I’m not sure about you, but I have never felt the need to get away more than these last few months. It’s been 3 months since my son (and second child) was born and over a half year since any news of COVID-19 was brought to our attention and changed our lives.
So I planned a break.
A new baby brings a plethora of stressors. Add in working from home, a toddler not in school, minimal support systems, and the news cycle slowly draining my life force along with the baby sucking me literally dry.
I was at a breaking point. I couldn’t need a break more than I already did.
My husband is busy working but also still in our space all day. I’m exhausted from the lack of sleep only a newborn brings. I could feel the weight of PPD starting to push down on my shoulders and didn’t know what to do to change things. It felt as if there was nothing I could do.
Sometimes it seemed like the walls were moving inward like a horror movie.
I sat down for couples counseling with my husband and tried to describe how I was feeling. At the end of my diatribe of complaints our therapist said,
“Truthfully what you need is a nap – not therapy – and maybe a little trip to look forward to as a family on top of it.”
I let out a deep sigh of relief. This is why we pay her the big bucks. Deep inside I have a problem stating my needs. I struggle to say when I need a break and it’s become even harder in the current situation.
She suggested I look into hotels by the hour for me to be away from our kids and my husband long enough to sleep. I laughed. Isn’t that for affairs and maybe sex work? Then I cried. Honestly it sounded like heaven.
Was I truly allowed to make that choice?
She reminded me that people used hotels still, they were open, and as long as I social distanced it should be ok. No guarantees but worth a try.
Going to a hotel seemed selfish to me when thinking about taking that time to myself.
But if someone else told me they were doing it, I’d have applauded them. This is usually how I can tell that the thing I’m judging myself for isn’t actually reasonable. Would I judge a friend for it? No.
Still, I couldn’t leave overnight.
The baby still nurses every 2-3 hours. But I could take an afternoon, leave a bottle, and hope for the best. So I did it. I booked an afternoon at a local hotel. On top of that, I hopped on Airbnb to book a cabin for our family to go to the mountains, in a bit over a month.
Suddenly I felt giddy.
Nervous and excited in a way I hadn’t in probably over a half a year, you get me? The next day I packed up my breast pump, some snacks, my mask, and drove down the street to the Marriott. I was so nervous checking in. The front desk clerk was behind a glass partition. What if other guests weren’t wearing their masks correctly? Was I being selfish?
Ugh why am I always so filled with Mom Guilt!
I pushed through and got into my room. It was silent, and clean, and quiet. Did I say it was quiet? So quiet. I laid down with my book, and soon enough fell asleep. After a few hours my alarm went off. I got up and did some stretching, listened to music, drank coffee and prepared to face reality.
It was time to return to real life.
But I felt myself breathe deeper. I knew I was on the right path. I looked forward to my next step, a trip somewhere else with my newly-formed family of four.
Three weeks later we packed up our family and almost every item in our house, and met my best friend and her family in Big Bear. Again that same sense of peace started to fill me as I drove away from the home that has begun feeling like a prison. Exhaustion was deep in my bones but I knew that this was the right thing for us.
We had all quarantined for two weeks to feel we were safe to get together. A large one-story cabin awaited us.
I’ve not seen my daughter (she’s 3) that happy in all of the time we have been dealing with this pandemic. She had lost so much of what brings her joy: her school, regular visits with friends and grandparents, and we hadn’t travelled at all which is rare for us. We felt until then that it was our duty to stay home and stay safe. I had seen signs of depression in her, she stopped wanting to go for walks or play outside.
I was working with her on expressing her feelings and moving through them, but she needed this break too.
Breathing in the fresh mountain air, and letting our kids get dirty and go on a “dinosaur egg hunt” brought clarity to us all. I saw her brighten and be her true little happy self. Not only that, but I was able to let my best friend and her family gush over my new baby in a way that hadn’t happened yet.
That was good for all our souls.
That weekend really confirmed it for me. While the pandemic is still here, and it’s not over just because we are over it, we also can’t completely stop living. We need to do things to take care of our mental health and families.
For us this means scheduling in breaks.
Time to spend with specific family members or friends after a two week strict quarantine on both sides is well worth it. We may be nervous about exposure risks but the trade off was immense. So get away, plan a staycation. Escape your monotony. Don’t let mom guilt pull you down.
We all still need a break, maybe more than ever.