I had the opportunity to attend an out-of-town wedding recently with several former grad school friends, many of whom I still keep in close touch with. Due to last minute planning, I “represented” our clan while leaving my two young kids and husband behind. As hard as it was to go alone, I had such an amazing time. My friends and I danced, drank, and spent quality time together, talking until wee hours in the morning. As best I can describe it, I felt “alive” again, like my old self- fun, funny, carefree, spontaneous, relaxed. It was glorious!
When I returned home, I was refreshed and happy to see the family again, but also a little sad for such a fun weekend to come to an end. It had been such a long time since I felt like my “old self,” probably since before having kids. I reflected on how I could possibly recreate that type of environment-to find more ways to tap into my more fun, carefree, and spontaneous side- without being too disruptive to my family life. Better yet, to find ways to be that way around my kids, leaving us all feeling more alive and refreshed. Here’s what I came up with:
1) Live music– I attended college in Austin, TX, where I was first exposed to the pure joy of live music. I have been to many amazing concerts, but none in several years. So my husband and I went to see the Foo Fighters last year- our first show since having kids- and it was fantastic! We drank Beer-Ritas, danced our butts off, and spent most of the night screaming at the tops of our lungs with goofy grins on our faces. It was awesome. Turns out our kids also love live performances, so we have been searching for kid-friendly venues, too. Here are some different local options:
2) Day dates–With young kids, we just can’t sneak away to Napa for the weekend, but something new my husband and I have been attempting is the “day date”. We hire our favorite sitter for most of the day and go off to do something we otherwise would never have time for. Thus far we have gone on a brewery tour, a day trip to Sonoma, and spent a day in the city. It’s a win-win for everyone: our kids have a great time, we get a break to relax and do something fun, and we are still home in time for bed.
3) Get outta town- with the kids. Living in Northern California means we have tons of close vacation destinations at our fingertips. Whether it’s wine country, Tahoe, Santa Barbara, Carmel, or anything in between, the options are endless. We have made a detailed list of feasible last minute weekend getaways, so that we are ready if the opportunity arises. This is a fun way to spice up our weekends without the expense of flying or super-expensive hotels.
4) Girls night- I love my husband dearly, but one thing I realized is that I need time with my girls. Since we moved, I live far away from all of my closest friends, which has helped me realize how essential that bonding time is for my sanity. I have been making an effort to meet new moms with the hopes of creating opportunities to connect without our kids climbing- and crying- all over us.
5) Revisit old haunting grounds. Whether it’s visiting your home town or your alma mater, what better way to feel invigorated than re-immersing yourself in an environment that significantly influenced who you are today? It’s also a great opportunity to show your kids and your spouse more about yourself and things you enjoyed growing up.
6) Try something new – with and without the fam. Moving across the country basically forced our family to try many new things, from composting to learning how to pack for the beach to making new friends. Although challenging, it has also helped us grow as a unit and learn what excites us.
It’s important to find new ways to inspire ourselves, too. I recently injured myself, which was initially devastating. When the doctor told me no running or soccer for 6 weeks, I panicked, wondering how I could stay active and in shape. My husband suggested swimming, which was a terrifying idea, since I’ve never had lessons before. I had visions of myself as that lady in the pool with snorkels and fins, sputtering and splashing in the deep end. But I sucked it up, bought myself some goggles, and plunged into the pool, resulting in the most exhilarating new workout! Swimming has added a whole new dynamic to my routine, and I now look forward to it regularly.
7) Check in with old friends. This is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. I think of my friends all the time, but I hardly reach out to tell them this. One thing this wedding weekend showed me was how supported I feel when I connect with people who know me well. All the reason to pick up the phone and FaceTime more often!