We all know self-care is important. By this point in our lives, we have read approximately 7,324 articles articulating the the benefits of getting 8 hours of sleep per night, drinking less, hitting the gym on a regular basis, meditating daily, taking vitamins, reducing blue light exposure before bed, eating a colorful plant-based diet full of antioxidants, and cutting down on caffeine. (Ha. To that last one in particular, we scoff.)
We are both big believers in self-care, and we try hard to make time for ourselves. But let’s be realistic: it’s very hard to do on a regular basis. For example, one of us spent most of last Thursday trying to figure out how to be in two places at once now that it’s clear our son’s soccer practice is going to directly overlap with our daughter’s ballet class. Between racing across town and having the kids change their clothes in the backseat, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to take a yoga class or whip up a macrobiotic dinner.
That’s why we are going to make the case for one discrete act of self-care that’s also an act of good parenting: taking a weekend away from your kids. If you have the opportunity to leave your child or children with a trusted caregiver (a grandparent, nanny, best friend’s parents, etc.), you’ve got to take it!
We regularly hear new moms say things like, “My parents offered to take the baby for the weekend, but she’s only 10 months old! I’d feel much too guilty leaving her!” We’ve been there and we empathize, but with all due respect, these parents are looking at things the wrong way around. Taking a break isn’t selfish or a reason to feel guilty. In truth, getting away for a brief time is an object lesson in being a good parent. Seriously. Here are a few of the reasons why.
- It improves your marriage/partnership.
If you are lucky enough to be married or in a serious relationship, taking care of that relationship is one of the best things you can do for your children. Having a harmonious, stable home life is such a gift to kids. In fact, we are hard pressed to think of anything better for children than having their parents under the same roof and in a healthy, loving relationship.*
And it’s amazing how much good just a simple weekend can do to nurture that relationship. The ability to sleep in together, go out for a nice meal, maybe sightsee or sip a glass of wine together at a cool cafe…it’s like an infusion of oxygen and vitamins and happiness. The benefits are similar to a date night, but exponentially more powerful.
This really is a situation where everyone wins: happy parents equals happy kids.
- Travel keeps your perspective fresh and feeds your soul.
It is good for your brain and your soul to see different parts of the world and experience new things. Strolling through an art gallery, trying a completely new type of food, exploring a city you’ve never visited before: these are things that nourish us.
We love to travel with our children, but if we are being candid, it is not as restorative as traveling without them. It almost can’t be; there are too many tricky logistics involved. And that’s OK, that’s real life. So, while we are all in favor of doing family vacations, we are also in favor of weekend travel without our kids. It enables us to focus on the richness of the experience in a different way.
- It’s healthy for kids to have other caregivers, and teaches them resilience.
Multiple studies have shown that it’s good for children to have multiple caregivers. One study conducted in England demonstrated that children whose grandparents were regularly involved in their lives grew to be happier, more well-adjusted teenagers. So we can ditch the guilt when we leave the kids with other people who love them. We’re doing a good thing!
It’s also beneficial for our kids to be exposed to slightly different household rules and regulations on things like screen time, snacks, or bedtime. It gives them a chance to learn resilience and adaptability, and to remind them that not every household runs the same way. That’s knowledge that will serve them well later in life (hello, freshman year of college!).
- Taking a break allows you to take a step back and evaluate how you’re doing (whether as a parent, partner, friend, worker) and make adjustments if needed.
Sometimes we get so consumed with the nuances of our daily routine that it can be hard to see where – and how – something is breaking down. Taking just a brief break can help us get back that much-needed perspective.
Here’s an example: in Erin’s house, bedtime had become a little disorganized and drawn-out over the summer. Kids whining for “one more episode” of TV, making a huge production out of brushing their teeth, suddenly needing a cup of water, a flashlight, another book to help them get sleepy…we’re guessing you know this drill, or a version thereof. It wasn’t until she and her husband went away for a weekend that she realized how exhausting the bedtime fight had become, because it was such an incredible relief not to have to deal with it for a couple nights. When she and her husband got home, they sat down with their kids and discussed – then implemented – a new plan for bedtime to remove some of the daily friction.
We’re not suggesting you use all your precious travel time problem-solving issues from your normal day-to-day life! But it’s amazing how the break from routine can suddenly cause you to see things with new eyes. Jump on those insights when they happen!
- Your kids will miss you and like you more when you get home, and vice versa.
After even a day or so away from each other, you’re going to miss each other and be happy to see each other again. Patience gets replenished, annoying stuff becomes endearing (at least for a little while!), and you’ll be reminded of how much you really do like each other’s company. These benefits are tripled if you managed to get a couple full nights of uninterrupted sleep. Ahh, glorious sleep.
So the next time you have an opportunity to get away for a bit – whether it’s a road trip to a hotel an hour away, or a quick jaunt to Italy! – please take it, and do it guilt-free. Our mantra is: It’s good for us, it’s good for our kids, it’s good for our family.
*Note: We understand divorce happens; single parenting happens. We live in the real world, and we GET IT. Heather is divorced; that is not a secret. We do not mean to undermine our divorced and/or single parent friends, not for a minute. In fact, our divorced and single parent friends are some of the biggest advocates of nurturing your relationship if you have one, because they understand the challenges of co-parenting with an ex-spouse/partner.