Kid-Free Anniversary It’s the one day a year you should earmark to spend time with your spouse—and only your spouse. Here’s how to get rid of the kids on your anniversary, guilt-free. BY FRANCINE KIZNER
As you plan your anniversary getaway, did you take into consideration how to ditch the kids? If you haven’t, there are many things to consider. Do you drop them off somewhere? Does someone stay at your place? What situations are age-appropriate? And what do you do if they don’t want you to leave? Don't worry, we've got the answers.
First, don’t feel bad about wanting to get away from your kids for a bit. You may want to have a family anniversary celebration, but you need to celebrate as a couple. "An anniversary demands at least one celebration without the kids," says Dr. Yvonne Thomas, a Los Angeles-based psychologist specializing in relationships and self-esteem. "You need to stop the clock for a moment to appreciate what you have and recapture the romance."
However, in your head you’re thinking, “Sure, this all sounds well and good, but how are you going to get rid of your kids for the night?” The answer: plan ahead.
"Don’t wait until the last minute," says Dr. Donna Tonrey, a family therapist and head of a graduate counseling program at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Exactly how far ahead should you start planning? At least a month, both experts agree. You need to give your babysitter, relative or trusted friend a good amount of lead time because you want to be respectful of the favor they’re doing for you. You also want to make sure the person watching your kids actually wants to do the job—especially if you leave the little ones for any more than a night. It’ll make the whole process much less stressful on everyone involved.
Once you have a sitter lined up, there’s also the question of whether to send the kids for a slumber party or let them stay at home. If your kids feel comfortable at the caretaker’s house—for example, if they can stay at a grandparent’s—go ahead and let them have their sleepover. It’ll be fun. You can have the house all to yourself without the worry of racking up an expensive hotel bill. But if your kids feel like guests in the caretaker’s home, it’s better to bring someone to your place for the night while you escape on your little romantic getaway.
What if your kids aren’t happy about you going away? "Children may complain, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re feeling bad," says Tonrey. She suggests objectively listening to their complaints and having them explain what they’re feeling, and then explaining that mom and dad need to have time and space for themselves. Tailor your response to suit your kid’s age, but make it clear that you love spending time as a family, but that you and your spouse also need time away as a couple.
If your kids are nervous about you leaving, reassure them that you’re going to call before bedtime to say goodnight. During these bedtime calls, make sure you talk to each of your children individually, tell them that you miss them, and tell them that you’ll see them really soon, advises Thomas. Don’t make it sound like you’re just off having a blast without them—even though you very well may be—and let them know that you’re thinking of them. If your kids are particularly anxious about you leaving, you can give them something to hold on to like a piece of your clothing or jewelry, or a picture that can act as a security blanket in your absence.
The only time it wouldn’t be recommended to leave your children is when they’re between six months and 18 months old, says Tonrey—before that, if you’re bottle feeding, a child won’t know the difference, and after that, you’ll be able to explain what’s going on.
With children older than 10, you may also consider sending them to summer camp if it works with your schedule—it’s good for them to get the experience of being away and can give them a sense of independence, says Thomas. Plus, you’ll get a good chunk of time to spend alone with your spouse—maybe you can finally take that trip to Europe you’ve been dreaming of. Thomas warns that for younger children, though, sleepover camp can be a traumatic experience, especially if it lasts more than a few days.
Although your anniversary is special and warrants this time alone, both experts agree that couples should be making time for each other throughout the year. Both recommend putting aside “couple time” at least once a week. And by taking this time to enjoy your married relationship, you’ll be happier, and your kids will be happier. "If kids see that parents are nurturing each other, they’ll feel more secure and do better in their own lives," says Tonrey. "Better couples make better parents. It all feeds back into the relationship and into the whole family system."