A very dear friend of mine invited me to celebrate her 40th birthday with her and a handful of other wonderful women for an all-girls trip to South Padres Island. After lots of debating, contemplating, cajoling, agonizing and planning, I agreed to go on the trip. My biggest concern was that I had never really left my children with anyone for more than a day (pathetic, yes, but true!) especially since my oldest child was in real school now. I was leaving my children in the hands of my mother, who had never had to go through the complexities of the school routine. Getting everyone out of bed, fed, dressed and off to school on time while not forgetting to pack a snack, library books and sign the weekly folder can be a daunting series of events for the most seasoned mother. I figured since my brother and I turned out pretty normal, my Mom was possibly, ok – probably up to the task.
As the date of the trip approached, I began preparing for my departure. I made a detailed schedule of the kids daily routine including everything from what time the kids should be sent to brush their teeth to what each child prefers to read at night. I was only leaving for three days yet my instructions ended up being over seven pages long.
I had the soccer bag packed along with notes on who was playing where and when. I had frozen meals with sticky notes on top noting at what temp and for how long they should be cooked. I had all of the laundry washed, my bag was packed and even the toilets scrubbed. I, for once, had all my ducks in a row. I was now officially prepared to leave town.
Then, the inevitable happened. My daughter started running a fever. Not a big fever, but a fever none the less. How could I leave now? My baby wasn’t feeling well. Who would comfort her? Who would give her an appropriate dose of ibuprofen if she needs it? How will she survive without me????
I picked up my phone and frantically dialed my best friend, secretly hoping she would tell me to forget the trip and stay home.
“Go! Don’t you dare stay home. This sort of opportunity doesn’t come along often for us.” she said. Damn. Not the excuse, I mean, answer I was looking for. I hung up and dialed another friend.
“Don’t stay home because you feel guilty. Guilt is a useless emotion. Your kids will respect you more if you take care of yourself and do something just for you. Your mother has taken care of a sick child before. Go! Go and have fun,” she told me. Crap. Another miss. One more try.
“Honey,” said my mom, “she will be fine. You need to go on this trip. I don’t want your world to get too small.” This is my mother’s new mantra. She might actually be right about this.
So, I went. I relaxed. I laughed harder and longer than I have in a long time. I slept deeply, all alone in a bed. I ate. I drank. I shopped. I danced. I basked in the sun. Tension slipped from my shoulders. The crease between my brows softened. I was able to be me, not Mom, for just a few days. Best of all, my family missed me – but they survived.
It’s easy for Moms, especially Stay at Home Moms, to get so tangled in the affairs of our families that we can’t find our way out. Like all jobs, though, taking a vacation is necessary. Stepping away from “work” allows you to recharge your batteries so that you can give your family the very best of yourself. Taking a break every once in a while allows you to expand and grow as a person and not get completely engulfed in the tiny piece of the world that your family occupies. Getting away from your family and taking time to do things for yourself makes you a better mother and that’s all any of us really want anyway – to be the best mothers we can be.