I wanted to dedicate a whole blog post to our recent “parental leave” trip and why I think it was the best thing we did as a new family of three.
(If you missed it or just stumbled into this blog post from somewhere else around the internet, we rented a house for four weeks in October on Nantucket as a “parental leave” trip with our son who was born mid-August.)
When I started doing the math of when I was due and how old the baby would be… I started to dream about this trip to Nantucket for all of October. Once the seed was planted, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and Mike was fully into the idea as well. He has a great parental leave and would be able to take the four weeks off, and since I work for myself, I would be able to be flexible with my work schedule too.
I’ve been renting the same house from the same woman for years now and she has graciously been inviting us back to her home year after year. She loved the idea as well and let us “book” the time without having to fully commit. This gave us the flexibility to see when the baby was actually born, make sure we were fully up for it, and also have a loose idea of start and end dates without being tied to specific days. This was a huge thing for me because I knew if I didn’t actually feel comfortable traveling with a baby, we could easily pull the plug. (I assumed we’d be able to do, but with literally zero experience as parents, we couldn’t know completely!) If the baby was born late, it would also move our timeline as I wanted to wait until after his six week checkup/first round of vaccines to do the trip.
(When my water broke on August 10th, I took a shower before going to the hospital and I definitely had the thought, “Oh!!! He’ll be old enough for Nantucket!”)
I’m not sure what I thought our first few weeks at home would be like, but I kind of pictured the three of us trying to navigate parenthood (us) and life (the baby) together cocooned in our home. It was actually more of a whirlwind with a lot going on and people coming by to see the baby left and right. It was great and we felt so much love from friends and family. But it was also a lot and it was hard as I was also actively recovering from giving birth. Plus I felt like it was impossible to get into anything resembling a routine with the baby since every day was vastly different with work, normal daily life needs, and hosting. With every passing day, I started to crave our trip away more and more.
It ended up being the absolute best thing we did for our family.
The trip was such a special experience and we created lasting memories that I know we will look back on for the rest of our lives. And while Jack will obviously not remember it, I do think it was an important part of the first chapter of his life as it was such a great time for us to build a good foundation for our family. It gave us time to step outside of the normal pressures of everyday life, while still feeling “at home” somewhere. The fact that we were there for four weeks gave us time to figuratively and literally unpack and plant roots in the form of a routine.
I gained so much confidence as a mom and Mike had the gift of time that I know he didn’t take for granted as a new dad. Plus over the four weeks, Jack went from being a newborn to a baby.
The week before we left to start our trip, I actually was feeling immense anxiety about leaving our house. Packing for a month, with a newborn and two dogs, while I also still was going to have to work was a lot. And I started to worry about, well everything. We didn’t have a routine established at all. I had no idea what we would really need– and it wasn’t like we were going to be close to a Target or have next day shipping from Amazon while on an island. But once we got into the car (and made the ferry), I relaxed and felt in my gut that we made the right choice.
Over the next four weeks, I prioritized getting into a routine. Figuring out everything from a daily napping routine (he turned eight weeks while we were there) to getting myself more comfortable with pumping occasionally and Jack more comfortable with taking a bottle occasionally. Without work demands, Mike was able to get comfortable with parenting in a way I don’t think would have been as organically possible– plus, I was able to lean on him so much while I had my own work to do every day.
We also just…. talked a lot. I think it gave Mike and me the chance to step away from everyday life and look ahead to the future and think about what values and priorities we want to have as a family.
Of course, all of these things can be done without renting a house on an island. I don’t want to pretend like this is the only way a family will bond. Obviously, every family is different and every family will bond in their own unique ways. I just couldn’t get over how magical these four weeks for us were. Yes, we got brilliantly beautiful weather and spent the four weeks primarily outside at the beach or walking around time. But I think we would have felt the same way had it been cold and rainy for the entire time too. We also could have been anywhere (including our own house) and made a stretch of time like this happen, it just would have taken a lot more conscience effort at shutting out the rest of the world. (It happens a lot more naturally when you’re on a tiny island.)