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I Took A Marriage Mini-break
Grazia Magazine January 2009

Open Original

THERE aren't many women who at one time or another haven't daydreamed of running away from it all. Maybe it's in the middle of wiping the kitchen bench clean of crumbs for the umpteenth time that day. Perhaps it’s when they find themselves practising their labour breathing exercises just to cope with the traffic on the way home from work, knowing they'll be late to the child care centre again. Or maybe, like me, it's the day they wake up yearning for the time when they were not just a wife, not just a mum, but simply Sue - a person with hopes, dreams and desires just like anyone else.

That's where I was at this time last year. At 43, I'd been married to Brad for 16 years, had two teenage boys and worked full-time as a ward clerk at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth where we lived. It was a good job but one I'd held for 10 years. I was finding the stresses increasingly hard to leave behind at the end of the day. I loved Brad, 39, wholeheartedly but along the way trying to combine being wife, mum and employee, I'd lost me, the woman I was and, for all our sakes, I needed to find her again.

So when my long-service leave came up and I suddenly had three months to play with, I knew it was now or never to have the ultimate "me time”. I decided to get away on my own travelling through South East Asia for three months. I hoped immersing myself in a different environment and throwing away alarm clocks, homework schedules, shopping lists and all the other paraphernalia that comes with being a woman - whether working outside the home or not - would feed my soul and find the clarity I craved for the next stage of my life.

Not everyone found my decision easy. Brad definitely found it confronting at first and I had to explain it was nothing to do with him, nothing to do with us but everything to do with me. I wasn't looking for anyone or anything else by going away on my own and I had no doubt I was going to come back to him and our boys.

Others wondered to my face if I had marriage problems. I didn't. I knew that. They could think what they liked.

We compromised by agreeing for Brad to join me on the last leg of the trip when we'd trek through the Himalayas to Everest's base camp. The boys, Jordan, 15, and Dylan, 14, just thought I was cool. I think they hoped it was going to be three months of Dad and the lads without Mum around to nag! As my flight to Bangkok drew near I felt nervous, but once I'd kissed my three boys goodbye and dried the tears, I cracked open the champagne and settled back to enjoy the first stage of Operation Rediscovering Sue.

The next few months were beyond words. Trekking in northern Thailand, sleeping in bamboo huts in hill villages, zipping around on a motorbike, walking alongside a tiger with a Buddhist monk and a yoga and meditation course were highlights. I unwound, met people from all over the world and rediscovered who I was and what I wanted.

When Brad flew into Bangkok the night before our 17th wedding anniversary, we ran into each others' arms. The weeks that followed, trekking through beautiful landscapes, were like a second honeymoon. Absence most definitely made our hearts grow fonder. I’d kept in touch with the boys via Skype along the way but it was nothing like holding them in my arms again for a huge hug when we got back to Perth.

Taking a sabbatical from my marriage and from motherhood changed so many things for me. I've found peace and contentment, renewed energy and vigour to embrace life, not just tolerate it. I left my job and set up a travel company for women and within a few short months, Adventurous Women has become a booming business. The boys see me as a person, not just as mum any more and I hope this whole journey will provide a strong template for their own future relationships. In a marriage you're two people, not one, but it's easy to stagnate because of the demands of life and lose the essence of who you are - however much you love your family.

The past year taught me it's possible to do whatever you want if you want it badly enough - and feeding your soul is just as important as feeding your family.