Recently, I took a trip with a group of good friends to celebrate an upcoming marriage. The trip was short—a mere 48 hours, but it was so wonderful. When it was first suggested, it seemed frivolous to spend money just on me. When did spending money on myself (an income-earner) become frivolous? When did the thoughts creep in that I for some reason don’t deserve or need time away with close friends? My husband was completely supportive, so it wasn’t coming from him. It turns out, the only place this guilt-and-lie-laden message could come from was from ME.
Mamas, I am here to tell you: TAKE THE TRIP.
Just book it. Life seems to only get more busy and complicated. Money will always be earmarked for other things. There will never be a perfect time to do anything, especially something just for me. I can guarantee you that an opportunity will never present itself as pre-booked, paid for, with all the details worked out. We have to make it happen. Something will always appear more important: schedule conflicts or family/work obligations. Someone will be pregnant or have an infant. A birthday or holiday will be in close proximity to any event. A child will be potty training, or teething or starting/finishing an activity. DO IT ANYWAY. If you aren’t convinced yet, here are four reasons why:
Remember my identity as a person outside of Mom and Wife.
A trip away helps me remember who I was when I belonged just to me. What I liked to eat and where I wanted to go, what I liked to do and what things interested me. This isn’t selfish, this is essential: the relationship we have with ourselves will outlast every other in this life. We get so used to saying no to ourselves and our wants and our desires after the kids come along that it can be easy to let our individuality fall by the wayside. But it is SO IMPORTANT that we fight against it from happening. Someday, not many years from now, the kids will be grown. They will leave the house and live their own lives as adults. If my entire life has been attached to them to the point that they have become my identity, what then? The emptiness when they leave the house will be great as it is, but it should not be a devastating shredding of my very existence. To expect them to fill the void of being my identity for me is unquestioningly a pressure and expectation that I cannot put on them. I need to have my own life, independent of theirs, for both their sake and mine.
Nurture those friendships.
Life gets busy and messy, but we desperately need our support networks. At some point, the crap will hit the fan in our lives in some form or another. We can’t wait until it happens to start building those support networks –it will be too late then. They need to be in place long before we need to lean on them. We all need a safety net and community around us. Make the calls, schedule the coffee/dinner dates, keep the plans, take the girls trip.
Turn off the Mom Brain.
Admittedly, it never fully turns off, and that is ok. But it is important to at least give it a rest. When the kids are around, no matter how much I want to pay attention to the other people around me, I am always listening for the kids. I always have one eye on them, and unfortunately, one eye on the clock. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to not watch the clock and be able to have an *entire conversation* to its natural completion with friends, with ZERO interruptions. My brain is so used to the constant interruptions, that it was almost confusing at first, but trust me, it’s like riding a bike. It’s incredible to be able to lose track of time and just talk with friends, or walk and browse in shops until our stomachs (not the clock or child-meltdowns) remind us that it’s time for a meal. It was wonderful to fully be off the clock of work, home, kids, family and life.
Foster my independence, and that of my family.
The husband and kids will be fine. It is so good for them to spend time alone, without mom around. And it’s so good for me to let them. When the kids are in the needy early years, dads often fall into second place. My husband said something profound when I got back from the trip. He said, “When you’re around, I’m always the boys’ distant second choice. It was so great to just be their first choice for once.” It made me empathize in a new way that I had never considered. Encourage the kids’ reliance on dad, and reinforce dad’s capability as a co-parent. Mom is always the easy answer and the safety net, but it’s good for the kids AND for dad’s confidence to see that he can handle it too. It may not all get done the exact same way that mom does it, but the kids will be fed. They will sleep. They will play and have fun. They will bond. And all other collateral messes can be cleaned up when I get home.
Moms, TAKE THE TRIP. Reinforce your support network. Rediscover yourself, as your very own self. You might come home to a little more mess, but it’s worth it. Things won’t fall apart. When you return, you’ll be happy to see them, and they will be happy to see you. The break is good for everyone!