Traveling Without My Toddler

My husband and I have been blessed with a lot of travels in the last year. Next year I’m sure it will lessen considerably. These past few months I’ve been asked “are you bringing your son?” or “how can you leave your son that long/that often?”. I must admit we are pretty lucky because we live in the Philippines and my in-laws love my son and they have been willing to take care of him while we travel. Of course it’s a big plus that I found a nanny that could tolerate my curious son and who gets along with the in-laws. But it never gets any easier – in fact it seems to be getting harder as he grows up (attachment parenting makes leaving hard for the mom as well!).

I traveled for the first time after giving birth when my son was around 7 1/2 months old. Being able to travel again was the best thing that ever happened to me since my son came into our lives – and that is saying a lot because I only didn’t travel for around 9 months. But traveling is a big part of who I am. Before I gave birth all I kept hearing was “you’ll never get to travel again”, “you won’t have time to travel” or “you won’t be able to leave your baby behind”. I kept thinking, why not? When I was younger my parents would often travel (together or separately) and I would get left behind for months at a time. When I was old enough they started bringing me along. I know that if I get to the point that I can no longer leave my son behind, I would gladly bring him because during our Australia trip I was able to prove to myself that I could take him on trips and not go insane. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard as I imagined.

Yet as of now, the hardest thing about leaving him behind is having to say goodbye. Last year when we went on a 3 week trip to North America without him, I cried like a baby on the way to the airport. And it still makes me cry thinking about it and thinking that I’m gonna have to keep doing it over and over again. No matter how short our trip will take, the pain of leaving him behind doesn’t change. But I always say to myself (maybe to rationalize?) that we’ll enjoy ourselves and before we know it we’ll be back with him. Of course that doesn’t include all the nagging thoughts like “what if something happens to him while you’re away -(last year it was what if he gets H1N1? this year Dengue Fever)? what if something happens to you while you’re away? what if he doesn’t recognize you when you get back?”. But I also know that if I don’t get to travel I’ll lose a part of myself and that won’t be good for him as well.

So how do I do it? A couple of weeks before I travel I start talking to him and telling him that daddy and mommy has to ride an airplane once again and that we’ll be gone for a number of days/weeks. I tell him that I promise that we’ll be back and that no matter how long our trips take we’ll always come back to him. I ask him not to get mad at us (when we left him for the first time, he didn’t want me to carry him right away when we got back) and that we’re sorry that we have to leave him and that we’ll miss him and again tell him that we’ll be back before he knows it. He understands I suppose and hopefully will continue to understand. Sooner or later I know we’ll be able to bring him with us. For now, we’ll try to capture and see everything that we can so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to show him how we’ve seen the world.

Someday soon my little man…

Family picture petronas towers, Malaysia