It was the dead of winter in New York City, the kids had just had what felt like a month off from school for the holidays and my husband was traveling for work when I received an email from Olivia, a representative for the Four Seasons hotel in Hawaii, asking if I might be interested in flying out to see their Lanai location. On this particular week, there had been a snow day thanks to a “bomb cyclone,” and it had been so cold outside, I had kept the kids indoors for 72 hours straight. I was beginning to feel like Edie Beale in Grey Gardens when things turn decidedly unglamorous. The kids and I had played “kitchen,” colored, baked cookies, and finally, as a last resort, I introduced them to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on demand so I could sit down for a second and check my email. Olivia’s message came in just as I was nearing my breaking point, and as much as I love my family, the idea of sun and sand alone and on the other side of the world couldn’t have sounded more inviting.

Lanai is a hidden gem of a private island owned by Oracle founder Larry Ellison that actually boasts two Four Seasons managed properties—Bill Gates actually tied the knot there in 1994. One of the locations was just refurbished, and the other is currently under renovation and will open at the start of 2019 as a wellness center.

So, after a discussion with my editor, I agreed to leave my family and fly halfway around the world to check out a hotel. Just as soon as everything was confirmed, I started thinking about all of the horrible things that might happen to me for forsaking my family in search of a little warmth (for work!). At night, I lay awake in bed and my mind wandered to horrible places—I pictured my plane crashing and worried about what my children’s lives would be like without me.

It didn’t help that the weekend before my trip everyone in Hawaii received a text message with a dire warning: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” In actuality, it was a simple human error caused by a local emergency management official, but it was enough to send my anxiety into overdrive.

As it turns out, “parents, particularly new parents, commonly experience thoughts similar to these,” explains Manhattan-based psychotherapist Jocelyn Lewiskin, LCSW. “It can be helpful to remind yourself that the transition into parenthood will introduce new anxieties in parts of your life that historically may have been anxiety-free—such as a trip to Hawaii.” She goes on to explain that becoming a mother or father inevitably brings up new feelings about morbidity. So, my fears of doom and gloom were apparently fairly normal.

As a person’s identity shifts, their perspective on the value of life changes in unpredictable ways. Lewiskin recommends giving yourself time to adjust to this shift and notes that parents who travel and experience separation-induced anxiety frequently feel a reduction in their concerns once all of the childcare plans for their absence have been made. “For many moms and dads, just being able to secure reliable and trustworthy childcare can help,” she explains. “For others, making a more detailed plan that ensures the child’s routine remains intact or that they can communicate regularly with their child while away can help to alleviate worry.”

In my case, she was right. After my husband assured me he could handle everything and I actually boarded my flight, I felt a lot better. It didn’t matter that I would be in the air for 11 hours and was seated in the last row across from the bathroom and next to two people who proceeded to get in a fight about armrest jurisdiction. (The flight attendant had to break it up—neither of them were allowed to touch the armrest for the duration of the trip.) Because I’m a parent of two young children, just sitting alone on a cramped plane reading a book felt like a trip to the spa. This untethered feeling of being able to go to the restroom whenever the lavatory light was on without having to check in with three other people about whether or not they also had to go made me realize how long overdue this trip actually was.

Once on the property, the guilt I had been feeling evaporated. “What children? Who has children?” I joked as I joined the other women on the trip for horseback riding—a sport I practiced frequently into young adulthood but never had the time for post-kids—the morning after my arrival. We played with mini ponies in the pastures by the barn and cantered through the hills of Hawaii. I felt like I was in my twenties again, a carefree and fun girl who could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

The other women in the group—a social media expert, a travel blogger, and a beauty business entrepreneur, all of whom were not yet parents—didn’t seem to totally understand my exuberance. They asked polite questions about my kids: their ages, where they go to school, and what they’re into. I answered, of course (3 and 5 years old, downtown, mermaids and ballerinas), but also told them how excited I was about the electronic blackout shades (I loved them as much as Kate Winslet did when she stayed at Cameron Diaz’s Los Angeles house in The Holiday), the electronic Toto toilet in my room that flipped open whenever I rounded the corner, and the fact that I could take showers alone. all. weekend. long. They were blown away by the fact that I flew so far for such a short time. My mom friends, who were checking in on me via text message, were not.

Lewiskin says that the difference between normal “parent guilt” and problematic anxiety lies in how it persists and is managed. “Many parents experience a rush of ‘parent guilt,’ but after considerable attempts to cope and self-soothe, symptoms should subside,” she says. So far, it sounded like what I’d experienced pre-trip was pretty textbook. “If at any point the anxiety severely interferes or impairs your functioning, than you should seek professional help,” Lewiskin points out. “This might indicate more problematic anxiety.” Noted.

The trip continued with a tour of the property, time at the spa, whale watching, dinner at Nobu, and a sunrise hike where we explored the tidal pools near the hotel and took pictures of Sweetheart Rock (aka Pu’ue Pehe). There, surrounded by rocky red cliffs and deep blue waves crashing against the shoreline, we were told about an ancient Hawaiian legend about a warrior from Lanai and a beautiful young woman. The warrior loved the woman so much that he brought her with him to live on Lanai and hid her in a sea cave at the base of a rock island because he was afraid of losing her. One day as he was out gathering supplies, he noticed a storm brewing and headed back to the cave. When he returned, he discovered that she had drowned in the waves. He was so grief-stricken that he cried out to the gods and his ancestors to help him climb the rock island’s steep cliff so that he could bury her at the top. He then jumped to his death in the powerful surf below so he could be with her forever.

As we stood there in silence and pondered this Hawaiian Romeo and Juliet while looking over at the mysterious grave-like structure atop the tiny rock island opposite us, I thought about how one of the lessons of the Hawaiian legend is that truly loving someone means allowing them to have experiences on their own. Ideally, they’ll return to the relationship rejuvenated and ready to give. “It really is beneficial for parents to participate in self-care and wellness activities,” Lewiskin told me. Not everyone can take a solo trip to the other side of the world, but no matter. “These activities can be small,” said Lewiskin. “A lunch date with a friend, time alone reading, or taking a walk are all great. Don’t be afraid to do these things for yourself—to rest and reflect. Self-care also helps the child. Kids learn a lot from watching their parents. Demonstrating acts of self-care teaches children the value of caring and loving themselves, so that they can be caring and loving to others.”

With this idea in mind, the plane ride back to the mainland seemed to fly by, and when I arrived home in New York, I felt fully present, energized, and ready to engage with my entire family despite the jet lag, which is good because my husband quickly made it clear that it’s his turn for a getaway. I love my children to the moon and back, but sometimes, a little alone time is necessary in order to be the best version of a parent possible. Needless to say, this won’t be my last solo mom trip.