In the depths of winter, when every day as a mom of two felt too hard to endure, I had this kids-free fantasy: I’d check into a hotel, I’d lie down in the king size bed, and there would be no one there to touch me. I would take a shower and eat a meal someone else cooked. Maybe I’d watch some TV. But mainly I’d be away.
The fantasy always felt cruel because it seemed utterly unattainable. I had a toddler who cried whenever I picked up my baby. I had a baby who was often in pain from reflux, who hardly slept, and who wouldn’t take a bottle. Even though we had the means to pay for a hotel for a night, I couldn’t go.
I felt trapped.
I remembered this fantasy a few weeks ago when—wait for it—I spent an entire kids-free weekend at the beach with friends.
I remembered the pain, the desperation, the dark hopelessness of those teary days. But the memory didn’t sting like a fresh cut; rather, it was an ache of a more distant pain. And the salt water of the Oregon coast helped heal me.
Four girlfriends and I piled into a minivan and headed to Lincoln City. We laughed the entire ride out, and we didn’t care if we were slowed by traffic: We had no itinerary and no babies screaming in the car.
We all have kids but our partners watched them the whole getaway weekend (and texted us updates and photos, of course).
We watched trashy movies. We ate way too much sugar. We drank coffee while it was still hot. We took long walks on the beach. We went shopping but ended up just buying outfits for our kids. We didn’t shut our traps the entire 48 hours we were gone.
It was the longest uninterrupted stretch of time we’d had together since college almost a decade ago. We reconnected in a way that would have been impossible with the distractions of partners and children. (They’re wonderful distractions that we’d kill for, but distractions nonetheless when you just want to gab with girlfriends!)
We talked through dilemmas. We relived bad/good decisions that involved beer bongs and theme parties. We learned about each other. We talked incessantly about the kids we missed like crazy, and no one ever got bored of looking at photos of our babies, toddlers, preschoolers and preteens.
The second night, I had to turn in a little earlier than my friends. After all, I’d set my alarm to pump at 3am.
As I lay in bed with my eyes closed, I listened to my dear friends in the living room. I could hear them laughing—really laughing—to the point they were reduced to hiccuping, squealing heaps.
The clock ticked closer to my pumping wake-up call, but I relished hearing their voices. I must have been smiling when I finally drifted off. The last thing I remember thinking:
My bucket is full.