Recently a very wise friend on Facebook noted that mums don’t really get time off. It would be great to have a set week away from the family each year, both to celebrate the victories of parenting but also to unwind and recharge. Planning a weekend or (heaven forbid) even a week away with the girlfriends can be fraught when the kids are little, and we have to make sure our partners are around, our schedules line up, we don’t miss important sporting events, and we delegate all the CEO duties to others. (See the wonderful cartoon about Mental Load for more detail on how the woman of the family is so often the CEO).
Everyone needs a holiday. That’s why we have a mandated four weeks’ annual leave for full-time workers in this country. But I’m afraid the family holiday doesn’t cut it for mums*. There was a great line on Modern Family when Claire was going on a family holiday and told her husband, bluntly: “Sweetie, I’m a mom travelling with kids. For me this is not a vacation. It’s a business trip.”
How true that is! When you go on holidays with your family you still have to remember the Stingoes, Panadol, Band-aids, figure out what to eat three times a day, sort out fights, make sure five people have packed, do all the washing. If you have really little children it’s even worse: remembering nappies, high-chairs, strollers, nap times and much more.
I’ve found it much easier to get away now that my children are a little older, but even so I found myself telling my husband that a weekend I’m planning with the girls is “important, because it’s for a 40th”. Not that he’d care – he’d be happy for me to get away, but I felt I had to justify it in some way.
And that’s the root of the problem. Mostly, the reason mums don’t get away is cultural. We just don’t think it seems right, somehow. It’s not because we can’t trust our partners with the kids or we’re needed at home 365 days per year. So if we are to change this culture, we need to start by just taking off. I’m not advocating expensive, boozy weekends away with the the girls every few months (but if that’s your bag, more power to you). I’m just saying a few days a year, Mum should go away. Either by herself, to a retreat, to a caravan by a beach, or with a few close friends. Celebrate all that you do in your 24-hour-a-day job. Appreciate your family all the more with a bit of distance. Treat yourself to something special.
And come back home recharged. Because if the mum is happy, everyone is happy.
*Some dads are the CEOs and some dads do most of the parenting and caring duties. They deserve time off too. But this post refers to mums because it’s usually women who need the break.