Go away! You absolutely must. You must go away, but not with
your spouse, though occasionally that’s a good idea, too.
What I’m talking about is grabbing your closest female
friends for a girls’ weekend. You should do it no less than once a year. And
you should trust me when I say it’s going to help your marriage and mothering in
countless ways. But let me back up a bit.
When Marilyn and Diana, my high school bffs were young
mothers (they both walked down the aisle six years before I did) they suggested
we meet for a weekend at a borrowed beach cottage almost equidistant from each of us who lived in three different New England States. That was 1996 and no hassle
for me to kiss Mark, my then-fiancé, goodbye and take off for two days.
The three of us had a wonderful time catching up over wine
and clam rolls and taking long chatty walks, but it seemed to me that both
of my friends were a little over-the-top with talking about their young kids
and the associated affects on their marriages and sanity. Would I be so crazed
and in need of a break when I had a baby?
Let me tell you, those 24 hours with my friends who had
known me for 20 plus years were manna for the soul.
Two years later with a sleepless, eczemic 1-year-old boy,
my friends pushed for another night away together. “Phinny’s too young,” I
protested. “I can’t leave him yet.” But they pressed harder than I resisted,
and we met for a second girls’ weekend this time at a hotel where—key to a
clutch experience—there was no cooking or cleaning required of us.
And let me tell you, those 24 hours with my friends who had
known me for 20 plus years were manna for the soul. I was struggling badly with
being a stay-at-home mom who was trying to keep her writing career afloat, but
when I fell into the comforting company of girlfriends who could laugh with me over
my fears, guide me through some doubts and point me back to myself, I was
restored on the cellular level.
My friends and I are now on our 19th girls’ weekend. In the early
years, we had to improvise a bit, like when my daughter was born and Marilyn
and Diana came to my house in Boston to spoil me with love then pull me away for
a fancy dinner. And while none of us has ever intentionally canceled, one time
Marilyn got the stomach flu and her husband had to hide the car keys to keep
her from coming anyway.
Yes, we are staunchly dedicated to sharing those two days, and
over the years we have perfected a system that maximizes our short time
together: We meet on Saturday morning at a bed and breakfast in a quaint New
England town like Portsmouth, N.H., or Brattleboro, Vt. We settle into a long
lunch with the requisite cocktail—the one day a year I have a strong drink in
the daylight hours—and chat and giggle until the waiter knows to stay clear. We
spend the afternoon poking around the town, talking on top of each other and
teasing. There is always so much teasing about who got asked to the prom first
in high school and why Marilyn didn’t kiss the pool boy that day when we were
16. Back in our B&B, we share a bottle of prosecco and appetizers before
going to dinner where the heavier conversations usually happen.
We talk through struggles with our kids—now teens or grown—our
long marriages, the challenge of caring for aging parents, all of whom we’ve
known since high school days. The year my mother died, they understood more
than anyone how complicated our relationship had been. And when Diana was going
through cancer and came to our girls’ weekend bald, we tried on crazy wigs and wept with gratitude for the sustenance of 35 years of friendship.
You can go out to dinner with your friends, but it’s not the
same as going away, sharing a room and falling asleep together watching “Saturday
Night Live,” just as you did decades before. It’s not the same as the girls’
weekend traditions that form, like buying 10 scratch tickets every year in the
hopes of hitting the jackpot together or Marilyn always appearing with plates
of homemade cookies that Diana and I devour on the drive home.
On Sunday, when we wake up, we have a leisurely brunch and
head to a nearby museum or tourist site for an hour or so. When it’s mid-afternoon
and time to leave, we take a photo and then agree on a wacky “theme” for the
weekend, usually some experience that has repeated itself in weird ways. Once
it was “ironical.” Another time, “bread.”
Then we hug goodbye with tears and encouraging words before
driving back to our lives where our families wait for us. When we get home we
have more patience for our husbands, a deeper understanding of our kids' issues
and a reminder that the friendships that have supported us for decades are still
there working their magic, keeping us going.