Who needs a summer vacation the most? Moms. (No kids allowed.)
My husband is sending me away for a summer vacation.
I’m going away for a long weekend—all by myself. Flying away on an airplane. Without kids. Without a husband. I’m heading off to a hotel room all my own—and nobody to wake me up at 3 am for a class of water. No baby to nurse. No barely-there booboos that “NEED!” a bandaid. No Cheerois to pick up off the floor (again). No toddler skirmishes to break up. No bills that need to be paid. No work emails to answer.
Just me, a quiet place, and some desperately-needed alone time.
I’m going alone, without our kids, because my husband is a good man and he knows that the one thing I need this summer more than anything is a break.
Summer can be particularly hard for moms. We get camp forms and doctors appointments set up months in advance. We buy bathing suits and the right sunscreen and shuffle our kids and their shifting schedules from activity to pool to birthday party.
We interrupt our normal routines to accommodate the ‘slowness’ of summer—but for moms, it can often feel like summer is the hardest time of all.
And for working moms, summer can complicate a barely-held-together patchwork of childcare.
Summertime can really make moms sweat.
And if a mom does take a summer “vacation” with her family, it can easily become more of a summer “doing all the things I normally do in my crazy momlife, just in a place with more sand.”
Summer can be exhausting.
Momlife can be exhausting.
So why is it so hard for us as moms to give ourselves permission to take a break?
Schools have summer break to give kids a rest from the physical and psychological demands of school.
It’s time for us moms to declare that we need summer break, too. An actual, restful, guilt-free break from the constant demands of motherhood.
And this 24/7 job of motherhood? It might require that we take more rest than any job we’re ever going to have.
So I’m going away. I know I need it. But, confession time: I don’t really want to go away without my kids. I actually feel guilty for being away from them.
I feel guilty, even though I know that I need a break. I feel guilty, even though I deserve it. I feel guilty, even though I know that it’s good for me—and therefore, will benefit my children. I feel guilty, even though I know that my kids will be 100% fine. I feel guilty, even though my husband has his own solo-trips planned this summer.
I’m going on vacation despite the guilt. Or perhaps because of the guilt. Motherhood is all-encompassing. It should be. It has given me a sixth sense, a depth of love I can’t describe, and three wonderful little humans. But the guilt—well, I wish I could send the guilt on vacation, too.
Plus, it’s science: Research shows that we build resilience—the grit we need to make it through the exhausting nights and demanding days of motherhood—NOT by “toughing it out,” but by giving ourselves quiet, intentional time to recharge.
Here’s how Harvard Business Review put it in a very telling column on rest in the modern age—
The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology. . . .When the body is out of alignment from overworking, we waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward. As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have written, if you have too much time in the performance zone (Editor’s note: AKA, BEING A MOM), you need more time in the recovery zone, otherwise you risk burnout. . . The value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us.
In other words, the more demanding your life is (and ahem—is there anything more demanding than motherhood?), the more you need deliberate, and intentional time to recover.
When we work work work and give give give at motherhood—and don’t ever take the time to rest, we suffer. And a burned out mom isn’t good for anyone.
So we don’t make it through the hard days of motherhood by always just “toughing it out,” but in taking the time we truly need to slow down and recharge.
Maybe you can take a vacation this summer. But if you can’t, I hope you can try to. . .
Swap kids with a trusted friend for a weekend so you can be alone in your house for 48 hours (and return the favor)
Bring the kids to grandma + grandpas so you can sleep
Hire a babysitter and give yourself permission to do some fun, adults-only activity (work does not count)
Go to the beach with your girlfriends and watch the waves crash on the shore
Put your phone down post-bedtime to let your brain rest (Read more on how your phone stimulates your brain and prevents you from recharging)
Join a gym with childcare and use the full allotted babysitting hours to move your body—and read a magazine once your done
Go for a long walk or hike in nature and leave your phone far, far away
Set a summer work schedule and take Friday afternoons off—it helps you ease in the weekend (and honestly, it’s unlikely anyone will notice)
Pat yourself on the back when you do something to care for yourself—and tell mom guilt to take a hike
Volunteer to help another burned out mom out: Maybe you don’t need a summer break, but you know a single or military mom who really does. Research shows that performing acts of kindness for others can actually make us feel better than if we always heaped those gifts upon ourselves
For me, I know it’s time for a break. The last time I was away without my kids for more than one night was 2015. A whole baby ago. More than 800 days ago. It’s time for mama’s summer vacation.
A quiet, peaceful hotel room awaits.
Let’s do this, summer break.