Things end up in odd places when you have young children. The milk ends up in the cupboard, and you shake your head when you discover it lurking there before pouring it in lumps down the sink. The tin foil ends up in the fridge, and you go three days before finding it hiding behind the bag of grapes. On more than one evening, you open the microwave at 5 to start dinner and find your morning coffee, glum and cold, glaring at you. You take a sip anyway.
Things don’t just get found in strange places — they also get lost. Keys slip away when you aren’t looking. Important paperwork is buried. Pencils and paperclips are abundant until you actually need them. Somebody accidentally lets the cat out, and there is an emergency neighborhood search. Sometimes people go missing too.
When I first had my children, my own mother told me that, when she needed a quiet space, she would lie down on the floor between her bedroom window and her bed, in a crack of sunlit space where we would never think to look for her. It was her own sanctuary, and even though she could hear us roaming through the house calling for her, there was something about this small escape that allowed her to take a breath and collect herself. It was in the purposeful getting “lost” that she could find peace again.
But sometimes as mothers, we end up losing ourselves by accident. What happens when we lose our name in the chorus of “Mom” we hear every day? What happens when we read so much Magic Tree House or Junie B. Jones that we forget how to travel into our own reading adventures? What happens when we are so busy teaching our children how to be good friends, that we forget how to be good friends ourselves?
For all these reasons, I believe in the women’s weekend. A few hours away here and there are wonderful, but what about a few days? A few hours gives us a moment to breathe, but a few days give us time to reconnect, to fully gather ourselves up again. Some women might feel that it is indulgent to go away with a few friends for a weekend — that it is like having the whole cake instead of a slice. Some women might also fear what will happen when they leave their children in another’s care.
I was sure I’d come home from my first women’s weekend away to a floor full of wrappers and toys, two tangled and dirt-caked kids, and a sink full of macaroni and fleas. Instead, the house was just fine, the kids were just fine (happy even), and my husband had given new life to the wood beams in front of our home with a fresh coat of paint (show off). Part of me wanted him to fail. He would finally know how hard it is to take care of kids full time, and my spot as caretaker would be forever secured. He did say it wasn’t easy, but he had done it, and he had done it well.
While he was showing off, I had taken the two-hour flight from Orange County, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for three nights away with my girlfriends. If you go with the right sort of ladies, no one will expect you to feed them or dress them. You can drink your hot coffee in one sitting, and later, as you sit by the pool sipping a beverage as slowly as you’d like, you will not have to set it down to tie a shoe or get someone a tissue.
You will remember your actual name — the lady at the front desk will call you by it when you check in. You will sit on the sand, and when you leave the beach, the sand will stay on the beach so that you won’t have to spend hours vacuuming it out of your car and home. You will ride a slippery yellow banana raft (because you can) and the driver of the boat that is pulling you will throw you off, even when you ask him not to, and you’ll giggle until your sides hurt from trying to get back on that slippery banana.
You’ll eat a two-hour dinner, not worrying who has had enough vegetables, savoring food that you didn’t shop for or prepare, and that you won’t have to clean up. You’ll sleep in. No small fists will knock on your door. No one will climb into your bed and knee you in the back. If someone spills her milk at breakfast, you will not worry how the carpet is going to smell in three days. You’ll learn something new about a friend: that they secretly play Christmas music when they shower (even in June), or that they snore, or that they love Canasta and played as a kid, just like you. You’ll hear about another friend’s ailing mother, and you’ll have time to listen, really listen, and hug her. And you’ll read. You’ll read whatever you want, silently, and you’ll remember what it is like to drift off into your own world, and you will be in your own world.
You will let go of control and realize that your kids need you, but don’t need you. You’ll come back with small trinkets from your trip: coconut bath soaps, a few candies, and two small bracelets. Your kids will clap their hands when they see the presents from a “far-off” place. Everyone will be thrilled to see you — your kids, your husband, and even the cat.
And then you are back, and you are you. You are Mom, and you are you. You are wife, and you are you. You will call one girlfriend to check on her mother. You’ll call another and invite her over for Canasta. You’ll carve out time to finish the book you started. You’ll start to sing “Jingle Bells” in the shower and giggle through the shampoo. Your kids will see life in your eyes. They will see what it looks like to be a good friend. They will notice you reading and curl up next to you with their own book. They’ll hear you singing in the shower and press their ears to the door. You’ll still find your coffee in the microwave just before dinner, but you’ll know where you are.
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