Big Guy and I are celebrating our 12th anniversary next week. It seems a little hard to believe, but since Bug is turning 11, I guess I can’t really deny it! We don’t really tend to do anniversary gifts of any magnitude. Neither of us needs much, nor do we need a lot of stuff. Instead, every year, Big Guy and I head off on our own to rest, relax, and recharge. We do a full weekend and sometimes a long weekend if we can make it work. We bring laptops, and books, and puzzles, and games. As introverts, we deliberately do not go sightseeing or hiking or anything big outside of the house during this weekend. That’s personal to us. You, of course, should choose what is right for you. [P.S. Yes, I did get a “big” anniversary gift this year. Check it out (video)!]
We are fortunate in many ways, but there are two big things that allow us to do this trip each year without fail. The first is that my in-laws let us use their beach house in Maine for the weekend. This gives us a place to go without eating into our budget. The second is that we have two sets of grandparents who are willing to help with childcare for the weekend. I know that not everyone is that lucky, but taking time out doesn’t require an entire vacation. It just means being deliberate about taking care of yourself and your relationship.
I don’t know many parents who couldn’t use a bit more sleep and a bit more time to just sit without running around to practices, clubs, birthday parties, and other kid-related activities. Honestly, the best way to pull this off is to get away for a night or two (solo or together), so you can sleep in and relax without worrying about housework and all the trappings of parenthood. But if you can’t get away, divide and conquer. Every so often, have one parent take the kids out for the day, or even a morning. Let the other parent lounge in bed sleeping in or reading a book. Give each other the space to nap. Swap off so both of you get some extra rest squeezed in. If you don’t have a partner, ask a close friend or relative. Sign your kids up for a drop-off class. Create a co-op with other parents who have kids the same age to rotate childcare one night a week or a month. There are almost always options if you’re willing to be creative.
No surprises here, but couples need to put in the effort to stay connected and on the same page. This is especially true for parents. Big Guy and I are often so worn out by the time the kids are in bed, that we stare mindlessly at the TV, or go off to do our own things. This works for us, but it’s also important for us to remember to just sit and talk or play a game and otherwise connect with each other. Getting away from the kids for a weekend gives us time to fuel our own selves so that we can also fuel our marriage. Not everyone needs a weekend to get this done. Date nights can be fun, especially for couples who love to be on the go. But sometimes it’s nice to send the kids to the grandparents’ house or out with a sitter so you can relax at home.
I think this is something that a lot of people forget about. When you’re constantly on the move, you have little time to think about what is and isn’t working for your family. Getting some quiet space to yourself is a good way to examine not only your family life, but your personal one. Then you can delve in and set new goals, plan a new course of action, and start to put new habits into practice. I like to do this around my birthday. Some people like the beginning of the year. But once a year isn’t really enough. Instead, set some “you time” throughout the year to check in on your goals and set new ones. If you can get a night away, grab it, but otherwise squirrel away time at a coffee shop, sitting on a beach or by the river, or visiting favorite park. If you’re a real homebody, just curl up in bed with a notebook and a good pen.
While every person is different, we all need to recharge ourselves to keep up our energy. Some people are recharged simply by being around their kids. If you’re that sort of parent, kudos to you. You might be able to skip this one. For the rest of us, we have hobbies and passions that can fall by the wayside in the scramble of family life. While we were away this weekend, Big Guy just wanted to play video games. It’s what he enjoys, and while he takes time to do that while we’re home, when we’re away he enjoys marathon game time. I also enjoy video games and have little time to play (except for work-related content), so I also enjoy some longer gaming sessions. But I also love to curl up with a book, walk on the beach, and write. What may be most surprising is that I spent a lot of time working while we were gone. I am passionate about the work I’m doing, but don’t always have the mental energy to tackle some of the tasks that need to be done. Having had enough sleep and minimizing my stress freed me to solve some issues that had been plaguing me for months. Long story short, recharging is personal to you. Just make sure you carve out some time to get it in.
Remember (Who You Are)
If I have one mantra as a parent (I don’t have just one, but if I did…), it would be that it’s extremely important that your kids learn that you are not just their parents. That you are a human being of your own and not just there to care for and nurture them. This is assuming, of course, that you are already a good parent and they know that you are there for them. That part comes first! Taking some time out allows you to be YOU. Maybe you also love board games, but have no time to play. Or you like to knit. Or you’re passionate about politics. Perhaps you love salsa dancing. Whatever your thing is, don’t brush it aside. If you can, take a class or join a monthly group to do what you love. Gather like-minded friends every so often to keep up with it. Big Guy plays video games with his friends every week and has been doing that since before I met him. Two of the other players are dads who are engaged with their kids just as much as my husband is with ours. The few hours they spend every week helps them retain their identities as people. You may not have a few hours every week, but most of us can find a few hours a month. Sure, your kids need you, but they also need to see that you’re a real person with interests outside of just them.
I wrote awhile back about the passing of my uncle and how it had impacted me in ways I didn’t anticipate. In truth, I developed an awful case of writer’s block. I was still freelancing, but my blog went silent. Losing my husband’s grandmother shortly after, followed by the end of the school year, summer with the kids around, and then back to school gave me little time to heal. I was always in mom mode and unable to switch out. Our peaceful little weekend got me back on track when I hadn’t even realized how disconnected I had become from my inner voice. As a highly introspective person, I probably need more quite reflection time than average, but don’t underestimate the value of self-care in your life. And make sure you model it for your kids to see!