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I was a few months into motherhood when I realized being a mom is a job that comes without benefits, a lunch break, or vacation time. Seriously. It’s a rude awakening when you realize there’s no H.R. Department for moms—especially because you’re on the job 24/7. It took me a long time to get used to the grueling pace of being a new mom. The weekends felt endless, and Monday couldn’t come fast enough. After all, the weekdays at least brought more structure and a little help.
But it’s not just that we can’t physically get away for a few hours. It’s that we can’t turn our minds off from all the emotional labor that goes into being a mom. Even if we can get out of town or hire a sitter for an evening, there’s still all the prep, organization, and execution that needs to happen.
I don’t have babies anymore, and the pace has definitely become more manageable, but that doesn’t mean motherhood is any less intense. This past fall, one of my kids was going through a really hard time and needed a lot of my attention, which coincided with the biggest work project of my life. I was burning the candle at both ends with no other option in sight. That’s when I decided that as soon as my son was doing better and I completed my project, I would take a vacation.
No, I didn’t go to Hawaii or the Bahamas. I took two weeks and checked out of motherhood. Okay, I still had to get my kids to school and make sure they were fed. I just didn’t have to do it all myself. By lowering the expectations I had of myself and letting my family pick up the slack, I freed up my time and my brain so I could recharge.
So if you’re burnt out (you know are!), and if you feel like you need a vacation, but you can’t get out of town, you too can take a vacation. It doesn’t cost much, and you don’t have to go far. Here’s how to make it work:
- Tell your family. I put my husband on notice that he’d have to step up for a few weeks, manage more drop-offs, handle more meal-planning, and even (gasp!) make sure there were groceries in the house. I didn’t care how that stuff got done. He could order groceries or serve sandwiches for dinner. I just didn’t want to do it myself. Meanwhile, I let my kids know that I was going to still be around, but I needed a break from some of the day-to-day minutia that can feel like a grind.
- Set a vacation time. I chose two weeks for my mom vacation, but yours could be two days or two months. The point is, you designate a specific amount of time when you’re off-duty. (Well, as off-duty as a mom can be.)
- Choose a time when the kids will be in school. I chose to check out for two weeks in January because my kids didn’t have any school breaks or holidays (which would have been a total buzzkill). I still had to get them to school, but I didn’t have to entertain them on a random Monday because school was out.
- Put your to-do lists aside. If you’re like me, the constant lists of things I need to do for my kids—whether it’s buying a baseball mit or making sure they have socks that aren’t threadbare—can make it feel like you’re on a job that never stops. For the entire time I was mom vacationing, I put those lists aside. If something was super important, my husband could figure it out. And if it wasn’t time sensitive, it waited until I was back “in the office”. It’s amazing how much more free time I had when I wasn’t spending my days scrolling through Amazon or driving to Target.
- Don’t judge how everything gets done in your absence. My husband was happy to pick up the slack, but I had to accept that meant sometimes my kids would have a lunch filled with stuff they hated, or they’d have dinner that consisted of cereal and yogurt. In order to give myself a vacation, I had to let my husband do things his way. Turns out, my kids actually like cereal for dinner.
- Make a point to do things you don’t normally get to do. When a family goes on vacation, everyone gets to relax except the parents, so I filled my two weeks with things I like to do, like seeing a movie or going to my favorite yoga class. I took some time to catch up with friends. And, I caught up on my favorite crap TV shows that were waiting for me on the DVR. The point is, however you fill the time, fill it with your favorite things. Before you know it, you’ll be back to carpools and soccer mom-ing.
- Leave the guilt behind. I’ll admit, I had pangs of guilt, especially in the beginning. I questioned if I really needed so much time to myself. But the truth is, everybody deserves a break, and my kids were fine without me doing every single thing for them.
- Plan your next vacation. However long you give yourself to check out, will come to an end. I was so relaxed and rejuvenated after two weeks of no carpools and to-do lists that I vowed to do it every year. I’ve already got the calendar marked. By then, I’ll surely need it.