4 surprising ways a solo vacation can help moms
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Family vacations aren’t always vacations for moms. It’s usually a change of scenery and responsibilities, but you still have to be “on.”
That is unless you leave your family at home.
“I hear from my community a lot, like ‘Why do I daydream about just packing my bags and leaving?’ or ‘I just lay there and think about if I could just lay in a hotel for like two or three days and sleep, that is just what I feel like I need,’” said Erica Djossa, a psychotherapist, fellow mom and founder and CEO of Momwell, which provides mental health care and support for moms.
A solo vacation can be the ultimate “me” time for moms who spend most days juggling their family’s needs, as I discovered recently, but as Djossa explains, getaways can’t be the only avenue for rest.
“The challenge becomes how to not hop from vacation-to-vacation as our top up and our refuel and incorporate our needs on a day-to-day basis so we don’t feel such desperation for these times,” she said.
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Here are four surprising facts about solo mom vacations.
1. ‘Me’ time is real and needed
I may not have been desperate for “me” time, but I don’t think I realized how much I needed it until I got to Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana, an all-inclusive, seaside resort in the Dominican Republic.
“Moms don’t see their needs as equal priority to the needs of their family, and so we are running a deficit every day in terms of our needs, like our social needs or our creative needs or anything that’s life-giving to you,” Djossa said.
Even on vacations, I plan around my family’s needs and interests, but this trip, the only person I had to worry about was me. I could wake up at my leisure, take my time getting ready uninterrupted and decide whatever I wanted to do with my day.
I visited the resort’s 14,000-square-foot spa, floated around the lazy river at the on-site water park and waded through multiple pools, but the place I kept returning to was the beach. Nothing feeds my soul like the ocean, so I spent as much time as possible just sitting in the shade by the water, listening to the waves crash with my nose in a book.
2. Getting away proved crucial for my relaxation
It was the exact opposite of my landlocked suburban reality of rushing kids off to school, working, shuttling them to and from extracurricular activities, throwing together dinner if my husband doesn’t beat me to it and getting them to bed to do it all over again.
“Usually we have so many invisible tasks that we carry in our mind that I think we don’t know how to get mental rest, unless we are out of that environment and we are apart from it,” Djossa said. “Physical barriers in place just help us feel like ‘OK, I have permission to just sit back.’“
The all-inclusive nature of the resort further lightened my load. The hardest decisions I had to make were what to eat at the various restaurants included with the stay and what to watch on TV, since no one else was fighting for the remote.
It was heavenly being away for a bit, though I did occasionally find my mind wandering back home.
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3. Ditching mom guilt is hard, but it can be done
I felt guilty visiting such a family-centered destination without my family, but I didn’t feel guilty about taking time for myself – something many moms wrestle with and I did too, when my kids were little.
“What I like to ask myself in those moments is ‘Would I want this thing for my partner or my child? Would I feel judgmental of them for going and having a social, enriching day for themselves?’” Djossa said. “If we flip it and look at ourselves with that same lens, we can see just how critical we’re being of ourselves.”
She encourages moms to put their own needs alongside those of their children and partners.
“I think that we often link being a good mom to being self-sacrificing and putting everyone’s needs before our own. And when that’s the measuring stick of how well we’re doing in our role, then it’s very difficult for us to put our needs around the table with others,” she added. “If we can’t advocate and take radical responsibility for our own needs, then they will forever go unmet.”
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4. Finding rest is more than just sleeping
One such need is rest, which can come in many forms beyond vacations.
“The seven types of rest are physical rest, mental rest, emotional rest, spiritual rest, social rest, sensory rest and creative rest,” Djossa said, citing Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s book “Sacred Rest.”
Those quiet moments on the beach were sensory rest for me.
“The first thing that comes to mind is how overstimulating parenting is: constantly being touched, the noise that you can’t control or the random shrieking. It’s just very busy and loud and overwhelming,” Djossa said. “And when we’re talking sensory rest, we’re really talking about trying to bring that sensory overwhelm down so our body and our nervous system can reset.”
While that’s certainly easier on solo vacations, she urges moms to carve out low stimulation time and other types of rest regularly as well.
“I think if we can incorporate those things day-by-day for ourselves, it will also feel like it keeps us, maybe not topped all the way up in terms of our emotional bank account or however, but at least not running a deficit,” she said. “And then adding in mom nights away or vacations just really then pours in as a deposit to that bank account and fills it right up.”
The reporter on this story received access to this resort from Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts. USA TODAY maintains editorial control of reviews.
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