I remember writing an article years ago where I said that holidays when you’re a mum are just the same sh*t, different location. Nothing has changed. In order to take a week off during an actual holiday, we’d need to go somewhere remote without the family. Somewhere catered, with daily maid service.. and a concierge whose sole job was to shoulder the mental load that being separated from our family is bound to bring on. Yup, we can’t actually be without the buggers without worrying incessantly about where they are, how they are coping, whether they are wearing matching socks, etc.
So can a mum ever actually take a week off? Especially when we really, truly need it (not just when the school calendar dictates that now is when you need a holiday)? The answer, thank god, is YES. In fact, with a little planning and stealth, we can take a week off whenever we like. Maybe not weeks and weeks in a row, but the odd week or two here and there, preferably during term time. Here’s how we do it.
Step one: clear the calendar
There will be no obligatory social events, sports training, boring meetings, extracurricular activities, or unwelcome obligations of any kind. You may even like to take a week off your job so you don’t even have that to worry about. The only thing you’re allowed to have scheduled in the calendar is fun stuff that benefits your mental health.
++ Speaking of which: 10 wellbeing podcasts that will help you feel better ++
Trust me, your kids’ world will not crumble because they have to miss a rugby training session. I mean, you can always organise lifts for them if they absolutely, positively have to be somewhere. Actually, scrap that, if they want to be there, they can organise the damn lifts themselves!
Step two: ditch the menu
One of the things that sucks the most about being the leader of the house is that you apparently have to cook proper meals 2-3 times a day for eternity. Sure, the kids might whip up a plate of spag bol from time to time, but they didn’t plan that meal, check the pantry, write the shopping list, buy the groceries, put away the groceries and, most likely, they won’t clean up the kitchen afterwards, either.
A lot goes into doing the meals… so let’s take a week off and just not cook at all. Order takeaway, or better yet, go out for dinner every night of the week. Ahem, wouldn’t that be nice?! Affordability-wise, we might need to make some dishes ahead and freeze them so we have stocks for a full week. So let’s do that.
Step three: arrange cleaning help (or not)
If you can afford it, treat yourself to having a cleaner a couple of times during the week you take off. If you can’t, do what I do and ignore the housework for the week. Sure, my fantasy that my family will realise the mess the house is in and clean up has never happened. Which means at the end of my week off it’s all still waiting for me… but, you know what? Two week of shit to clean is no different to one week of shit. All still shit.
So, pay someone else to do it, or don’t do it all. Either way, you get a free pass from cleaning for a whole week and that’s a holiyay in my book.
Step four: plan something lazy
Holidays mean relaxing in the sun without a care in the world. We might take a short walk from headland to headland, but otherwise, it’s us, a cocktail and a good book. We’re allowed to be lazy on hols; in fact, it’s mandatory. So, let’s put down the To Do list (feel free to crumple it into a ball and throw it at something) and be as unproductive as we like for the week.
This is exactly what so many of us need. I’ve been trying to finish a book I’m actually enjoying for weeks now… but haven’t been making the time. During my week off, I will read more than one book, I promise.
Step five: don’t take calls
By this I don’t mean answering the phone (although feel free to lock yours away for the week if that helps you properly switch off). Instead, it’s a phrase I use whenever my kids are bugging me and I don’t wish to be disturbed. “Sorry, I’m not taking calls right now, please call back later.” One time when I said it, my daughter shoved a note in my hand and said, “I’ve sent you a text instead.”
It’s all for them, really: We need to stop being so available to our kids
The point is, no one is allowed to interrupt your thoughts during this special week off. If the kids have a problem or need something, they can (a) sort it out themselves or (b) ask their father or (c) phone a friend. It’s not important how they solve things, just that we don’t need to know the thing even existed in the first place.
Step six: go outside as much as possible
It’s a fact of modern life that we spend far too much time inside. Often chained to a desk, not moving much at all. It’s really not nice. Holidays, on the other hand, are so often about being outside, exploring. So, that’s what we’ll do when we take a week off for ourselves! Go outside and walk, rest, eat, relax, play, etc. Whatever you’re doing, just do it outside.
Hopefully you’ve got plenty of ourdoorsy options to choose from, be it a local beach, bush reserve, park, river, creek, forest, or even just the backyard. Out we go!
Step seven: take proper care of yourself
For some, optimal care might involve running everyday and eating kale. For others, long baths and chocolate ice cream. It doesn’t matter how you care, only that you do. Gather your thoughts before you take a week off and make a list of the kinds of things that really nourish your soul. Things you might not ordinarily make the time for, but know are good for you.
This helps too: 5 gentle ways to for mums to practise self-kindness
On my list are things like:
- take a long walk in the bush with the dog and a favourite podcast for company.
- drive somewhere new and have a look around
- sit on the headlands as the sun goes down
- eat hot chips with barbecue sauce in the car while listening to Cold Chisel
- do yoga outside in the morning
None of these things are things I make time for, but all of them are things I really love.
Step eight: call on the village
Imagine if every mum had a friend who took her kids after school for a full week, fed them dinner and dropped them home an hour before bed? Just for a week; a very needed week. Not only would you get a full day each day (especially if you have taken that same week off work), but you’d be freed up to go out for dinner too. If your heart desired such a thing.
Well, you can make this happen simply by offering to do it for your friend as well. One week she takes the kids in order to really, truly give you time off. The next is your turn. Repeat as often as needed. Even if you work, I’m pretty sure her kids can fall in with whatever arrangements you have in place for your own kids. That’s the plan anyway!
How long has it been since you’ve been able to take a week off?