Planning a girls’ weekend away from the little ones? Feeling guilty for wanting to go? Here’s how going away will bring you back rested and recharged!
by Emma Wilkins | Emma Wilkins is an Australian journalist and freelance writer who currently spends more time wrangling children than words, but enjoys both pursuits immensely. Topics of interest include friendship, parenting, food, literature, culture and faith. Follow her on Facebook.
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We don’t need to cross the creek—we have no destination—but nobody points this out. By the time the rest of us have started rolling up our jeans, Anna’s are off, and she’s thigh-deep in icy water. It’s the only way we see this now, so we do the same.
We’re in the middle of nowhere, crossing a creek in our undies because we’ve run away for a girls’ weekend. We’ve rented a cottage surrounded by fields and sheep, water and sky; we’ve no one to care for, nowhere to be.
The four of us—all mothers with young children, all in our thirties—aren’t precisely “girls” anymore (a point my eldest enjoys making without tact), but I can’t bring myself to call this a “ladies'” or “women’s” weekend. “Ladies” is sharp and committee-like; “women’s” is too pillowy and soft. What then is a “girls’ weekend”?
It depends on the girls. At the risk of sounding like a weekend-away junkie and hoping to sound like an expert—this one is my third within a year. And at the risk of sounding like a cheat, they were all with different people.
The first was with two besties from my Sydney days. We’ve been getting together every couple of years since we moved apart. These friends have little interest in puzzles and even less in board games, which means more time for cultural attractions and food-related quests.
The second, several months later, was with school friends. We met in grade one and have been going away together ever since we outgrew sleepovers. These days, we’re more likely to stay at a shack and eat gourmet food than rough it in tents. In our college years, a weekend of sleeping in and pleasing ourselves lacked novelty because it was normality. Now, the opposite is so.
This, the third, is with a newer group of friends. We’ve chosen a destination far from cafes and cultural attractions. Still, we have brought enough coffee and cocktails, wine and cheese, chocolate and chips, to last a week.
I’ve said the weekend depends on the “girls,” and to some extent it does, but when all the girls are parents of young children, the “guts” are much the same.
The guts are much the same because there comes a point in a mother’s life when the simple pleasures she once took for granted—eating, sleeping, walking, talking—become longed-for luxuries. Examples include:
– eating the food her kids don’t like, eating when she’s hungry (as opposed to when the kids are), eating without anyone complaining or kicking anyone else under (or over) the table;
– sleeping in, sleeping without interruptions, any kind of sleep, come to think of it;
– walking the length of the house without stepping on a toy, walking the distance of a street without carrying a child, walking without lugging an overflowing bag of “essentials”; and
– talking to a friend without interruption, having conversations beyond pleasantries and half-formed sentences, talking without shouting to be heard.
It’s at this point that a weekend away becomes a thing more remarkable than your pre-parent self could ever have imagined. What matters is not where you are going but that you are going: you are going away, and the people you love most in the world are not. For two glorious nights, you’ll be apart.
But you won’t be alone. You’ll be with people you love… but who don’t depend on you daily. You will share comfortable silences, nonsensical jokes, private struggles, funny stories, and delicious treats. And your companions will be just as drunk on their freedom as you are on yours.
You’ll share the cooking and washing up too! Unlike your beloved offspring, these people are fully grown! They wipe their own bottoms and chew with their mouths shut! They express their emotions in words instead of outbursts of inexplicable violence! They might cross creeks in their undies every now and then, but afterward, they put their pants and shoes back on—all by themselves.
A girls’ weekend away usually begins as a fantasy among a few close friends. Sentences that start with lines such as, “wouldn’t it be amazing if…” or “one day we should…” lead to conversations that end up with everyone gazing into the middle distance, lost in the dreaming.
If you’re lucky, one of you will realize such a dream is not beyond the realm of possibility—and dare to say so.
In my experience, the biggest challenge is finding a date—but persevere. The moment that dreaming turns to planning, the anticipation starts.
Even packing is a joy! You don’t need multiple changes for multiple emergencies. You only need to clothe yourself; your bag is lighter than your lightest child. Food is a different story. You buy one (or more) of everything you might possibly want. Between you, there’ll be too much wine and cheese and too little fruit and veg, but this is not the time for being sensible.
Finally, the day comes. You farewell your family with affection… and impatience. In seconds you’ll be off-duty, not for minutes or hours, but days. DAYS!
When we arrive, we cook when we feel like it and eat like kings. We walk without knowing or caring where we’ll end up or when, we read without interruption, and we go to bed when we want to. When we do get up, it’s because we have woken, not because we’ve been woken.
Then there’s the talk. We discuss doubts, fears, failures, successes, hopes, frustrations, and FRUSTRATIONS. We tell old stories, share new stories, recycle old jokes, and make new ones. We tease; we confide; we relay inappropriate dreams featuring mutual friends.
At first, my thoughts of home focus on all I’ve escaped: the children’s squabbles, demands, needs, and complaints. But then I start to miss their earnest faces. Their in-jokes, their affection, not to mention their dad.
What a thing to miss what you still have while it’s still yours. What a thing to go away—to revel in deep friendship, to laze about and laugh, to be refreshed—and then return to see your children and your husband as gifts too.
The feeling might last hours or seconds—a tantrum could shatter the spell—so the important thing is to remember it. Especially when the days are long and hard and LOUD, that knowledge is a treasure to behold: the best thing about leaving home is coming back.
No, this doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you’d rather be away again—sipping wine, sharing a joke—but most of the time you know you’d rather be here: wincing at the noise, yawning from the lack of sleep, drowning in the washing, but serving the people who need you, who love you, who want you the most.
And so, dear reader, if you’re struggling to see your friends long enough to really talk and laugh—to do a puzzle or play a game, to overeat, or cross a creek—I prescribe to you a girls’ weekend.
If you have a family you love but never leave, let me urge you now, for your sake and for theirs, to go. Love them, leave them, miss them—and let them miss you. After that, go home.