It’s science: ‘Girls weekends’ boost mental health
You might need a momcation, mama.
For some moms, the perfect vacation is one where they can explore and engage with their little ones, while other mothers have more of a grownup girls trip in mind.
It’s okay if you want to take a weekend away with your BFFs, mama. It doesn’t mean anything about your commitment to motherhood or your partner. Science suggests that humans need connections outside of our romantic partners and mother-child bonds, and that when we don’t connect with our friends, our health suffers.
Basically, spending time with your friends away from your family is good for you, and fills you up in a way other relationships can’t. So-called “momcations” aren’t for everyone, but planning a little getaway without the kids works for some mamas.
As a mom of three boys (all under four) Rachel Williams Shaw has taken three trips with friends since becoming a mom. She told Good Morning America she felt she came back rested and ready to get back into her family’s daily routine.
“I think time away is very important to remember who you were before becoming a mom. I was a very adventurous, independent person before having my kids and I feel I need that kind of time to remind me that I’m still me, just with three babies,” she explained.
Other mothers told GMA they don’t feel the need to travel without their kids.
“I hate the thought of exploring something new without sharing it with them,” said Chasity Walters, who has a 20-year-old and a 5-week-old. I want them to have as many experiences as possible. Along the same lines, everything in my life is better with them.”
Preventing parental burnout
Some moms do need a break, though, and no one should be shamed for taking a trip and leaving the kids at home with their other parent, a grandparent or a babysitter. It may be what that parent needs to prevent parental burnout.
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found 12.9% of mothers experience “high burnout” and another study, this one published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, suggested “parental burnout has a statistically similar effect to job burnout on addictions and sleep problems, a stronger effect on couples’ conflicts and partner estrangement mindset and a specific effect on child-related outcomes (neglect and violence) and escape and suicidal ideation.”
Basically, burning out at home can be even more devastating than burning out at the office, so parents should do whatever they need to to prevent it.
For a lot of mothers booking a solo trip or flying away to somewhere sunny with a couple of friends is just not an option. Vacations are among the first things that get cut when budgets get tight, and millennial parents have some of the tightest budgets around. And for single moms, childcare can be a barrier in planning a child-less vacay.
But we don’t have to book a plane ticket to take a break. Taking mini-momcations—going to the movies, or grabbing dinner with your friends (without the kids)—can also help us get out of mom mode for a little while.
If you know you wouldn’t enjoy vacationing without your kids (it’s not for everybody) getting some quality me-time in can be just as refreshing, without having to miss your family.
You don’t have to give up family vacations
Whether you’re taking mini-momcations or planning a week of solo travel, choosing to savor that experience for yourself doesn’t mean you can’t also experience vacationing (or even just day tripping to a local attraction) with your children. Of course having experiences together is important, too.
According to a study out of the University of Toronto, family vacations strengthen our emotional connections, and a British survey found almost half of adults surveyed stated their most favorite childhood memory is one of a family vacation.
Momcations are good, but coming home is even better
Taking a momcation can help mom reset, but also reset how the family sees her. “Her spouse and children may have a better sense of how much she does and accomplishes on a daily basis. It is critical for children to see that balance modeled for them and to carry that into their own child-rearing in future years. Ultimately, this may help children garner even more respect for their mothers,” psychologist Dr. Nava R. Silton told Good Morning America.
When writer and mother Jennifer Batchelor flew to Hawaii without her kids to spend time with a friend, she “reveled in [her] freedom and soaked up every last selfish second of it,” but when she got home and saw the way her son and daughter lit up when they saw her, her momcation became even better. “Yes, it was nice to get away. But it’s even nicer coming home,” she wrote.
[A version of this post was published on September 10, 2018. It has been updated.]