Anyone who's heard the song 'Hard to say I'm sorry' by Chicago is unlikely to forget the opening line:
“Everybody needs a little time away, I heard her say, from each other."
For me, this 80's ballad is top of mind.
I've taken a road trip for work, and as I write this, I'm perched in a hotel room located just a few hours away from home. It's nothing flashy, just a standard space with the basic amenities. And it feels incredible.
Usually when I travel to headquarters, it's a day trip. I get up at 5 a.m., drive three hours, put in a full day, drive home, and walk in the door around 10 p.m. Yep, it's a mission—but it's logistically easier with the kids, and cheaper than booking myself a hotel.
On this particular occasion though, I've purposely booked a hotel room. And, not just for one night, but two.
Why? Because I need some time away.
This may sound unimaginable to some—even selfish—but spending time away from my family is an absolute must for me.
Even when it's weaved into a work trip, I jump at the chance for some 'me' time.
I didn't always feel this way though.
Back when I was a new mom, my loving husband sent me away for some R&R at a beautiful retreat. There were yoga and archery classes, books and log fires, restorative body treatments and deliciously prepared meals.
It was heaven on a stick. But, at the time I couldn't get over the feeling that I'd 'abandoned' my daughter, so I was flooded with guilt for three days and found it impossible to relax because I was convinced my husband couldn't cope without me.
Fortunately, on the retreat I received some great advice.
Two lovely (and more experienced) moms shared with me their conscious decision to take time out for themselves regularly.
It was “a necessity" they said; vital to their wellbeing, and to managing their multiple roles with renewed energy and perspective.
I've never forgotten this conversation, and now with some parenting under my own belt, I fully appreciate the value of it.
Ideally though, we shouldn't reach 'maximum stress' before taking time out. We should prioritize our needs by scheduling it routinely, and try to build simple moments into our days to facilitate the balance. It doesn't have to be an expensive or elaborate escape.
For me, choosing to live with less has opened up a lot more time, space, energy and freedom on a day-to-day basis. Occasionally though, I still descend into domestic martyrdom before planning some respite (at my husband's behest), but I am getting better at recognizing the warning signs.
What I'm also getting better at, is having confidence in the belief that I deserve it.
Generally speaking, there's always a level of guilt associated with putting ourselves first, which is frankly, insane. Because as I've learnt, when we continually forge ahead in a vacuum of busyness and ignore our basic needs, what we're actually doing to ourselves, and our families, is a disservice.
Proactive time out (from any kind of pressure) is an investment in our health, and ultimately, an investment in our loved ones. As my family and I now both understand, 'time out for me will also benefit them.'
And, when we chose to spend 'me time' in our own company, we're also cultivating a connection with one of the most important relationships we'll ever have: the one with ourself.
Inward reflection is essential to improving our self-awareness and learning what makes us tick. In turn, this helps us to understand others, build more meaningful relationships, and subsequently create a happier outer world for ourselves.
And that's certainly how I felt when I returned home to my family a few days ago.
Happy, on every level.
A version of this article was originally published on Sweet Simplicity.