How Guilt Ruined Our Romantic Vacation

Like many parents, guilt and obligation threw a wrench into our romantic vacation plans.

couple at the beach mavo / Shutterstock

The kids are back at school, the leaves are starting to turn and fall, the blow-up pool's been packed away for another year. Summer is unofficially over.

As far as summers go, I really can't complain: There were plenty of water fights, backyard BBQs, mornings spent digging up slimy, hidden treasures at the beach. The kids had a blast, and so did we—even though it wasn't exactly the kind of fun my husband and I had in mind.


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We started the year with one goal in mind: A grown-up vacation, without our two daughters. No deadlines, no early morning wake-ups, no dirty diapers or time-out chairs. We planned to go to New York, the same place we'd honeymooned almost a decade ago. I live and breathe my little girls, but I have to admit that hotel bathrobes and late-night bottles of wine sounded like a little slice of heaven.

It's nice to know that my husband and I aren't the only parents in search of some time away from our sticky little cherubs: According to a survey, 64% of moms and dads reported taking a vacation without the kids. Of course, that time away comes at a hefty price: G U I L T. Of the parents that took a holiday without their children, a full 46% felt bad about it (though it's interesting to note that over half of moms felt guilty while just over a third of dads did).


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In my case, the traces of guilt set in long before the plane ever took off — without us on it. By June our plans had changed from 5 days in NYC to 3 days in San Francisco because we didn't want to disrupt the summer camp that our oldest daughter was so looking forward to. Can you imagine the guilt?

Fast forward to July and we'd revised our itinerary once again: Two days at a lake a half-day's drive away. Our 2-year-old had suddenly stopped sleeping through the night, and I didn't feel right about asking her grandma—our one and only sitter—to be up and down and up and down (and up and down) all night long with her.

By the time August hit our romantic summer getaway consisted of a single afternoon together downtown. Don't get me wrong, it was a great afternoon — but so much for those bathrobes and bottles of wine.


Maybe I should follow blogger Rebecca Eckler's lead. The mom-of-two didn't let guilt—or the fact that she has a 10-week-old baby—stand in the way of a grown-up getaway to Mexico with her fiancé recently. She took plenty of heat from her readers for it, though. "Selfish," "lazy," "apathetic." These are just a few of the choice words that were thrown her way.

Personally, I don't think Ms. Eckler committed any great offense. I doubt that six days spent with grandma is going to do her baby any great harm. And as parenting experts so often point out, a little bit of alone time with your spouse can actually benefit the entire family. 

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While I agree with that in theory, my own failed plans prove that it can be a whole lot harder to actually put into practice. It wasn't just the nagging guilt that kept us home this summer—it was also our busy schedules, our kids' busy schedules, our concerns about finances.


As much as I would love to leave the chaos behind for a few days and enjoy a long and lazy weekend spent sightseeing and sleeping in with my husband, it seems there's no shortage of things just waiting to get in the way.

I'm not ready to throw the towel in just yet, though: I'm already daydreaming about a trip-for-two to Chicago next year ... who knows, maybe this time we'll even manage to make it happen.

Carolyn Robertson is a contributor to YourTango who writes articles about family topics.