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We leave our child behind when we go on vacation – and it’s bliss!

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Annabel Chown and her husband Mark noticed their love life was dwindling – so they went on vacation without their son Alexander.

‘Do you want children?’ » asked the acquaintance I met one December morning at the ski bleu.

He was cradling his six-week-old son and I was going to have a scan to check that the breast cancer I had ten years ago, at age 31, had not returned. “Probably,” I told him. ‘Do it. It’s the best thing ever,” he said.

I decided, assuming my scan was clear, to talk to Mark, my boyfriend of a few years, and now my husband, about the possibility of trying for a baby. We met on a dating site, after spotting a photo of a smiling blue-eyed man with an old-fashioned camera in his hands, and I thought: I want to be with him.

After almost 15 years of being single and battling cancer and chemotherapy, I rejoiced in our blossoming love affair – his evenings in London’s tapas and cocktail bars and his weekends away.

Even though I was 39 at the time, children were not at the forefront of my mind. I was hoping, at some point, to have them. However, Mark had spent his 30s ill with an autoimmune disease. At 40, or better, he didn’t want to spend his free time taking care of a young child.

Annabel Chown and her husband Mark noticed their love life was dwindling – so they went on vacation without their son Alexander.

Annabel Chown and her husband Mark noticed their love life was dwindling – so they went on vacation without their son Alexander.

It took her a while to convince him. And for the four years it took us to conceive, ultimately through IVF, I carried both a deep desire for children, as well as fear of how my life and relationship might be compressed. Most of my friends were already parents. Many had stopped dating their partners; they couldn’t find daycare, were too exhausted or too tired of each other. Some had separated.

The first summer of our son Alexander’s life, we spent Saturday afternoons in Regent’s Park, eating pizza on a blanket. Mark and I laughed as our beautiful baby scooped up handfuls of mozzarella. I loved our little family. But I missed our old life: Saturday afternoons making love, before a movie or dinner.

When Alexander was a few months old, we tried weekly date nights. But after a few attempts at sitting in a restaurant, yawning and fantasizing about sleeping, we stopped.

Soon our relationship withered with one of our roommates-

cum-caregivers. The conversations were lively, brief and logistical: “you forgot to buy milk”; “Why should I put the toys away?

With Mark working full time in the office and me using the few hours I had to work as a yoga instructor and writer, the tasks were getting heavier.

My habit of throwing tops in the laundry basket, sleeves inside out, has infuriated Mark, who does the laundry. And the fact that he came into our cramped kitchen to make breakfast just as I was unloading the dishwasher made me furious. Sex went from at least once a week to sporadic.

Then, when Alexander was two, I asked Mark if he wanted to go away for the weekend. At first he suggested we bring Alexander. ‘No I said. ‘I want to be with you.’

Our 48 hours in a log cabin with an open fire, in a Kent forest, were filled with walks, fish and chips on Whitstable beach and afternoon sex followed by a nap. The next time I suggested we go away alone for a whole week, Mark was enthusiastic. I suggested it while we were stuck in a hotel room in Puglia, with Alexander, now three. He was rolling his handful of toy trains across the floor. It turned out he didn’t like the beach, the pool or the heat.

“At least it’s cheaper than divorce,” I half-joked as we calculated the cost of childcare. None of us have parents capable of taking care of Alexandre, but we are lucky to have a babysitter who he adores.

On our trip the following year, I spent mornings by the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, reading and swimming. Mark explored local towns with his beloved camera. When we met for lunch at the seaside restaurant, I couldn’t wait to see him. Most evenings we dined on the hotel’s cozy terrace, decorated with garlands of small lights, overlooking the olive groves. As my husband chatted with our server, I saw him with fresh eyes.

Sometimes I missed Alexandre. Visiting the ice cream parlor we had taken him the year before, I longed for his ecstatic face coated in chocolate. Seeing a woman cuddling her young daughter by the pool, I wanted to hug him.

But later, when I saw the same child throw her pasta on the table, I was grateful for the week’s respite.

Within minutes of arriving home, we were thrown back into the routine of life. But the memory of our time together reminded me that my husband is much more than the man who throws his empty Amazon boxes on the floor.

Being a parent might be one of the best things ever. But one of its dark sides is the strain it puts on a relationship. I don’t want mine, with the man it took me half a lifetime to find, to become untenable.

As long as it’s financially viable, Mark and I have agreed to take a trip alone every year. Now I dream of Slovenia in June; to lie alone together, in a bed in the Alps, surrounded by high peaks and a vast sky, with time and space to remember who we are and why we fell in love.

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