On any given day, I’ve put in eight to ten hours at work, cleaned at least one room, likely cleaned more than one butt or nose, cooked dinner, folded laundry and checked a few hundred emails. That’s the broad strokes.
I’m not listing how many times I answer to “Moooommm,” or find lost shoes or feed the cat or run an errand or…the list is endless.
Know what I don’t see much on that list? Any “me” time. But I’m committed to fitting it in – not just because self-care is vital to our physical and mental health but because it makes me a better woman, mom, partner, friend, and employee.
And I am not alone. More than half of parents say they don’t have enough time away from kids to spend with friends, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. And moms have it worse than dads, with dads getting about 28 hours of recreation to moms 25 hours, according to a study from Happify. Plus, moms spend an extra 10 hours per week multitasking
However, I can’t just drop the ball on everything every time I’m feeling stressed. That’s all the time, and I don’t have a live fancy and free lifestyle.
So, what’s my plan?
My one-woman vacation starts right now!
First, I need to get my mind in the right spot. That means turning off the part that is fiercely trying to remember all the to-dos that need to become to-dones. By writing it down, I signal to my brain that it can take a moment to chill without falling apart.
Next, I adopt a “so what” attitude. Perhaps you were discouraged from this type of flippancy as a child or teen? Well, time to bring it back with a vengeance. Think about something that needs to be done. The first thing that pops into my mind is that my kitchen floor resembles a food-fight war zone (thanks, one-year-old!) and desperately needs moping.
So what happens if it doesn’t get done today? Well, my A-type personality chimes in, then the floor will be gross, all the other adults will shame me, and my poor family will be one stray fruit loop away from living in a garbage pile.
So what? No one will be harmed. The floor will eventually get cleaned. Giving myself permission to relax for an hour or two won’t be the end of the world. Despite what our culture likes to think, I don’t have to be productive every hour of every day.
In fact, studies show by clearing my decks somewhat, I’ll actually re-charge and be more productive.
Finding the time
Now that I am in the right frame of my mind, I just need some calendar space. I committed to finding 60 entire minutes to myself once a week. I wrote it down in the planner. Once it’s in the planner, I cannot back out.
Since I am not traveling any further than my backyard, I don’t need to include travel time. I’m not undertaking activities that require me to buy anything I might not already have one hand, other than food, for the most part.
And I am using a mom superpower by planning my alone time during nap time, the beautiful window of time when all the little monsters go back to being cherubs by closing their eyes.
Next, I take steps to put the world on hold. I turn my phone to silent. I cover or remove clocks because studies show that removing reminders of time removes stress.
I’ve got my mind straight and my game plan. Nothing to do now but pick my house-cation!
- Spa break – Let’s start with a classic. Set up candles, which deliver a calming visual and smell. Turn on music. I am currently leaning toward heavily on my Pandora channel for movie soundtracks. Throw in a bath bomb or two and grab a book.
Important detail – don’t forget to lock the door if you have kids. I’ve even posted a “Do Not Disturb” sign, but a locked door works the best.
That’s an hour of bliss guaranteed.
- Dine and don’t dash – I have gourmet tastes on a family budget. Even if money wasn’t a factor, I often opt for what’s easy and appealing to the family rather than the Instagram-worthy meal I crave.
Not during a house-cation, though!
Two strategies work for this idea. Sometimes, I pick a recipe I’ve been eager to try, like baking my own rye bread, pasta or key lime pie. This is not food for the hungry family. This is food for my soul. This is me doing my best Top Chef impression, and it is fun!
However, it can result in having a mess to clean up after my momcation. So, sometimes I go a different route and have the food delivered to me. If I am craving some yummy Korean food or even fresh crab, I use UberEats or another delivery service to have it delivered. If you can eat it, you can have it delivered, I promise.
Vital to making this idea is awesome is that I don’t have to share my food with anyone!
- Home Alone – Don’t skip this one. It is lifechanging!
Not too long ago my girlfriends and I were moaning over our lack of date nights. Factor in the cost of babysitting, and who can afford to go out often! Well, we came up with a solution by organizing rotating sleepovers.
Once a month, we gather all the kids together at one house. The kids love it because it is a night of television, pizza, crafts, and fun. The adults love it because it is free, and we know the kids are safe.
So, when it’s not my turn, I drop the kids off and hurry back home. And enjoy the quiet.
Sometimes, I tackle a project I’ve put off, not because I have to but because I want to, which qualifies it for a momcation activity. Other times, I watch a movie no one else is the house has expressed interest in watching with me, or I indulge in some great reading.
To be honest, sometimes I just go to sleep. Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel rested and relaxed like actually resting and relaxing.
- Exercise – You knew this was bound to make the list, right?
But that exhilarated feeling you get after a nice workout just cannot be beaten. For me, I like to run around the block a few times or take a yoga or exercise class off of Amazon Prime in my living room.
The only exercises I avoid? The ones I don’t want to do or find boring. This isn’t the time to refine your plank or lift weights endlessly – unless that’s your thing.
- Camp out – It feels so indulgent to set up a hammock or cozy spot, light some candles, turn on some music and read outside. If you have a fire pit, light it up and cook your own smores.
Enjoy the night sky and the quiet without having to pack a car full of equipment, drive, walk to the campsite and set it up. Bonus: much easier to clean up as well.
- Always Be Learning – I’ve been wanting to try my hand out woodworking. So for one house-cation, I barricaded myself the workshop with a handy YouTube video and some junk wood.
I didn’t become a master craftsman in an hour, but I enjoyed tinkering around and even managed to make a wooden knick-knack. It feels like our opportunities to learn something new often get squeezed out of our busy schedules, so this momcation scratched an itch for me.
- Hire some help – I don’t mind tagging in some hired help occasionally, although I realize I am privileged to be able to do so.
But when I find the stress piling up, I occasionally we hire someone to clean the house or have an at-home massage.
Really, it’s about getting my time back. With the laundry done, I feel less stressed, and I use some of that extra time to play with the kids.
- Invite friends over – I recently invited friends to bring a bottle of wine and join me on the patio. It wasn’t a full-blown event – no meal prep or fancy games. But we chatted and caught up.
One of the largest indicators of happiness, as we age, is whether we have friends. We need them; they need us. So this momcation helped me reconnect. Sure, it’s not weekly bunch or even monthly brunch, but it is taking the time to make sure I am maintaining these important relationships.
- My other friends – Books! They’ve been providing me an escape since I could read, and it’s one I squeeze in whenever I have a few spare minutes. I’ve jumped back and forth between digital books and hard copies, and I realize that for me the format doesn’t matter. It’s the stories.
I’ve created a little book nook for myself in my bedroom. It’s by a window with a blanket and the best pillow in the house. Some music and the latest literary obsession, and I am all set.
Look, I get that these ideas aren’t earthshattering. But the idea that we can stop and relax for a bit, well, it does feel a little ignored at times. When we take the time to practice self-care, it makes it so much easier to pass on the good feelings to our families and partners.
It's like when you are on a plane, and the attendants tell you that in case of an emergency, put on your breathing mask first. We cannot help those we love if we don’t help ourselves.
Now, I am off to read a book!