It was 9:30 pm and we were tired. A few hours earlier, my dear friend and I had carpooled 80 or so miles northeast from the city we both live in to her hometown of Milwaukee. We arrived at her parent’s house and, after a quick dinner and a stop at her favorite childhood ice cream shop, we were anxious to put our pajamas on, wash off what little makeup had survived the day’s activities, and sleep.
“Do you hear that noise?” she asked as we settled in for the night. I paused for a moment to listen. “I don’t hear anything,” I replied, confused.
“Exactly,” she said with a smile.
We have 3 boys under 4 years old between us, so silence is hard to come by. But we’d left our kids with our husbands for the weekend so we could hop on a plane bright and early the next morning to go visit friends out of state. Both of us were stoked to have managed to secure a couple of kid-free days.
Rising early the next day, we sipped coffee, scarfed down some bagels for breakfast, and headed to the airport – all without fielding any requests for butt wiping or cereal bowl refills. She and I whizzed through security and I spent the short flight listening to music I actually wanted to hear (as opposed to the Frozen soundtrack). No offense to Mr. Miranda but after the 154th time hearing these songs I’m ready to let this music go, and I’m tempted to tell Olaf the snowman what really happens to frozen things in summer so he’ll shut up already.
A mere 2 hours later, the landing gear descended from the belly of the plane and we screeched to a halt. Having arrived safely, we reunited with our friends and went for brunch. I savored this rare chance to eat without having to share my skillet OR my pancakes with any grubby-handed mini humans. Over the next couple of days, we shopped, ate, and drank our way through Dallas. It was a relief to get a break from mom-ing, and getting to explore a new city was wonderful, but the real perk for me was being able to spend some QT with a couple of my besties.
It’s been so, so hard for me to stay connected with my friends since a child exited my womb. Even my girlfriends with kids of their own – with whom I have so much in common – are hard to pin down. Between conflicting nap schedules, sports practices, swim lessons, and early bedtimes, it can be tempting to just give up and stay home. Motherhood is so exhausting for me that most days I’m just struggling to keep my head above water – trying my best to be an okay(ish) mom, employee, and wife – that my friendships get neglected. I can sometimes fall into this trap for weeks at a time, but I’m learning ways to crawl out because time, above all else, is the most precious gift we can give to those we care about.
Something strange and amazing happened as we roamed the shopping mall together. I started to get glimpses of my former self – the kidless version of me that used to love buying beautiful jewelry and clothes. I can’t remember the last time I bought myself earrings that weren’t on the clearance rack, or bought a top that wasn’t so practical it could be worn to a funeral, on a date, AND to the playground, all while hiding these extra 15 pounds I’m toting around from my last baby (who isn’t even really a baby anymore).
I could have found a thousand excuses to stay home – from the cost of the flight to missing my kids – but instead I bought that ticket and packed my bag. Listen, I know there are many moms out there without the support at home they need to jet off for the weekend. For some moms it’s just out of the question. But I think for many of us, the reasons we give ourselves for not prioritizing our friendships are mere excuses rooted in mom guilt. Did I feel guilty spending money on a plane ticket just for me? Yep. Did I feel guilty taking a couple days for myself and leaving my husband to take care of the kids? Of course. But you know what? I came back from that trip full of gratitude and love, and I think that makes me a better mom than the downtrodden, stressed out version of myself my kids usually see.
In the end, I came home with a few pairs of totally unnecessary sunglasses, a beautiful necklace, and a couple tops. But what I really gained on this trip were memories that will stay with me forever.