I first heard the 'advice' from a coworker when I was pregnant: the old cliché that once you have kids, you no longer have 'vacations', but 'trips'. The implication is that the rest and relaxation of your previous life as a childless person on vacations is no longer a thing, and instead, those getaways you lovingly, painstakingly plan for your family would become a bit less carefree, to say the least.
Now, as a mom to a three-year-old, I've found this to be quite true. There are multiple silver linings, however, not the least of which is building my daughter's early, positive memories of these trips. But what about me? I crave the release of a trip somewhere relaxing, the self-care that a good vacation can be—but I haven't taken that kind of a vacation in quite a long time.
As the editorial director of Motherly, I'm very familiar with all the ways moms need self-care but don't get it, whether that's because we don't have the time, money, or space for it, or the myriad other priorities that take up our mental space. In this year's State of Motherhood survey, 38% of millennial and Gen Z moms reported feeling burnt out, while 67% said they got less than an hour of alone time that wasn't work or family-oriented (read that again: less than one hour.) This all hits close to home for me, as a working parent with a lot on my plate, so when I was approached to try out a wellness retreat in Mexico this summer, it was a welcome invitation.
For four days, Hilton invited me to the Conrad Punta de Mita to test out the experiences designed to add a more explicit layer of wellness to a vacation: sunrise yoga, morning walks on the beach, a massage at the hotel's spa, and a Temazcal experience that promised a "curative ceremony to purify the body and heal the spirit through heat, herbal steam, chanting and meditative moments." I said yes to all the things—what burnt-out mom wouldn't? Of course, I know that I wouldn't be able to do all this without the support of a partner who can take care of our kid while I'm gone. My husband gave his blessing and assured me that he and our daughter would be just fine without me for four days.
Aside from these events, the sheer appeal of traveling alone spoke to my soul. I only had myself to prep for this trip, would be moving through airports (and immigration, and customs) and ground transportation to the hotel, alone. No one else to take care of but myself. I embarked on my trip, with bags packed full of stuff only for me.
Located in the state of Nayarit, Punta Mita is on the west coast of Mexico, about 24 miles from Puerto Vallarta (and about a 45-minute drive from the airport). The relatively new Conrad Punta de Mita (Conrad being Hilton's brand of luxury modern hotels and resorts) is directly on the beach, and so was my room. The elegant but comfortable resort boasts 265 guest rooms, ranging from king and queen rooms with balconies to suites with personal plunge pools.
Once ensconced in my room—I'll say it again: alone—I exhaled.
Along with a group of fellow journalists, I experienced what the Conrad Punta de Mita had to offer: the spa's "Melting, Relaxing" massage (no lies detected), three pools (one infinity pool, one adults-only with a swim-up bar, and one with a water slide, which I of course had to try a couple times, for research), and the crown of the whole trip: the Temazcal experience.
I had never done anything like the Temazcal (aside from a steam room, which really only has steam in common with the Temazcal). After explaining that the structure itself represents the earth and the mother, and entering it is like entering the womb, a shaman read our energies. We each wrote down things we were trying to let go of on a piece of paper, with things we wanted to let in on the other side. I didn't have to dig deep to prioritize what I wanted to let go, writing down the fears and everyday anxieties I have raising my child in today's world. What did I want to let in? The opposite of anxiety: Peace. We then ceremonially burned the paper.
Once inside, the four-part ritual included guided meditation, chanting, and lots and lots of steam—all of which produced a profound lightening for me. I sweat buckets (the intention). I cried. I shared my fears with the group, symbolically letting it all go. I purged toxins, tears and sweat.
My other wellness experiences may have been less profound than the Temazcal, but they were no less rejuvenating. Though I'd given myself permission to sleep in on the trip (any mom knows how much sleep = wellness), I surprised myself by popping out of bed before the sun was up on the first day to participate in sunrise yoga on the beach. My massage was every bit as relaxing as you'd think. The sunsets and the sunrises were mind-clearing.
After being whisked away to be pampered, a funny thing happened after all that alone time.
I missed my family.
I looked around my palatial room just for me and envisioned them there; I could imagine them taking in the views and the fresh air in person. I could see my daughter careening down the water slide. For all of the Conrad's features that make it a perfect solo-mom getaway, it has just as many family-friendly attractions, including the myriad pools, a gorgeous beach, pickleball, paddle boarding, restaurants with kid-friendly menus, a game room, and even on-site babysitting. (Though the Conrad Punta de Mita is not all-inclusive, several of Conrad's Mexico resorts are all-inclusive.)
Of course I'm on vacation alone missing my family, I thought. I smiled to myself, thinking of that other cliché that fit—how you can't pour from an empty cup. I'd filled mine, and now I was ready to come home.
This was most definitely a vacation, but upon reflection, I don't think trips with kids have to be dreaded. Are they more work? Usually, especially if you're the default parent.
Since my trip to Punta Mita, I've given thought to how I can incorporate elements of my wellness retreat into future family trips. I could get up for a sunrise walk, find a yoga class, or maybe just sleep in, letting my husband know these little excursions are important to me. They may not make a family trip the easygoing vacation from my child-free days, but that's OK. I'll take the memories any day.
This trip was paid for by Hilton but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.