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My girls' weekend was more than a break from parenting—it was an eye-opening learning experience

I learned that it's impossible to underestimate the value of an old friendship and that my children were compeltely fine without me.

My girls' weekend was more than a break from parenting—it was an eye-opening learning experience

It was the kind of invitation that dreams are made of: a weekend in the mountains with an old friend complete with skiing, hiking, good wine and food, wonderful company and no parenting for a full 48 hours.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. I hadn't spent a night on my own for two years, which meant I hadn't slept through the night for two years. I was fast approaching burnout and could think of nothing better than a temporary escape from my current routine. It would be a salve for my exhausted body and mind so I jumped at the chance.

The anticipation was part of the enjoyment. From the very moment I accepted the invitation, I daydreamed about what I would pack, we discussed where we would ski, what we would eat and I craved those two straight nights of uninterrupted sleep.

But as I zipped my suitcase closed on Friday evening and hugged my husband and babies goodbye, I felt a powerful wave of anxiety and an irrational urge to call the whole thing off. Why did I suddenly want to turn back, change into my pajamas for Friday pizza night and spend the weekend where I always did, up to my elbows in toys and squabbles, squarely in my comfort zone?

I drove off into the night, shaking. I had been so excited about this little getaway, but driving away from my house felt so unnatural, so wrong.

It was because where I was going, I wouldn't be able to hear them cry.

It was because for six years I've been programmed to do bath time, to sing silly songs and say, "No, don't splash!" once every 30 seconds.

It was because after bath time, it would be bedtime and I'd be too far away to make the bottle, to read the story and to turn out the light.

It was because I wouldn't know if my littlest was complaining of growing pains or if my eldest drank too much water before bed.

I'm programmed to wake in the night when the youngest cries and to settle her back down, or when the eldest has a nightmare, to assure her there are no monsters lurking in the dark.

I'm programmed to be their mom. Now here I was, driving away from all that, to spend a weekend where I didn't know what was going to happen next. And it was a very strange feeling.

But that feeling melted away as I stepped out of my car in a ski resort at the top of a mountain pass and an old friend wrapped me in her arms. "You're finally here!" Those words meant so much more than what they actually said.

There I was, just me. And it was enough.

The weekend stretched in front of us and I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. As she linked arms with me and led me down the street, I was filled with gratitude that, without even knowing it, she had given me a gift.

She had encouraged me to put myself first for two short days, and even though it felt like an unnatural thing to do, I was glad I had. Nobody would ask anything of me for the next 48 hours, nothing at all would be required of me.

I felt my shoulders relax.

I chose to feel no guilt about enjoying this little break from my life.

I chose to be present in that feeling like a gift offered up from some unexpected place.

A group of us gathered for a 9:30 pm dinner and I was the only mom amongst them. We ate, we sipped wine, we chatted about jobs and the places we'd lived, we talked about politics and about health, we talked about parents and relationships, and yes, I talked about my kids.

As I sat there in the warm glow of the company of interesting strangers, the last of my nervousness about being away from my life disappeared. I was where I needed to be.

That weekend turned out to be more than just a break from my parenting routine. It was a learning experience in every way.

I learned that it's impossible to underestimate the value of an old friendship—someone who shares your memories from long ago, who will tell you when you have something in your teeth and who remembers what you looked like not just before you had babies but before you got your braces off. Someone who thinks the world of you even though they know your faults.

I learned that my children were completely fine without me— in fact, they enjoyed the break from our routine even more than I did. When they came flying to the door to greet me on Sunday night (what a blissful feeling that was, almost worth going away for in itself) there was no resentment that I'd left them behind. In fact, they were tripping over each other's words as they filled me in on how much fun they'd had with their daddy.

Most importantly, as two small girls jostled for position on my lap and I took in the sweet smells of freshly washed hair and clean pajamas, I learned that the weekend away had been a confirmation that there was nowhere else I'd rather be than right here, being their mom. Day in and day out.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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