When Michael Mann found himself having “a bit of an early mid-life crisis”, he figured a holiday on his own might help.
But as a father of two young boys with a third on the way, it required careful consideration.
“Obviously leaving my wife to fend for herself for 12 days is pretty full on,” the 36-year-old says.
But the experience helped the Brisbane graphic designer hit the refresh button on life at home.
Experts say taking a break — especially for parents — can help avoid mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
“I think it’s probably one of the best gifts you can give someone,” Michael says.
He’s just one of three people we spoke to about taking a solo holiday, and what’s involved when you leave loved ones behind. Hint: their support is often essential to taking a break alone.
‘Time away from parenting and work was energising’
A three-day creativity conference in Northern California last year was a catalyst for Michael booking a driving holiday in the US.
“My wife was actually really supportive. I didn’t go to ‘find myself’ or anything, but we both saw it as a chance to get away and try to get my head right.”Mums taking time out from parentingWhen it comes to spending time away from the family, parents often grapple with guilt. But experts say it’s important to down tools and take a break to avoid ‘parental burn-out’.Read more
Leading up to the trip he was excited, but there was some feelings of guilt.
Some of that was alleviated knowing his “legend” mother-in-law would be on hand to help, and by getting creative to fund his trip.
“I managed to buy some items of music gear cheap at auction and then on-sell to cover my flights, car hire and fuel. I also did some freelance work to help cover it.
“Feeling like I was inflicting nearly two weeks of solo parenting upon my already very long-suffering wife was a big downside, but she’s more gracious than I could ever be and handled it unbelievably well.”
Thanks to technology he never really felt too far away, and the holiday delivered just what he needed.
Long drives involving thinking time and listening to podcasts helped him work through some of the struggles he’d been having.
“It was clear air to think and process and enjoy things and just do what I wanted to do.Life-changing career breaksFrom rediscovering themselves in a foreign country, to feeling alone while their mates are at work, readers share what it’s like to take an adult gap year.Read more
“Want to go see a movie? Done. Want to hit Proof Bakery in Atwater for the third day in a row? Go for it.
“There are some elements of parenting and working that feel like a grind and to have some time away from that was energising.”
He also really enjoyed the more testing times of being overseas alone.
“My wife is typically the organised one, but this trip was all on me. It felt a bit like being in my early 20s again.”
Michael says he is grateful for the experience and would like to return the favour.
“I’d love to be able to send my wife to her preferred destination for a couple of weeks, sans children and annoying husband.”
Short, inexpensive trips are just as valuable
Journalist Nicole Carrington learnt soon after having daughters 15 months apart that self-care was a vital part of parenting — but difficult to achieve in day-to-day life.
The 44-year-old from the Sunshine Coast works full time, and is raising her daughters, now aged six and seven, with her husband of 10 years.
It’s his support, she says, that allows her to have the occasional night away in Brisbane on her own.
As a professional musician, he also gets time out while travelling for work.
“It’s all about give and take and compromise,” she says.
Nicole says a night away allows her to touch base with her “core identity beyond motherhood”.
“You have to safeguard your self-care and your own identity beyond parenthood. For me, time with my best friends fills up my cup and replenishes my soul.”
Nicole’s daughters often cry when she leaves the house, but rather than letting the guilt take over, she reminds herself that mums need alone time to be “healthy and happy”.
“I have to do this for myself to stay sane.”
Couple time without the kids is healthy too
Aleisha Hausler from Warrnambool in country Victoria alternates the kinds of holidays she takes.
One year the 35-year-old travels with husband Dan, and the next they go somewhere as a family with their three kids, aged 13, six and three.Finding alone time in a relationshipSometimes organising time apart from your partner is harder than it should be. A psychologist, relationship coach and couple share their pointers.Read more
She says it’s an opportunity for them to reconnect as a couple away from work and family.
“We’ve been lucky that our parents are more than happy to have the kids, and the kids feel like they are getting a bit of a holiday, too.
“I know they are safe and well looked after and happy to be there.”