It was the wee hours of the morning. I was deep in mommy blogs searching for a magic-pill answer to all my postpartum depression symptoms. Lack of sleep, anger outbursts, identity issues, sadness, and more were plaguing me day and night. Somewhere deep in the interwebs, I stumbled upon a blog a mom had written about taking 24 hours for herself…and this would forever change the course of my life and marriage.
I was desperate. I had postpartum depression and the fact that my two year old and I were still co-sleeping and nursing through the night wasn’t helping the situation. I was severely lacking sleep. We had no family in the state to help us. Finances were tight, help was expensive, and even sometimes out of reach. I had been pregnant or nursing continuously for the past four years. My two kids are 14 months apart, and I stayed home with them 24/7. Added to this, on a professional level, we own a marketing agency and my husband, Jack, was working 60+ hours a week at that time.
I had no space or time for myself. I had no idea who I was in my postpartum body or mind. I was losing myself by the minute.
I have since tried to find the blog that inspired our family’s 24 hours away monthly trips, but to no avail. The main gist was that this brilliant mom took one day away a month to refresh herself. The next morning I went to Jack and said I need this. He reluctantly and supportively agreed to the plan. He hadn’t been alone with the boys overnight—ever. My two year old had never spent a night sleeping next to anyone else but me. To say we were all anxious was a bit of an understatement.
I asked a friend with an apartment that was empty on the weekends if I could crash the night. She happily agreed. I went to the mall and shopped for new clothes by myself. It was delightful. I stopped by Sephora and got a couple of face sheet masks for pampering. I picked up some flowers as a thank you to my host and an indulgence to enjoy for the night. I read O Magazine and refreshed my soul in a way only Oprah can. I cried. I smiled. I reconnected with myself.
I ate out with quiet all around me. I didn’t have to prepare the meal or clean up. There were no nurslings on my lap. There was no crying or whining or cuddles. I could people watch and wonder about the world with my new lenses. It was strange, off putting, and marvelous. I was alone. For 24 hours, I was without two kids under two or a husband. I was just Kara.
I was able to have a complete thought, and I didn’t even know what to think about.
Meanwhile at home, Jack took great care of the kids. They played at the Labyrinth, looked at trucks, ate good food, roared like dinosaurs, and more. There was crying, but all survived without long-lasting emotional scars while my emotional scars were beginning to heal. The house was even cleaned upon my return!
It’s been almost two and a half years since that first 24 hours away. Jack also participates in his own 24 hours away monthly. He enjoys playing his mandolin with other musicians, going to a yoga class, reading, eating out, reconnecting with friends, fishing, and sleeping in.
Meanwhile, my 24 hours away have ranged from thrifting adventures, swimming, hiking trips, a weekend in Indy with a college friend, sending the boys to a hotel so that I can enjoy a night at home—alone, FaceTime wine dates with friends all over the world, and more. This month, I’ll be headed to Mama Mia at the Boulder Dinner Theater, and I couldn’t be more excited.
If you’re looking to regain your sense of self, here are some tips for implementing your own 24 hours away with your family:
Schedule it—Sit down with your partner and schedule your 24 hours away for the whole year. You don’t need to plan what you will be doing that weekend, but you need to reserve the date. If something comes up in April or May or November and you have to switch weekends, be flexible AND don’t sacrifice your 24 hours for the good of the family.
Hack it—The most-frequently-asked questions we get about this practice are: “Where do you stay?” “Isn’t it expensive?” And the answer is: it doesn’t have to be. Once we started telling people about this practice, spaces were offered up on couches of friends we hadn’t connected with post kids, Airbnbs that weren’t booked for the weekend so we could cash in on screaming deals, a mother-in-law suite of a sweet neighbor, camping, etc. We also started collecting miles on our credit card to splurge for hotel rooms every now and then.
Be intentional—Sometimes our 24 hours away creeps up on us, and we don’t have a plan. You can find us scrambling for something to do and feeling rushed. This is the antithesis of 24 hours away. Make sure you’re planning what you are going to do at least the weekend before so you don’t feel rushed and end up staying home because you didn’t have a solid plan. It also allows you to look forward to something on those long, trying days.
Trust—Some people ask “Aren’t you worried what your partner is doing?” No. We have a strong relationship. 24 hours away helps us build that trust even more. Dare I even say it makes me appreciate him even more when I am away and when he is away.
Support—For this practice to work, you need to support it and your partner needs to support it. It’s amazing what commitment will do for follow-through.
Level up—Add an overnight date-night away once a month or once a quarter. Leave the kids at home. Swap weekends with another family in town to keep costs low. Ask me for a trusted overnight babysitter reference!
Spread the word—Since we started doing this and telling others, five families have jumped on board and do their own versions of 24 hours away, even renaming the practice to make it their own. Rebrand it to make it your own. Shout out to the Ovay’s in the neighborhood!
Enjoy it—Leave the guilt at your home when you walk out the door for your first 24 hours away. This is not a selfish practice. Often in relationships, with or without kids, we forget to take space to grow as an individual. This practice allows some introspective time away from those you love so you can love yourself.
What’s the saying? 24 hours away makes the heart grow fonder? Give it a shot!