With Mother’s Day around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a mom, how much I’ve learned from my children and how much my mother means to me. Time together is always a gift. From the flower my daughter picked for me to the stackable birthstone rings my husband chose to represent our family, gifts from the heart mean the most. But there is another gift I gave myself last Mother’s Day (with help from my family) that was just as valuable – a mom vacation or momcation.
I’m not talking about an hour of “me time” at the gym or nail salon (although a pedicure is definitely in order). I mean a real getaway for an entire day or two… or three. Sounds dreamy, right? It seemed impossible to me at first. I often consider myself the director of an elaborate show starring my kids and husband (as lead the actor and producer, of course). How would the show ever go on without me?
The timing was right. That May marked my three year anniversary as a stay-at-home-mom – a transition that didn’t come easily to me. I was coming to grips with my son’s severe food allergies and simultaneously trying to wean him from nursing (it was the right time for both of us). Removing myself from his line of vision became almost a necessity, so when my cousin invited me to her new house in Minnesota, I jumped at the chance.
I felt like the only guest at a bed and breakfast. It was nice to leisurely drink morning coffee on a quiet porch, curl my hair uninterrupted, wine and dine without a curfew, and sleep without a baby monitor on my nightstand. My cousin and I went to brunch, toured museums, looked at antiques, shopped at boutiques and walked around one of the thousand lakes. Sure, I still kissed my family goodnight over the phone and texted with my husband periodically, but I enjoyed myself.
Each night before bed and on the plane ride home I made a list of my thoughts. Here are my momcation realizations:
- Take a momcation. Now. This vacation was just what I needed. If you feel like you need to get away. You probably should. Do whatever it takes to make it happen.
- Mom guilt is real. However, you can’t spell M-O-T-H-E-R without M-E. I felt guilty planning and packing for the trip. That slowly subsided and turned to excitement. Then, I felt guilty for not feeling guilty anymore. I finally realized it’s okay to be selfish sometimes for the sake of yourself and everyone else in your life.
- Just breathe. I’m tightly wound most days, and running from place to place with little ones adds to the tension. Just the act of sitting on a plane with noise-cancelling headphones and nothing else to focus on but my breathing and a good book helped me to relax.
- Self-reflection is easier when you’re by yourself. At that time in my life, I didn’t feel like the best version of myself. Having a ten pound baby a year earlier left me feeling out of shape. Being away from a career that was important to me also affected my self-esteem, and my own mom’s health issues weighed on my mind. During my time alone, I was able to sort through these feelings and prioritize the actions I needed to take to get myself back on track.
- Nostalgia is therapeutic. Taking a trip down memory lane helped me refocus on my current path. My cousin and I reminisced about sleeping over our grandparents’ house as kids, walking to the video store to rent “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” for the 27th time, divvying packs of Claire’s earrings from the mall, and listening to the Color Me Badd tape we somehow talked Grandma into buying us despite that one song. Recalling simpler times and laughing at ourselves was both comforting and energizing.
- Nature is healing. Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t the only one touting the benefits of getting in touch with nature. There is a growing science around “grounding” or “earthing” – making skin-to-earth contact as a means of healing our bodies. I haven’t read all the studies, and I’m not a fan of bare feet (perhaps that explains my shoe fetish), but I kicked off my shoes at the park, and it felt good.
- Trust your support system. It’s okay to let go of the reins. Your partner, parents, sitters, neighbors, etc. are all in your life for a reason. Let them help you. I used to think it was a sign of weakness to ask for and accept help until I considered the best leaders delegate tasks.
- I want more “us time” too. Not only do I not take enough time for myself, but my husband and I need to do a better job of setting regular dates for the two of us. I also need to remind him to make time for himself and his friends as well.
- The grass isn’t always greener. It’s easy for me to focus on challenges, but spending time in someone else’s yard made me realize we all have weeds, so to speak. I just need to do a better job of picking mine and watering the flowers.
- It will all still be there. The good, bad and everything in between will be waiting for you when you get back. Remember you took the vacation, not your hubby, and not the kids. They may run to greet you with open arms, or they may all need a nap. It’s alright if they aren’t as refreshed and cheery as you are, and the laundry still needs folding. You have a renewed attitude to face the days ahead.
However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day and show the moms in your life love, don’t forget to gift yourself some “me time” – you deserve it.
How has taking a momcation helped you? What are some of the ways you make time for yourself?