I checked taking a momcation off my Summer Bucket List this last weekend. It was everything I hoped it would be. Excitement about a momcation has nothing to do with wanting to escape the kids themselves--of course I love them and miss them when they're not around.
Excitement about a momcation has everything to do with what it takes from me to be a mom--the parts that exhaust me and downright stress me out. My kids are worth every bit of it, and this was just the break I needed to give me the freedom to see that they're why I love being a mom.
Every mom should take a momcation. Not every mom can take a momcation, but every mom can and should do the "staycation" version--a mommy break. There are a few components that were essential to making my momcation a success that might also give you ideas for doing a staycation Mommy Break instead.
Features of a Momcation
1. Understanding and supportive husband.Daniel makes sure I get breaks during the week. We set an evening aside for me to get "me time," and he encourages me to leave the dishes, he'll put the kids to bed and I don't have to worry about the time. These breaks are so awesome, and it means so much to me that he cares and knows how important this is to me and my sanity. Then, he took it all to another level.
This whole momcation thing was Daniel's idea. He travels for work and got bumped on a flight so that he could give the awarded travel voucher to me. He'd take off work to watch the kids, and I'd travel alone to go see friends. Isn't he amazing?!
Mommy Break Tip #1
An understanding and supportive husband is essential to mom doing her job best (the reverse is also true, but we're talking about mom right now). If a full out travel-somewhere-else trip isn't possible right now, try a weekend "staycation" or a day. Or start with one evening each week for a mommy break if that's not already in your routine. Tell your husband what a little mental break would do both for the kids, for you, and for him. Let him know what you need him to do to make this happen. (Help clean up from supper? Put the kids to bed? Take on household duties for a full day or even a full weekend?) My husband has a special ability to know when I need a break and take the steps to make that happen for me, but you might need to be a little more proactive or clear in verbalizing your need for a break.
2. Old friends.I knew right away that I wanted to use the travel voucher to see two of my best friends from high school. I only really hung out with them those two years of high school, but we've kept in touch and visited a couple times in the ten years since then, and we currently keep a running conversation going in a Facebook message which keeps us even closer.
The book I read on this trip described the need for old friends perfectly: "The older I get, the more I value my friends as witnesses to the girl I once was and the young woman I'll never be again." Those two years of high school mean so much to me and formed the person I am today, and these two friends are my connection to that piece of me that few people know.
Mommy Break Tip #2
Take the occasional mommy break to enjoy the company of an old friend. Someone that remembers who you were before dishes and diapers became your world. Someone who has seen you on worse days, so no need to dress up or try to impress her. Someone who has seen you on better days and can remind you that woman is still in there. Maybe you can't make the drive or get on a plane to hang out in person. So give her a call, start a Facebook conversation, or write your appreciation with a few memories to surprise her in the mail.
3. Time in the sun.I enjoy the sun. Maybe too much. It may have a little something to do with my tanning obsession from my teens. Mostly, it just feels like vacation to me. It's warming and relaxing and, yes, even gives my skin a sunkissed glow that says, "I'm on vacation." It puts me in a good mood to just to lay in the sun--either resting or reading or writing or talking to a friend.
A highlight of the trip was spending a small portion of one morning sitting on my friend's deck, chatting, browsing Pinterest on our phones, and sipping cool water. Such a simple luxury that I just don't get at home. We usually end up playing in the shade when I take the kids to the park, or my attention is spent keeping rocks out of Ian's mouth. This brief moment of relaxation in the sun was incredibly rejuvenating and mood-lifting.
Mommy Break Tip #3
Take a quick mommy break early one evening when your husband gets home from work or on a weekend afternoon to sit in the sun. Sip a drink and read a magazine outside your local coffee shop. Lay a blanket in the grass and read or take a nap. Sit on your porch and watch the sunset. Enjoy as the rays warm your skin and the Vitamin D boosts your mood. If it's winter, bundle up for a brief walk in the sun, or make a short visit to the tanning bed--overuse is bad, but in less than 5 minutes you can get the same warming, mood-lifting benefits.
4. Good book.As with every trip, I had a list of things I hoped to complete in preparation. Top of the list was finding a good book to read while traveling. And, as with every trip, I just didn't have time. On our way to the airport we stopped by the library, and Daniel gave me five minutes. My hands were still empty when he called saying my time was up. I quickly grabbed a book off the shelf on my way out the door so I'd have something to read, and ended up with The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl's Guide to Love, Life, and Foolish Bravery by Veronica Chambers.
Pleasant surprise: Turned out to be a great book! She talked about her challenges with writing in an encouraging way that I needed to hear, she shared her insight on friendship relevant to the friendships this trip honored, and so much more from her life experiences. Validating, entertaining, and encouraging. It was a fun surprise to get all of that from a random book off the library shelf.
Mommy Break Tip #4
If you're already an avid reader, indulge in this hobby during your mommy break. Set up shop at Barnes and Noble, visit the library, or cozy up in your bed and shut the door while hubby takes care of the kids. If, like me, reading doesn't come naturally for you, then try mixing it up. Read a book from a genre that you haven't tried. Or, be pleasantly surprised by a book randomly pulled off the shelf. And read only as long as you're enjoying it. If you're not into the book, don't worry about finishing it. Return it to the library and find something that's worth spending the occasional mommy break on.
5. No household work.Of course, the real "vacation" part of this trip was the break from the work part of what I do. Being a mom is a full-time job whether you work or not, but a being a stay-at-home-mom is literally my fulltime job. A vacation, even a break, from it is rare because the work is all day every day, weekends included.
I got a break from all of it on this trip. Of course, I did the meal-planning and grocery shopping before I left. But I didn't have to make the meals or hear the inevitable "What are we having for dinner?" followed by "I don't want that." I cleaned up after myself and didn't worry about anyone's routine or the inevitable crankiness when said routine is not followed.
Mommy Break Tip #5
This last part sums up exactly why we need a mommy break in the first place. So maybe schedules and work demands don't make it possible for every one to take an out-of-town momcation. But you, supermom, need and deserve a break. What would a day off look like to you? No cooking or cleaning? No disciplining? Focus on yourself--getting in a shower and a workout and a few minutes journaling without feeling guilty about it? Start with making an actual list, but don't stop there. Share this with your husband. Or a grandparent or friend that could watch the kids--for an hour, or two, or a day. And take the day off. Not from loving your kids, but from doing all of the things that blur your focus. You, my friend, deserve it!
My Mom-Break Takeaway
The main lesson I'm taking away from this trip is the distinction between being a mom and the work it requires. When I'm home with the kids and managing the household it all gets jumbled together. I fold laundry and bathe them and entertain and discipline and put all of their needs before my own, so it's easy to confuse my stress and exhaustion with them. But it's altogether separate. The hard stuff is truly the "job" part of being a mom, and especially being a stay-at-home mom.
Taking a break from the job of it all helped me to realize how much I love being a mom. Teaching them my neat-freek ways. Their hugs and cuddles. Their laughs and love for reading and dancing. Their special little personalities and giant hearts. I love them so much and they're worth every bit of work that caring for them requires.
I also welcome the occasional mommy break or even full-on momcation for the freedom to step away from the cooking and cleaning and planning and grocery-shopping to realize how much I love simply being Mom.
dear moms, i'm sorry for wanting to punch you in the neck
looking and feeling awake in a season of exhaustion
your family needs you to be courageous