When I think about the woman I was before motherhood and the woman I am today, I’m sometimes baffled at the ways in which I’ve changed. Some of those changes have absolutely been for the good. I no longer drink too much and dance on bar tops, so that’s a win. But other changes are harder for me to come to terms with.
I’m not sure I always like how much of me I’ve given up.
Motherhood is something I’ve thrown myself into completely, to some extent at the expense of all else. I don’t think I’m as good a friend today as I was before motherhood, for instance, and I know I’m not as good at taking care of myself. One look at how disheveled I am on any given day is proof enough of that.
Still, I have admittedly resisted time away from my daughter, pretty vehemently in fact. I held off on putting her in daycare until it was blatantly clear I could no longer continue working and taking care of her full-time (right around 5 months old), and even then I cried at just the few hours of part-time care I signed her up for. I fought my friends on taking a night out without her until she was over 1 year old. And I flat-out denied any kind of kid-free vacation for as long as I could possibly hold out, right up to the point when (I'm pretty sure) those closest to me were ready to give up on me completely.
To date, I’ve still only managed that escape twice—both times for only three days away. The first kid-free vacation was, admittedly, not great. I don’t think I was ready for the separation, and I don’t really think my daughter was either. I spent most of that trip worrying, even as I was hiking (a pre-kid activity I used to love) in gorgeous Sitka, Alaska with my very best friend in the world.
I wasn’t ready.
But this last trip? Spent hiking with that same friend in Denali, Alaska? It was exactly what the doctor ordered.
And it became the first time I was willing to admit to my friends that maybe they were right—maybe I do need some kid free-time every once in a while.
If you are hesitant like I was, here's why you need a kid-free vacation, too:
1. You’re more than just a mom
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a hard time remembering this fact. I tend to become so consumed by motherhood that I sometimes forget who I am outside of that. I’ve learned I need kid-free time to reconnect with that person—not the one who used to get drunk and dance on bar tops, but the one who has always been somewhat of a free spirit. She has slowed down with a purpose, yes, but she still has a bit of a wild side she needs to let loose every once in a while.
We deserve a few days to forget about our responsibilities and stress and just … be.
2. You deserve meals without distraction
When was the last time you sat down with an adult and ate a meal that lasted more than an hour without interruption? I’m telling you, that alone time is good for the soul. No butts to wipe, no food to cut up for anyone else, and nothing but grownup discussion and good food (and maybe a little wine) to savor.
3. You need to remember what you love
Yes, you love your child, and you love being a mother. No one is questioning that. And in fact, I’m right there with you. I can still proudly proclaim that being a mom is the best thing to ever happen to me. But you know what? I also really love being active. Like, really active. I'm talking about climbing mountains and exploring random trails and jumping at opportunities to be outside and see new sights, the kind of thing I can’t do as easily with my kiddo. I’m sure you have a thing like that, too. It's something that, yeah, maybe you do love sharing with your little one from time to time, but that you also kind of miss doing without a sidekick you have to worry about. Your happiness depends on your ability to do the things you love (outside of motherhood) from time to time, whether that’s lying on the beach with a good book or jumping out of airplanes for the adrenaline rush.
I’m going to get real personal with you for a second: I’m a single mom who doesn’t get a lot of sex, mostly because I have all these rules (important rules) about how and when men can be around my daughter (disclaimer: None have made the cut yet.) And because my daughter is always with me, and I work from home, I don’t really have a ton of opportunities to meet men anymore. So … it’s been a while. But you know what? A kid-free vacation is the perfect opportunity to open myself to the possibility of meeting someone, of flirting, of kissing, and yes … of having sex, which I would argue is something we all need from time to time. Whether you are single or married, though, there is just something to be said for the sex you can have when you don’t have to worry about your kids hearing you, or worse, interrupting the act. And you deserve that. You deserve to feel sexy and wanted and free in that inhibition, even if only for a few nights.
5. Drop the Stress
Life is stressful. Parenthood is even more so. And no matter how happy you are in this current life stage, there is no question that the responsibilities on your shoulders today outweigh anything you’ve had to carry before. That’s life. It’s growing up. It’s part of what it means to have another little person depend on you. And it’s huge, and beautiful and hard. But every once in a while, you are allowed to hand that responsibility over to someone else (someone you trust, of course). We all benefit from taking some time to breathe and allowing that weight to be lifted from our shoulders. We deserve a few days to forget about our responsibilities and stress and just … be.
You can be a good parent, an amazing parent even, and still need a break. There is no shame in admitting that sometimes you just need to get away from your kid. Whether that’s for one night, or an entire week, is up to you.
But take it from a mom who resisted that separation for a long time, and who has only just come to realize how valuable it really is: You need this. You deserve it. And your relationship with your child will be better for it. Because you’ll come back refreshed, revived and ready to take the challenges of parenthood on with a new perspective and a clearer frame of mind.
Which is something we all need.