I took a 4 day break from motherhood for the first time in 2.5 years
And it was much, much needed.
It was the first time that I was away without my daughter for more than a night. Hubs & I had done a couple of staycations in Singapore for just a night when she was much younger, and she probably didn't know any better then. This was the first time we were going away since she became a toddler, and it was on an overseas trip for 3 nights. Leading up to the trip, I was filled with anticipation for a much needed rest, while feeling all sorts of guilt and anxiety about leaving our daughter behind. Would she be able to sleep without me? Would she miss us too much? Would it be too much for my parents to manage?
I prepped my 2.5yo for the trip only the night before the trip, as I didn't want her to have too much anticipation over it since I didn't know how much she would understand about us going away. She's really close to my mom, and loves going to my parents' house on weekends to play, so I told her that she would be going there for a holiday, while mummy & daddy went to Langkawi. She seemed quite excited about the prospect of her holiday, and my parents had a tonne of activities planned for her stay. It went pretty well! I don't think she actually missed us that much.
The trip was nothing short of spectacular. Not that we did a lot, or that it was really luxurious or anything. In fact, quite the opposite. The hotel we stayed at was pretty good, it was new and relatively clean. But we literally did nothing, other than take things slow. And that was exactly what I needed.
After nearly 2.5 years of constantly caring for my little one, doing things, meeting her needs, thinking ahead of the next 10 things I had to do and constantly having to prioritise the next thing to be done, I just needed to stop doing, stop thinking and just...stop. And that is just what we did. No activities planned, nothing that we needed to rush to, no one that we had to care for other than ourselves. It might sound selfish. But hey, if you're a parent who has been going through the evening rush (eat/brush/bathe/sleep) for some time, you know what I mean. We took things so slowly on the first day that we ended up having dinner past 8pm on the first day, which is really late for me, but I wasn't hungry and didn't feel like eating earlier, so I followed my own cues. With a little one in tow, I would've had to get myself to eat at 6pm so that she wouldn't get too hungry, and also because if I missed that dinner window myself, who knows what time I would have the chance to eat after all the night-time routine things (my child is an owl, for those who don't already know). It felt so good to be able to really listen to my body for once, just order in room service and KO after that.
The next few days were spent lazing on the beach and getting plenty of vitamin D, swimming, Pilates, and my first prenatal massage on one of the days. Most importantly, it was the undisrupted couple time that I really treasured - rekindling that emotional connection that we inevitably deprioritised in the crazy rush of life. Okay, perhaps "inevitable" isn't the right word. I strongly believe that maintaining the connection between husband and wife is so important for a marriage, and that this relationship should come first, even before the children we love so, so much. But it is certainly not easy. While we have some help from our parents in the daytime, we are on our own on the evenings, which pretty much means no date nights (on the rare times we do, I can count on one hand) for the past 2.5 years. We divide and conquer every night, washing up after dinner, cleaning up bubs and getting her to bed. By the time she's asleep, so am I. We barely get the chance to talk, other than "how was your day?" over dinner, let alone have a proper conversation that goes deeper into emotional connection. We still try, finding pockets of time on weekends to chat; but having 4 days of undisrupted time together was certainly refreshing, and much needed for our relationship.
It felt like a wellness retreat, with the daily exercise, emotional connection and rest. And it just made me realise how deserving we as mothers, parents, are of a break. Regularly. It is not being self-indulgent or selfish. It is essential, it is needed. I returned home with my cup fully filled and overflowing, missing my baby girl and all ready to be a mom again. While she was thrilled to see us, she was not so pleased that she had to go back to school after her "holiday" and meltdowns were abound once we got home. It was still challenging, of course. But I certainly felt the difference in being able to stay calm for longer and support her through her feelings when I was rested and nourished myself.
Super, incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be able to do this, thanks to my parents who helped to babysit during these 4 days. It takes a village to raise a child, and I certainly acknowledge that not every parent is lucky enough to have this village. You may not have a village in the form of family that is close by, and it may not be feasible for you to take such time away from your child(ren). Nonetheless, you can find your mama tribe in other ways, through friends, other mummies and also service providers who are aligned with your style of parenting. And also, it is important for us as mothers to find time to take small breaks, even when an extended break is so possible. Because even the simplest things like a couple of hours in a quiet house (perhaps hubs can help to bring the kids out for a bit) for you to have a slow meal and take a relaxing shower can do wonders for your soul.
As we are preparing to flow into a new stage of parenthood with our second baby coming along, we know that the need to "divide and conquer" will only become more acute. We are still planning to manage without stay-in help, and if you currently have two (or more) young children without extra help, I would love to hear your tips and learn from you.
For those who are just beginning on this journey of motherhood, or just you need support, a listening ear, I'm here for you. My DMs are always open, or drop me a note through my website.
Chat soon x