Yesterday I posted about how Christ and the Apostles made an effort to sneak away for some rest and relaxation. Good for them! They ran into some problems/opportunities along the way, or we might not ever have known that they took breaks.
My EC and I like to get away. We love to travel, and have been able to pull off some ridiculously great trips during the course of our marriage. We also have five children that we love, care for and parent the best we can.
These two things are not mutually exclusive. You do not have to sacrifice one to have the other. Personally, I believe that quality time away from the kids, the job, and the stress of life actually enhances a marriage - and can help parents be better parents.
Elder Joe J. Christensen wrote that one way to strengthen our marriages is to, "Keep the courtship alive. Make time to do things together - just the two of you. As important as it is to be with the children as a family, you need regular weekly time together. Scheduling it will let your children know that your marriage is so important that you need to nurture it. That takes commitment, planning and scheduling." (Marriage and the Great Plan of Happiness)
Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "Good communication includes taking time to plan together. Couples need private time to observe, to talk, and really listen to each other. They need to cooperate - helping each other as equal partners. They need to nurture spiritual as well as physical intimacy." (Nurturing Marriage) (Yes, the Apostle did say physical intimacy.)
I recognize that I am making a leap from weekly dating to going on a vacation. If one is tough, the other might seem impossible. But here is why it works for me: Dates are great, even though a weekly date can be very difficult. And then, when we actually do get out on a date, we go to a movie, the temple, or out with friends or other family. None of activities are conducive to the kinds of interaction and conversation that dig deep and nurture a marriage.
I have found that I need to spend TIME with my EC. It takes a while to get past the day-to-day stuff that we are dealing with to be able to talk about other IMPORTANT stuff.
How tacky is it to quote myself? Here goes anyway...last summer in a post entitled "Joy in the Journey", I wrote about how much I love roadtrips, and one of those reasons factors into this discussion. "Some of the best, and most impacting conversations I have ever had with my wife are when we are on the open road. We are both accustomed to this, and look forward to it when we travel. We talk about life, memories, kids, callings, gospel, politics, finances, pop culture, and anything else that hits us. Remarkable that after 25 years together we still always have things to talk about.
The decision to move forward and have another kid developed from this type of road trip conversation. Twice. (And you thought gas was the expensive part of driving.)"
Another important part of vacationing together, is that it is a reminder to ourselves, and each other, that our marriage is the most important earthly relationship that we have. It is more important than our relationship with our kids, or siblings, or parents, etc. Some of you will jump in and say "Our relationship with our kids is not less important than our marriage - it is just different." You could say that, but you would be wrong.
President Kimball, quoting D&C 42:22 "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thine heart and cleave unto her and none else" said that "The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor PERSON shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse." (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 250)
Our kids are persons. So, if you are trying to find a Friday/Saturday to escape together, but you can't because of soccer games...
My experience regarding these matters is not based solely on the experiences from my own marriage. I have spoken with people who have told me that they have never gotten away with their spouse since they started having children. Some say it proudly as if it is some wise sacrifice on their part. Part noble, part martyr. I think it neither.
I have had others proudly state that they have gone on many vacations, but have always taken the kids with them - and seem almost amazed that I would ditch the kids and leave town with my wife.
My FOMLs know by where I put my time and my actions that my marriage is a top priority in my life. And yes, sometimes it inconveniences them. Tough cookies.
Just this last General Conference, President Eyring listing things Priesthood holders must do to lift and lead their homes. He said, "The second imperative is to love your wife. It will take faith and humility to put her interests above your own in the struggles of life." (Families Under Covenant) (Translation of this quote: Brethren: If you are getting ready to go hunting, and your wife is about ready to lose it - you don't go hunting. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU WANT. IT MATTERS WHAT SHE WANTS. And I guarantee you, your wife could use a couple of days off. If you don't believe me, just ask her. Sisters: Getaways with girlfriends aren't part of the solution here.)
I have also seen situations where one spouse is adamant that they can't possibly leave the kids, work, calling for a getaway, or even a date night, while the other spouse would love to get away, The one spouse is sadly resigned, and says nothing. The other spouse is oblivious to their partner's needs. This is not a healthy marriage. This may be hard for you to believe, but the kids will survive without you for a day or two.
My childhood gives me a slightly different perspective on this than for many of you. My eldest brother was severely handicapped. Caring for him was labor intensive, and it was extremely difficult and expensive for my parents to find the necessary caregivers to allow them to go away together. But they did it. I'm sure it was hard, and it wasn't frequent, but they did it anyway. If they could do it, I have no excuse. It can be tough, and you might have to plan a long ways out, but it is worth it.
As Elder Christensen said - it takes commitment, planning and scheduling.
So get out the calendar and start planning.
Oh, wait. What about babysitters and money? Dealbreaker - right? Wrong! Here are a few quick thoughts - first on how to get the kids taken care of, then how to afford travel:
2) College students between semesters.
3) Aunts and Uncles
4) Farm the kids out to friend's houses.
5) Trade with another family
6) Plan for when some of the kids are already gone to camp of EFY, etc.
Can't afford it?
1) Collect points on credit cards.
2) Watch for great deals on sites like Groupon.
3) Stay local. (Save on gas or airfare - we spent our last anniversary 15 miles from our house and kids)
4) Stay home. Farm the kids out, tell everyone you are leaving town. Go back home, and unplug the phone. (Redbox, pizza, and quiet)
5) Save your change in a giant, plastic Mountain Dew bank. (That's what I do.)
(One of these days I will write a post of experiences that demonstrate why these trips with my EC are so valuable to me, so be thinking of your own.)