I don’t know about you mama, but I’m tired.
I need a break. Kids are exhausting…. amiright? Well a recent article by Southern Living caught my attention: “Taking a Trip With Your Girlfriends Is Good For Your Health, According to Science.” It has links to several scientific studies that show hanging out with your girlfriends is good for your mental and physical health. This should surprise approximately no one, because, OF COURSE. Time with your girlfriends is cheaper than therapy, healthier than sobbing over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and more fun than trying to rage-run on the elliptical at the gym.
Every mom on the planet has completely lost it with their kids at least once, because they were too exhausted and mentally taxed to deal with one more second of kid craziness. After all, there’s only so many times you can pick up the Cheerios your toddler threw all over the floor while they were screaming at the top of their lungs, without going a little nuts. Time with girlfriends gives you a chance to unwind, vent, laugh, and return to your pre-mom self for a short while.
I’ve never come home from a night out or a trip with my best gal-pals, without a big, relaxed perma-smile and a case of the giggles. I recently wrote a post on why taking an occassional “mom-cation” is good for your mental sanity. But it can be hard to take time off from the family. That mom-guilt hits hard and it feels impossible to even ask your spouse for a few hours or days away. But taking a break is so important for your mental sanity, physical health, and your ability to be a good mom. So here’s a few ideas to help you shrug off the mom-guilt and get to planning the most fabulous “mom-cation”:
1. Schedule time away with your husband/spouse/partner well in advance. Don’t leave arrangements for your spouse to watch the kids until the last minute… it likely won’t go over well, which means your spouse MIGHT not be amenable again anytime soon! Not to mention, if you plan to take time off, you are more likely to actually take that time.
2. Share the load. Block time on your calendars for BOTH of you to get some time away and do something fun with friends. Spouses need a break too! My husband, Brian goes to an archery league one night a week after work. (It’s like a bowling league, including the obligatory after party/bar stop.) I treat myself to a monthly Girl’s Night Out, where my friends and I usually go to a movie, go on a hike, or attend yoga class. It gives us both some social time with friends, which makes both of us more patient with each other, as well as with our toddler (who tests the limits of that patience daily). These are regularly-recurring breaks, so we both anticipate ahead of time and can prepare ourselves to parent solo for the night.
3. Make it an overnight (or two). It doesn’t just have to be a night off. Brian takes a week off to go hunting every fall. I try to take 3-4 days to go backpacking with my girlfriends or take a short road trip. We both suck it up to take a chunk of solo-parenting time, so the other one can have a real mental break.
4. Take extra parent-duty right before and right after a break. If your spouse usually gives the kids a bath at night, helps with homework, cooks meals, does dishes, or takes out the trash, go the extra mile and take on a few of their usual tasks. This will give your spouse a brief reprieve from the extra stress of solo-parent time and will make them feel more appreciated for their regular contributions to the family.
5. Don’t ask for more time off right after you just took time. If you had SO much fun at Girl’s Weekend that you went ahead and made plans for the next one, try to contain your excitement and wait a night or two before you schedule another weekend. Give your spouse a break in the action and time to return to normal, so they will be more inclined to agree!
6. Prep the family as much as you can. Make sure the fridge is stocked, meals are planned, laundry is done, trash is taken out, etc. Even consider buying a new toy or art project materials to keep your little one entertained while your partner is on duty. The less they have to worry about during your time away, the easier and less stressful it will be for them, which means they are more likely to offer to take the kids solo again!
7. Communication is key. Your relationship with your spouse/partner makes all the difference in the world when it comes to sharing the load. Be honest about your feelings and your needs. If you are feeling really burned out and need a break? Talk with them! If you are super excited for a cool event coming up? Share your excitement. Communication is the best way to be on the same page with your partner. They want you to be happy, so help them understand what you need to make it so!
Time away from parenting is essential. Don’t overlook the importance that taking time away is to your mental and physical health. Sharing the load with a spouse can be hard, but beneficial for both of you. Even so, don’t forget to schedule some time away WITH your partner too! After all, your relationship is the entire reason for your kids’ existence, right? Call Grandma or a sitter and go on a ski date, hike, paddle, or check out the newest restaurant in town. Spending quality time together, without your toddler in tow, will strengthen your relationship, but will also make you more comfortable giving each other breaks too.
Ginny has spent her career focused on getting people outside; working with the Park Service, Forest Service, Student Conservation Association and Keystone Science School, as well as spending a decade in the outdoor retail industry. She practices what she preaches, so can usually be found outside: downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, riding her dual-sport motorcycle, running, and SUPing in the summer. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband, 1-year old son, and awesome trail dog.
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