Last May, three friends and I headed out to Palm Springs and took over a vacation house for our own little “Momchella.” Alana, Poukhan, Jenny and I got to recharge and take a little time out from wiping noses and watching Frozen. It was glorious.
And it’s not just an indulgence. Connecting with friends is actually important for your mental health. “We all know parenting is demanding, exhausting, intense and overwhelming. But connecting with other mothers is particularly important,” says marriage and family therapist Megan Costello. Maternal rates of depression and anxiety are lower in mothers who report close friendships and strong community connections, she notes.
In addition to maintaining friendships, a weekend getaway provides the chance to focus on yourself, away from your family. “Women tend to care for others first,” says Costello. “Women are socialized to do this; it is also an evolutionary imperative, so the drive to nurture and care for others can be a strong trait. Because we have this incredible drive to nurture, we must work hard to prioritize self-care.”
A short weekend with friends can really do wonders for your mental health. Even 24 hours is enough time to come back refreshed. And ultimately, our kids benefit too. “Women who have close friendships and communities become more empathic, supportive and well-adjusted parents,” adds Costello.
Here are some tips for planning a (realistic) weekend getaway of your own.
Start with a date. This is actually the hardest part of getting away: finding a weekend that you and your friends have free. The catch is you also have to make sure the other parents or moms or grandparents or whoever are also free. This is very important, because kids are not allowed on this trip. Get to group texting, and set that date!
Scout a location. And don’t feel like you have to go far. We chose Palm Springs because it’s close to Los Angeles, where we live, and it’s a great place for a relaxing weekend. We basically just needed beds and a pool. Airbnb is great for finding a getaway house, or you could get fancy and book a hotel or resort. A house is nice for friends because it includes common areas and a kitchen and (if you spring for it) a private pool.
If spending money on a venue is not an option, you can always use one of your own homes. Once I invited friends to stay the night at my house, and my husband took the kids to visit their grandparents. My friends and I simply ordered Thai food and sat around talking in pajamas. A good old-fashioned sleepover did the trick, and it cost zero dollars. (Well, except for the wine and phat si-io)
Pack up and head out. It’s fun to ride together — it starts the party off early. And everyone’s excited at the beginning of the trip. Pack some comfy clothes and maybe a going-out outfit if that’s on your agenda. Most important — pajamas for all the sleeping you’ll do. And for our group, swimsuits and magazines were key because of the aforementioned pool lounging.
Procure provisions. Make sure to pack or buy plenty of (adult) snacks. No Goldfish crackers allowed. Alana brought a nice cheese and cracker spread to get us started. As soon as we settled in, we headed to the local grocery to stock up on food, libations and pool floaties. We grabbed lunch and, most important, rum. I kept a pitcher of frozen piña coladas on hand and brought fun, colorful cups for everyone. We didn’t have to stuff leftover mac 'n’ cheese into our faces or hand over whatever snack we happened to be eating. That right there made the trip worth all the effort.
Enjoy! We kept the weekend open so we could simply unwind, which turned out to be a great plan. Aside from dinner at a Mexican restaurant Saturday night, we just sat around, talked and swam. We went to bed by midnight and in the morning, there were no children waking us up. It was only slightly sad not to open my eyes to a tiara-clad 3-year-old begging for waffles. I’ve been sleep-trained by my babies to wake up early at this point, so I ran out to get doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches, but still. Just having the option to sleep in was nice. We left Palm Springs ready to face another week of mom life, and it was lovely to see our little ones’ faces on Sunday afternoon.
As much as we love being with our kids, it’s both decadent and healthy to put the caregiving aside for a bit and relax with your friends. It doesn’t need to cost a lot, and the rejuvenation you’ll feel is priceless.