A couple years ago, an article came across my Facebook feed that changed my life (see? Facebook is not a waste of time!). It argued that every mom should take an annual vacation by herself.
I obviously shared it and tagged my husband. Two months later, I landed in Istanbul. By myself. When it came time to get on the plane, I had a lot of second thoughts about ditching my kids. But you guys. That trip transformed me. (And my kids were totally fine. They actually had a blast with Grandma.)
Chances are, if you’re reading this and you’re a mom, you already have some ideas in mind for why moms need solo vacations. Being a mom is hard. I mean, most jobs are hard, but the thing about every other job is that sometimes you get to clock out. You leave the office or you turn off your pager (hey, doctors still use those) or walk away from your building for the night or the weekend. Not so with parenting. And while the great dads of the world are doing more and more to contribute, the reality is that moms still do most of the parenting and household work in most families, even when they have jobs outside the home.
I don’t have to tell you that running on empty and still having to do all that work is bad news. You have no physical energy to live and parent the way you want to. You have no mental or emotional space left to enjoy your family or pursue your goals. And life just starts to feel really terrible.
I have always taken little breaks on the weekend to go hang out at the library or coffeeshop to write or browse. These breaks have been my sanity over the years. But sometimes we just need more. I’ve had a few more mom vacations since that first one (I’m kind of addicted), and I’m telling you, it’s a life changer. Here are five reasons why I’m passionate about moms making room in their lives for solo travel.
1. Solo vacations give you a BREAK
This is the obvious one. Everyone needs a nice long break from their job every now and then. That’s why we have vacations. We need to refuel to meet the demands of our lives. But a solo mom vacation is about having a break from all of your jobs.
Let’s face it. Vacation with kids isn’t really vacation. It actually feels a lot like normal life, only harder. You still have to feed the little animals, change the diapers, and referee the squabbles. But now you get to do it in unfamiliar places! With unfamiliar things! And perpetually exhausted children! And while you do all the normal, life-sustaining stuff, you also get to corral your crew through herds of people or on long walks or through museums that really weren’t made for kids. Oh, and then at night, after you’ve done all those exhausting things, you get to sleep (or most likely, not sleep) with your entire family in one room.
To be sure, these experiences have loads of value and create great memories and stories that “will be funny someday” (and if you’re really lucky, even a few that are funny now). I believe devoutly in family vacations. I think they’re so worth it. That’s why we do a lot of them. But a family vacation is anything but a refueling break for parents.
2. Traveling solo allows you to connect with yourself
When I’m traveling alone, I’m finally aware of my own thoughts! It’s amazing! Both daily life and traveling with kids are fraught with the logistics of making everything work, getting through the day with a minimum of missed enrichment classes and forgotten birthday parties (incidentally, I was guilty of both just within this last week). There’s not much bandwidth left to just be alone with your thoughts or think about your big life goals. I have a rich inner life where I long to be much of the time, but my day-to-day existence can make that difficult. Getting away alone finally lets me connect with myself. I can process my life and make sense of it all. I can dream and make plans. I can just be.
Of course, both of these things could be satisfied by spending a couple nights at the hotel down the street. So why go somewhere else?
3. Traveling solo is transformative, even (especially!) for moms
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” –Mary Ritter Beard
Most people would agree that travel expands our minds and souls. We see the world differently—we see ourselves differently—when we’re in a new place. Travel transforms us. That’s just true for all people, and while I know this is a radical notion, moms are people. Yep. I said it. We didn’t relinquish our peopleness just because we made more people. We still deserve to have those soul-expanding, dream-inspiring experiences. But they’re really hard to have when you’re juggling logistics or people are complaining about going to another museum or someone is tugging on your purse with a potty emergency.
4. Solo travel makes you feel alive!
Speaking of moms being people, traveling alone really makes you feel human. It’s incredible! For moms, whose entire lives revolve around other people’s developmental needs and sleep schedules and food preferences (or allergies) and bladder emergencies and ideas of fun, being alone in a new place is mind-blowingly invigorating. You can wander down the street at your own pace, no reluctant dawdlers or anxious speed walkers (unless you want to be one). If you see something interesting, you can stop and check it out. If you see something delicious, you can just eat it. You can sit on a terrace in Tuscany and sip wine while looking out over the rolling hills (I’ve done it!). And then you can go back to your hotel room and get a solid, quality night’s sleep.
Nobody needs these things more than the people who tend to lose themselves in their devotion to caring for other people.
5. Solo mom travel is actually good for your family, too!
Who doesn’t feel like a better mom after filling her own bucket a little bit? But I saved this one for last, because too often we justify self-care by pointing out its benefits to others, as if that’s the only thing that makes it okay. I very strongly believe that we deserve wellness and wholeness because all people deserve to feel whole. And remember how moms are people, too? The fact that whole, happy humans tend to make better parents and partners is a wonderful bonus, but is not the only justification for self-care.
And maybe it’s just my kids, but a little time away from Mom is exciting! Especially because it usually means time with just dad or just grandma, and that’s what great memories are made of. The whole dynamic is different when it’s just my husband and the kids (or so I hear). How often does he get to go to the park with the kids by himself and watch them play? How often does he get to be the guy who leads the apple picking in the fall? How often do the kids get to wake up to Dad’s breakfast and Dad’s music, and follow his rhythms for the whole day? Never. It’s enriching to experience each other in different contexts. It adds depth and dimension to our relationships.
So really, solo mom travel is a win for the whole family!
Have you had a solo mom vacation? Or do you dream of one?