it has been. They have not had my full attention in the morning, every morning. In just one week, I’ve noticed an incredible difference.

For the record, I’m a night owl. My ideal schedule was when I worked an evening TV News shift. I could stay up until 3:00am, and sleep until 11:00am. 5:00am is hard for me. But it took just a couple of days to see the benefits far outweigh the struggle to physically remove my body from comfy bed before the sun is up.

Another reason it’s a bit easier to get up, I’m embarassed to admit, is because I’ll get to reunite with my BFF downstairs: my phone.

  • No more phones in the bedroom.

That leads me to our next major change – no more phones in our bedroom. We leave them downstairs.

Note to robbers/rapists/murders – we have backup communication plans with emergency personnel, so don’t go getting any crazy ideas. 

During our week away, we did not check social media. I didn’t even bring my phone on the plane – I knew it would be too tempting for me. The time away helped us realize – and we were both quick to admit – we spent too much time on our phones. Me, being the night owl, greatly enjoyed unwinding in bed each night perusing the day’s news, social media updates, etc… while my husband did the same, sitting right next to me. Our eyes focused on tiny screens that linked us to a world outside of ourselves. ENOUGH. Many people have written better blogs about this idea of “divorcing” your phone. (This one seems to be the ‘hot’ post of the moment.) We’re not going that far – our phones still have great benefits, but not when they get in the way of our relationship/communication. So, hasta la vista.

  • Re-distribution of chores

Oh my, this is one of the most unsexy aspects of marriage no one tells you about. We divided up household chores as newlyweds and again when we bought our home, but have not revisited that topic since. While it’s really not fun to debate who will take out the trash (him), do the laundry (me), wash the dog (him), dust (me), pick up poop in the backyard (him), or clean the bathrooms (me)… it is necessary. Otherwise, assumptions are made, expectations unmet, and disappointment ensues. It’s a nasty spiral.  Household maintenance with two youngin’s involved takes communication and order. We now have a chalkboard door in our laundry room with the new daily/weekly/bi-weekly chores written clearly so we see them and are reminded to do them.

  • Home Improvements

We also discussed our finances, which I won’t go into detail about here – but that did result in some reordering of priorities when it comes to our home improvement projects. What made the 2014 to-do list:

    • Kid’s bathroom renovation (stuck in the “gutted” phase for nearly a year… oops)
    • Renovation of our guest bathroom downstairs
    • Improving our patio roof
    • Painting kitchen cabinets (probably just a touch-up)
    • Window dressings in the master bedroom, playroom, extra bedroom upstairs
    • DIY a built-in desk/shelves in the living room for use as our study
    • Transition the “study” (which is currently a storage area) into a guest bedroom
    • Fix our garage door
    • Investigate:
      • Moving our washer/dryer upstairs
      • Solar panel installation

Other things were pushed off farther into the future:

    • Exterior paint
    • New flooring
    • New windows
    • Removal of all popcorn ceilings (we have a unique issue in our house which makes this an incredibly daunting project)
    • Designing Camille’s “big girl” room

Discussing all of that, agreeing to the timelines, and writing out lists made everything we need to do seem possible. Otherwise, the list of things we “have” to do this house is long, intimidating and overwhelming.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve an award! I thought about breaking this into several posts, but realized I rarely have time for one post, let alone several – so it wound up in one mega-post.

We can honestly not communicate strongly enough to you how beneficial our time away was. We are not wealthy. A week in paradise was a luxury. We saved for it, used points for plane tickets, a time share exchange for our room, limited our excursions and activities so we didn’t carry any debt over from the trip. Grandparents watched our munchkins, so no expense there.

If you can do this – get away – preferably the distance of an airplane trip, not just a local drive. And stay away for at least five nights, preferably six – DO IT.

Did I miss my kids? HELL YES. Camille was actually battling an illness when we left – which broke my heart. But she and Kenton were in excellent hands.

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We are blessed that both sets of grandparents live in our ‘hood this time of year. (My parents live here full-time, while Jason’s are “snow birds.”) They watched the kids – sharing the responsibility of our two toddlers. We were able to FaceTime with them a few times and get regular updates and photos over email. That certainly helped ease my heart.

Nothing major happened and they all actually enjoyed their extended time together. Whew!

So… we are refreshed, relaxed, and most importantly, ready.

You know those “words of the year” people declare. I never understood them. I contemplated a few words the last couple of years, but could never really pin one down. Now I know why – I was busy surviving. Nothing beyond the day to day mattered. This year, though, I have a word.

Focus.

Our trip helped me focus on what is important for our little family. Our staff meeting gave me a game plan. Now, I have a word to help me… focus. It’s perfect.

Oh, also, today is our sixth wedding anniversary.

photo by O'Grace Photography

photo by O’Grace Photography

Happy anniversary to my love, the greatest blessing in my life – my number one priority on this earth. Thank you, honey, for working with me to have the best relationship possible – which is the best gift we could ever give our munchkins.

Did you find this post influential? If so, please pin this image:

The 1 Reason You Should go on a Vacation ALONE with your spouse NOW by MakingOurDream

And then spill… where would you go for a week away with just your spouse?!

About Michelle Fortin

Michelle Fortin is a follower of Jesus, a wife and a mom. She's also an award winning broadcast journalist and public relations professional. Michelle spent nearly a decade working in television newsrooms across the country, both behind and in front of the camera. Training future broadcast journalists in her faculty associate roles at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and at Arizona Christian University was a cherished focus of her post-TV career. Today, she maintains a roster of public relations clients focused on empowering fellow “momprenuers.” She also serves as a speaker for various women's and mom's events. Michelle received her bachelor’s degree from Biola University and Master of Mass Communication (MMC) from Arizona State University. She and her husband, two young kids and English bulldog call Scottsdale, Arizona, home.

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5 Responses to Childless Vacation

  1. Jen January 20, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    Love this, love both of you!! Happy anniversary!! PS: if you need any help with solar, my man would be the guy to ask 😉 xo

  2. Fran January 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    So glad we could be part of making this vacation happen for you both. I can see from your post how productive it was for you as well as a much needed chance to unwind. Childrearing is a daunting task but so rewarding! The week also allowed us special times to continue to connect with our grandchildren that brought us closer together & created happy memories. Beautifully written post once again. Happy Anniversary to a much loved couple. Fran & Al (Mom & Dad)

  3. Tracy Carson January 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    So great Michelle! This is fabulous. I loved your intentionality with the trip as well as your action steps. Keith and I have had the chance to do weekends away without kiddos and it has been just as much of a blessing. It’s so important to remember why you feel in love with the other person! So happy for you!

  4. Kim@NewlyWoodwards January 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    I love this post so, so much. You two are truly such an inspiration. Not just the vacation, but also the idea of hashing everything out. Ryan and I talk about budget a lot, but not much else. I love the idea of really talking about everything in a relaxed and non-judgey way.

    And the mornings part. You struck me right in the heart. I’ve become really bad about staying up late and then waking up pretty much when Henry wakes up and rushing around all morning. Enough. I know it’s crazy to do this to us all. Ryan leaves for work by 5, so I don’t know that we could get much “us” time together. But, I gotta really re-think what the best thing for my family is. I know it’s not sleeping until Henry is up.

    Hugs! Thank you for taking the time to write this. Pinning.

  5. Erin @ domesticadventure March 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    I just now read every word and loved every word. I think we’re ready to move past survival, too! Thanks, friend, for writing this! xoxo

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