The days before children.
Just 17 months apart, my sister and I had always been close yet completely different in so many ways. We ‘got’ each other. We played together for hours in make-believe worlds of our future careers and creative eruptions with craft supplies strewn from one end of the kitchen to the other.
We were called twins for a few years; the same height, hairstyle, and dressing alike. As teens, we were absorbed in our own worlds and interests but still borrowed each other’s clothes, shared laughs and secrets you would only tell your sister.
As adults, we stayed close despite living in different cities – visiting when we could and calling just to check in or share a quick story (in the days before email and social media!). Next came marriage and motherhood, with little time to think let alone talk so those precious conversations became less frequent, now crammed into a few late nights visits after the kids went to bed.
Back to Christmas…
The conversation was harmless and whimsical at first; my sister’s idea for a big celebration vacation together for after the youngest, yet unborn, turned 18. It was the kind of ‘let your imagination run free’ conversation over a cup of tea with one of my favorite people that lifted us both after another long day of being moms and preparing to play chef and Santa, on top of regular mom duties.
She said New York, I said Mexico, then the Mediterranean, and with each suggestion, the vacation became more grandiose. As we became emotionally invested in the idea, we needed to figure out how to pull it off and pay for it. Some quick number crunching showed $40/month would probably do it, saving $10/week. And with that, we were all in.
We told our husbands, who of course thought it was another one of our crazy ideas and with 18 years to go, they gave us the obligatory ‘Mmm-hmm’ and went back to whatever they were doing.
A few days later, my sister had a light bulb moment, “Why are we waiting 18 years to do this? We should go away over Mother’s Day…every year for the next 18 years!” Because honestly, that’s what every mother wants. A few precious days of NOT being a mom and all that entails.
Now our husbands were paying attention, with eyebrows raised and eyes slightly wide in disbelief. They both worked 6 days/week with little options to change their work schedules for their wives to go on a holiday. This was our first obstacle.
Making yourself a priority, truly putting yourself first, will likely inconvenience someone else in some way, or at least interrupt a pattern they’ve enjoyed. It requires you to ask for help/support in a way you may not have dared before.
By the time my family left for home, planning was underway for our inaugural trip four months later before baby #6 arrived.
It takes a village.
Making this plan meant getting grandparents and friends in both cities on board to help. We didn’t underestimate what it meant for them to look after 2-4 little ones for even a day, let alone 3 days (Friday, Saturday, and Monday).
Self-care isn’t selfish.
You’re worth it. You are worth taking a day or two away from your family to rest, recharge and refill yourself. Making yourself a priority is the most important boundary setting you’ll ever do.
Then there were the kids.
They would whine and didn’t want us to go without them. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t see their cousins or aunty and imagined missing out on new playgrounds, toys, and activities as if that’s how we’d spend our time without them. To our surprise, it didn’t get easier as they got older. There were more logistics and schedules to manage so our trips required more planning and resolve.
Where there’s a will, there’s away.
Successfully launching our annual getaway meant developing a sustainable, ‘chipper chicken’ budget; a term we coined in two previous sister adventures prior to being married that gave traveling on a budget a whole new meaning. Think clean, 1-star motels with sagging mattresses, the car packed full of food from home, and the only phone were across the parking lot.
This time, the ‘Chipper chicken’ budget would mean planning our trips around gift cards and rewards points wherever possible and celebrating all annual holidays in one weekend with no other gifts than the priceless memories we created.
Top 5 memories
- Trying on Spanx in the Portland Nordstrom and realizing that trying to put your body into a leg warmer is harder than it looks. Unfortunately, you don’t realize this until both your ankles are securely bound said Spanx and you’re about to fall over.
- For my 40th birthday, we traveled across the country to New York, although we’re not sure how we got there after realizing we’d gone through US Homeland Security holding each other’s passports and didn’t answer their questions correctly given the passport they were looking at.
- Taking the night tour on the upper level of an open air, double decker bus across the Brooklyn Bridge. We’re terrified of heights and aside from a small railing around elbow height, there was nothing between me and the water below the bridge, so I screamed and clung to my sister over the entire distance as she laughed and tried to save me.
- Enjoying treats we didn’t have to share with or hide from our kids, like the time I had a tiger butter candy apple from the Rocky Mountain Fudge Shop in Victoria for 3 consecutive meals, and the Vancouver sushi restaurant who thought we were lost when we showed up 4 times in 2 days.
- Walking all over Chinatown in San Francisco to find the oldest fortune cookie manufacturer and finding it was in an alley, the size of a small bedroom (including equipment) and very little protection from the elements
5 Star Experiences
- Going to the bathroom with the door closed AND alone
- Having showers before nap time
- Not having to cut anyone’s food or listen to whining because they hated what was served
- Eating a meal with the use of both hands
- Going to bed when we wanted and waking up without a tiny human alarm
- Standing in line without a care in the world, not having to be anywhere for anyone
You’d think this would have been a great opportunity to put our feet up and relax, but instead, we walked over 10km (6.2 miles)/day exploring shops and sightseeing. No matter what we did or where we were, we laughed until we could barely breathe, tears running down our faces and pee running down our legs, arriving home with our minds free and our hearts full.
We’ve just completed our 17th annual weekend (last year was canceled due to COVID) and are incredibly grateful for our families’ support to ensure the success of our annual Mother’s Day getaways. We know how valuable that one weekend is to our mental health and our relationship. Writing this with my sister and recanting memories has been a highlight this year!
If setting boundaries for self-care and making yourself a priority feels like a struggle and you’d like more support join my FREE masterclass below and learn my 3 pillars for creating an honest, connected relationship that lasts a lifetime, WITHOUT having to be a perfect parent.