How soon after you give birth does society deem it acceptable for you to leave your new bouncing ball of baby? Two weeks old for a doctors appointment? A month for a quick trip to the grocery store? Three months until you can go back to work? What about for a vacation?
Prince William and Kate Middleton are under fire for their decision to leave their eight month old baby, George, with his grandparents while they relax at the fancy pants resort, Cheval Blanc Randheli. Lil George is in his own home as Grandma & Grandpa Middleton are staying at Prince William & Kate’s mansion (because seriously, wouldn’t you rather stay in their mansion than your own house?), surrounded by his own things, just without his parents. People, however, are horrified by this. Twitter is lighting up about it, calling Kate “not maternal”, a “freak”, and simply alluding to her being an unfit mother. One reporter was particularly harsh, Carol McGriffin, a columnist for The Mirror had this to say:
“Of course, he’ll be safe and he may not even notice his parents have gone. But what I don’t understand is why they’d want to leave him for so long so soon,” she explains. “Some experts argue new parents need a break from babies. Why? I don’t have kids but I know that if I did I would not be going on holiday without them, especially when they are barely eight months old. One of the reasons I chose not to have children is that I cherish my freedom to do what I want when I want. But if I was a mother I’d want to be a full-time, hands-on one who stayed at home if at all possible.”
Is Ms McGriffin right? Should Kate & Will be at home doting over baby George or is it OK that they’ve taken a break from parenting for a few days? Of course, as parents, we all live and breath for our children, I doubt being wealthy and royal changes that…it’s a biological need to protect and take care of your young. However does having kids immediately mean that you ignore all of your own needs? Anyone who’s been on an airplane has heard the speech from the flight attendent, “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, put an oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help your children or other passengers”. Doesn’t this mean that, on occasion, we have to take care of ourselves first, so that we’re better equipped to take care of our loved ones? Does this really make us selfish unfit parents? Does it make you a bad mom to need a break from 24/7 diapering, feeding, walking, playing, singing, stimulating, teaching, cuddling, boo boo kissing, and washing up that comes with being a parent? We’re all happy to do it (yes, I know Prince William & Kate have help, but let’s pretend they’re normal people going it alone like the rest of us), but it is exhausting and can soon take a toll on your patience and ability to be the best parent you can be.
Not to mention, when parents take a vacation without their kids, there could be a little more behind it. Any mom can tell you how hard that first year of parenting can be. It’s exhausting, it takes forever to figure something out, and just when you’ve mastered one skill…the kid ages and changes and you’re back at square one. It’s particularly hard on marriages, everyone’s tired and everyone thinks that they’re doing more than the other partner… it’s rough. Maybe a trip away to reconnect is the best thing for everyone, surely a few days with Grandma is easier on a child than growing up with unhappily married or even divorced parents (I say this as a child of divorce AND as a divorced mother).
So with all due respect to Ms McGriffin, until you’ve spent every night for the last 8 months getting up to feed a baby repeatedly, your opinion is simply based on how hard parenting looks on TV. Those of us in the trenches need a break sometimes, whether it’s an hour to browse through Target alone, or a week in the Maldives, we need to recharge our batteries and take care of ourselves. Sometimes we NEED to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. This doesn’t make us unfit or bad parents, it makes us human, and that humanity is something that our children will benefit by learning from us. I’d live for a kid free vacation in the Maldives, but for now…. I’ll go browse through Target and maybe even pick up a game for my kids, since I’ll feel up to a family game night after my little break.