I’m writing this on Labor Day, at the tail-end of an eleven-day respite. As a taste of beautiful fall weather finally descends on northern Virginia (the best season to be in the DC area, in my opinion), I finally feel ready to return to life at the pace Gina and I have been accustomed to for nine months.
We kicked things off with a weekend trip to Hershey, PA. I had not returned to The Sweetest Place on Earth since a pair of concert-related road trips in 2004 and 2005, and Gina only went on the first epic adventure (which you can read about here). It’s a great spot for a weekend trip, as long as you can get out of DC fast enough to achieve true escape velocity from the traffic, which we more or less did except for a bottleneck around I-270. What’s even cooler about this particular trip is that we had amassed so many credit card points over the last few years (thanks, Noah) that we were able to stay at the swanky Hotel Hershey and visit a few of the chocolate-related tourist spots for next to no cost. We ate great food, were given free stuff around seemingly every turn, got a massage, went on a hike, slept by the pool, and even made our own freaking chocolate bars.
After returning from Pennsylvania, we went into full-on “staycation” mode. (I’m not sure I like that word, to be honest, but it *is* pretty darn accurate.) For the bulk of the week, we cleaned out boxes of junk that had accumulated in our basement ever since the Great Pipe Burst of 2015. I caught up on other random projects that had nagged at me for weeks while I couldn’t afford the time to make any progress. All of this led up to the denouement, a time-honored tradition: Labor Day weekend at Smith Mountain Lake with our friends. We had to cut this year’s visit short so I could make it back to play at Kingstowne Sunday morning, but it was still worth it for the beautiful weather and traditional visits to the popcorn-eating fish. Noah even got his first boat ride and promptly fell asleep halfway through it.
The past week has been great, but I needed it to be. I’ll be honest here: it has been a tough and busy year for me. I’ve dealt with two very personal deaths and all the emotional fallout that goes along with them. Several big projects at work sapped most of my energy and time. As I mentioned above, I took a side job for The Kingstowne Communion, which has proven to be a challenging, rewarding, and humbling experience in every sense of the words. And of course, on top of all that, Gina and I have still been taking care of Noah with most of the rest of our waking hours. In fact, we were talking the other day about how we just *might* be able to call ourselves real parents now, after we’ve passed the 1.5 year mark with no major accidents and are having more and more fun exploring the world anew with our son. Still, he’s a ball of energy from the time he wakes up until he finally crashes at night, so it’s not exactly relaxing.
So, when you factor in that Gina and I had not taken anything resembling a true vacation since before Noah was born, I can say wholeheartedly that it was overdue. If I had tried to plug away even longer (until Thanksgiving or Christmas for example), I think I would have become impossible to live with. Either that, or my efforts at work and church would have quickly deteriorated as I frantically tried to keep going with no restoration of my energy and spirit each week.
If there’s any kind of advice I would pass on to other unwitting parents out there who have made it this far, it would be this: take time for yourself. Do it. Do it now!
Look, I know there are always extenuating circumstances. You want to be there for your children, and maybe you feel guilty about leaving them behind. Maybe you don’t have a lot of money saved up because you’ve blown it all on diapers and daycare. Maybe you’ve got medical issues or no trustworthy babysitters. I get it. It took us probably a year before we even became comfortable leaving him with anyone else for longer than a dinner out. Before the Hershey weekend, in fact, we had only ever spent one night with both of us away from him.
But don’t let anxiety, money, or time be an excuse. There will never be a great time to get away from parenting. There will always be something issue that comes up that seems more important than taking care of yourself. Don’t sweat it – toddlers are pretty indestructible, and it’s okay if their grandmas spoil them for a few days. Even if you just do what we did and spend a week at home while keeping your kid in daycare just to catch up on crap, do it. Just figure out a way to do whatever it is that brings you into balance – even if just for an afternoon or an evening. You’ll be a better adult and parent for it.