Day 1: drinks on The Terrace
Day 2: Farmer’s Market (which is how you know we’re in our 30’s)
Night 2: Dinner at Harvest
“Have love, whoa Baby will travel/ Have love, yea darlin’ will travel”
This Sonics song blew up our playlist on a quick road trip to Wisconsin my husband and I took recently. Granted, I know the song is about transcontinental booty-calls, but putting that aside, it got me thinking about why we were really getting away in the first place. We take long weekend trips—sans child (that’s right, without our kid)—roughly one to two times a year and have been doing so since our son was eight months old.
Don’t gasp. That sounds like a lot, I know. But we don’t do this because we feel like we have to get away from our kid or take a break from our parental obligations. We do this because we need to be US sometimes, which happens best when we remove the stressors of regular life. When we’re home, the focus is on the family and on our son, as it should be. When we’re alone together, we can focus on our relationship without the distractions that come with keeping a tiny human alive. Travel is how we stay grounded.
In all honesty, my husband is much better at this than I am. I tend to get caught up in the daily minutiae of our lives: the calendar, the swim lessons, the doctor appointments, the bills. He’s better at looking at the big picture: scheduling our date nights, booking stay-cation hotels, making sure we go out solo with friends once in a while. In short—I keep us running; he keeps us happy. His dedication to preserving our identities outside of Mom and Dad inspire me to see that we have to take care of both our family and our selves.
I know how lucky we are. We have family nearby who is ready and willing to babysit our child, and I know not everyone has this luxury. But a lot of couples do have loved ones who would offer up their services in a heartbeat, yet it can be hard to take advantage of that. There’s always an excuse NOT to get away (no money, no time, no energy, no living will, no bathing suit), but I have a feeling the root of these excuses comes down to one thing: GUILT. We feel guilty for burdening our loved ones with our tyrannical toddlers. We feel guilty for leaving our children. We feel guilty for taking time for ourselves to be lazy and irresponsible.
But here’s the thing: don’t. Don’t feel guilty. Sleepovers at the grandparents’ house mean you’re giving your parents the opportunity to spoil your children in the way they never can when you’re around. Spending money on a vacation without your children means you’re investing in yourselves, which is the foundation of the family you’ve built. I take time to be alone with my husband because a weekend without responsibilities reminds us of the spontaneous, social, boozy, fun couple we were before we had a baby and gives us a chance to both reminisce about the people we used to be and (if we lived up the weekend right) remind us of how grateful we are to be in this new stage of our lives. Getting away is good. For everyone.
So one of the challenges a weekend away poses is: what should I wear? In my old single days of traveling with girlfriends, the packing task was much easier. We all threw as many short, tight, revealing, black clothing pieces we owned into a bag and figured that whatever we forgot, we could always borrow from someone. At this age, not only do I have to locate clothing that isn’t stained with snot, but I have to worry about actual outfits for different occasions and contingencies. What if it’s hot? What if it’s too cold? What if there’s not time to go back to the hotel to change? What if that restaurant is fancy? What if we have to do a lot of walking?
Trust me, these questions swarm my waking mind every time we go away. I’ve devoted entire Pinterest boards to specific vacations (secret, of course, because I don’t want people to think I’m nuts). Here is my own personal checklist for packing as a 30-something-mom.
- Take stock of the local vibe. Google is an amazing thing, and if you check out images of restaurants and hot spots in the town you’re visiting, you can get a sense of the fashion temperament. For this trip to Madison, I knew that it was a college town and that most people kept things pretty casual. This helped to inform my dinner ensemble for night one. I figured a chambray would help to tone down my eyelet black shorts and heels.
- Only bring one extra outfit. This is the hardest part. I like options. And when you’re having a war with your chosen ensemble, a wardrobe of alternate options sounds like relief. But having too many choices to fall back on actually has the opposite effect: it makes you indecisive. As you try on and eliminate outfit after outfit, you get more and more self-conscious, which will derail the whole point of the trip. Getting away should be carefree so that you have the opportunity to focus on each other. You’ll look hot no matter what. But if your mood is clouded by frustration and feelings of inadequacy brought on by the closet-monster, you’re less likely to get the mental reprieve you’re seeking. So bring along just one extra outfit in case of emergency, but leave it at that. And if you hate what you brought and want to strangle me—breathe deeply and have a drink. Both will make you feel better.
- You’re not chasing around a child, so bring out some body parts. There’s a lot of crouching, bending, kneeling, and power walk-chasing in mom life, and, in the name of common decency, we usually try to cover up the bits we don’t want falling out at the playground. You’re not at a playground, so you won’t be doing any of these motions (in public anyway), which means you’re not in danger of exposing your unmentionables. So whatever your revealing body-part-of-choice was in your past, take it back out. Got great legs from hot yoga? Wear that short skirt. Still rocking good décolletage (good for you, btw)? Pull out the cleavage shirt. Planked your way back to a six-pack (I hate you)? Roll out that crop top. Just put on something that makes you feel sexy again—something that reminds you that you’re more than a mom.
- Don’t go overboard. In our youth, we did it all. Short skirt, low-cut top, high high heels. Good to go. But, let’s be honest, we’re older now. Age, life experience, and stretch marks have set in, so the reveal should be more subtle. Bring sexy back? Yes, but don’t OD on it. I like to stick to one focal area to show off. If the shirt is low, I’m going to balance that with pants. If the shorts are short, I’m going with a modest neckline. If the skirt is tight, the top will be billowy. If the shoulder is bare, the skirt length is longer.
- Go carry-on only. This weekend is about fun and love. Why add the extra stress of having to wait for your luggage? And while you’re at it, get TSA pre-check. That’s not related to packing, but it will change your life.
Shop the Weekend (some pieces are no longer available, so I’ve linked similar):