By Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals.
Over at The Vacation Gals, we're huge proponents of moms taking breaks from family obligations to go on vacation by themselves or with gal pals. Whether that's a simple night's stay at a nearby hotel or a week at a spa, it's so imperative for busy mothers to occasionally forego the grocery shopping, housecleaning and child care to take time for themselves. On a girlfriend getaway or "soul-oh" trip, we get the chance to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate so that we return to the household refreshed and ready to tackle the carpool again. After all, you know the old adage: "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
No one believes in this more than I do. When my son was two months old, I was one tired mom. I was caring for his older sister, a busy toddler; I was lonely during the day while my husband was at work; I hadn't lost an ounce of baby weight and felt fat; I was exhausted from late-night feedings. So, I got online and booked a room at a luxury resort an hour away. Then I told my husband I was going away for 24 hours that weekend. Extreme? Sort of. Necessary for my sanity? At the time, absolutely.
When I arrived at the hotel, I wasn't sure what to do first. Do I take a nap? Go for a hike? Watch mindless TV? Soak at the spa? Eventually, I settled in and did all of the above, and relished every minute of it. (Except the part where I was awakened at 10 p.m. by a loud family in the room next door – crazy me, it made me miss my kids!)
Since then, I've taken dozens of trips without my husband and children, not only for my work as a professional travel writer, but for fun. Girlfriend weekends that include late-night conversation, plenty of red wine, and no alarm clocks mean as much to me as trips to Disney World with my kids.
As an experienced veteran of girlfriend getaways, I offer up these tips to moms who want to escape, but who might be feeling twinges of Mom Guilt. There's no need to wonder if it's in the family budget to indulge, or to worry if the kids will make it without you!
The kids will survive, and they might actually like it. My children are so accustomed to my traveling that they rarely blink an eye when I announce I'm going to be on the road again. Of course, it helps that their dad is as involved in their upbringing as I am and knows their routine like the back of his hand. There's usually something special on the agenda when Mom's gone, whether it's cinnamon buns for breakfast or watching The Simpsons every night. If your kids are accustomed to being with you 24/7, plan some surprises for when you're gone. If you don't think it will make your young children miss you even more, leave letters for them to open each day you're out of town.
If you're single, enlist the help of family and friends. Say you're the primary (and only) regular caregiver for your children. Single moms especially need the break in routine! Ask the neighbor mom to take them for the weekend (or just one night) so you can get away, and offer to reciprocate.
Prepare meals ahead of time. Make it super easy for your spouse to "okay" a getaway by preparing a few healthy meals he can take out of the freezer and heat up while you're gone. A bribe? Perhaps, but worth the time and effort to help make "life without mom" as hassle-free as possible.
If you're traveling with gal pals, make sure everyone is on the same page. My favorite traveling companions like the same things I do: spas and outdoor activity. I wouldn't want to travel with other women who are only going to shop. Or, if I did travel with a group with varying interests, I'd make clear up front that while they're spending the day shopping the outlets, I'm going hiking. Remember this is your time away from "obligations;" you deserve to do what you want to in your precious time away.
Don't assume a girls' getaway is financially out of reach. My guess is that you could forego the Starbucks or cut coupons for a while to put away a small stash of cash, because all you need is a moderately priced hotel within driving distance for just one night. Alternatively, see if any friends have vacation homes you could borrow for the weekend.
Leave the guilt at home. Repeat after me: "I deserve a break." I know moms who have never spent a night away from their kids and spouse â€“ and their kids are in middle school! Your going away on your own will teach your children that mothers have needs, too. They'll feel self-confident knowing that they can manage on their own without you (this goes for grown men, too). Taking time for yourself to regroup and do something just for you isn't selfish. You're recharging your batteries so you have the energy to be an even better mom. And you're worth it.
About the Writer
Kara Williams blogs about all things travel related at TheVacationGals.com. She lives in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two young children.
Photo Credit: istockphoto / iofoto