There were squeals at the airport. Big hugs and glowing smiles as we excitedly chatted about flights, sleepless nights, and jobs. After a few minutes, the non-stop talking trailed off as we realised that we had more than a couple of hours to catch up on all our news. After years of missing each other, international moves, rushed dinners, What’sApp group messages, we were finally on a mum’s girls trip.
It’s hard to believe 2019 had so much travel for me, given how 2020 has turned out. 2019 included a self-drive safari to Namibia, an international move to Singapore, and not one but 2 girls’ trips! The second girls’ trip was a flying visit and I returned the day before the movers arrived to pack our lives into boxes. It was intense, to say the least but was exactly what I needed to get me through a stressful year. So when all this COVID disaster is over, I’m going to be making sure I prioritise different types of travel. I’m going to finally get my first solo trip in more than 20 years and I’m going to spend time with my girls again.
As mums, it’s easy to put ourselves last, isn’t it? Time with friends can take a back seat at the exact time when we need their support the most. Lying by the pool one afternoon on the first girls’ trip, I lazily asked my companions why they thought all mums need a girls’ trip. This is what they came up with.
I mean, it had to be No. 1, didn’t it?!
There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture and all parents know why. Is there a mum on the planet who is well-rested and getting 8 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep a night?
Didn’t think so.
This one’s for those co-sleepers out there and for those who are used to getting a little midnight visitor snuggling up between you before sticking a knee in your back or a foot in your head (seriously, do they all sleep upside down? What’s with that?!). Having a bed all to yourself is one of the best things ever when all you can remember is interrupted nights of sleep.
Even if the bed-sharing isn’t a thing in your family, those early years are nothing but sleep deprivation. Use the opportunity to catch up on some well deserved ‘z’s.
At some point, after the Things were born, we woke up at 7 am, before they did, and high-fived ourselves for getting a lie-in. I wondered what my life had become, that waking up at 7 am was now considered a lie-in and that I had friends who were genuinely jealous of this good fortune.
While we didn’t exactly laze around sleeping until noon, the lack of pressure to get up was so refreshing.
We made sure to offer the master bedroom to the mum needing it most and all enjoyed lie-ins, lazy mornings and lots of sleep.
There’s just always something to be doing when you’re hanging out with family. With the girls, there was nothing to do and nowhere to be. Those lazy lie-ins turned into lazy breakfasts, time by the pool, naps, book reading, and slow conversations going deeper than you can over a bottle of wine and a two-hour table reservation.
It was the perfect space to just take the time to breathe.
Mums have so much on their minds at all times (and at, like, 100mph). We’re planning snacks, cooking meals, breaking up squabbles, deciding on the day’s activities… Not so with the girls.
One day one group would take charge and head to the supermarket to grab supplies for lunch. The next day another group would do it. It was all so refreshingly simple.
Dinners were unplanned affairs in restaurants we discovered while meandering around the cobbled backstreets of Sitges after spending an hour getting ready. It didn’t matter that we found places at 9.30pm or later – hunger tantrums and over-tiredness worries were completely off the radar.
It was magical.
Rediscover the old you
There’s nothing quite like hanging out with old friends to remind you who you used to be. Those girls who have known you for more than 20 years, who know who you were before you were a real adult. They’ve known you since before you got grown-up jobs, before you got married, and long before you had kids.
They’ve known you since you lost yourself in this thing called life with all the complications it brings. They’ve known you since life was more simple and it shows. The funny thing is they can remember who you were better than you can and everyone needs reminding of that from time to time.
There’s only so much catching up you can do over dinner or, worse still, on a play date while your kids are clamouring for your attention.
Heading to Paris for 36 hours was one of my crazier ideas but walking around a beautiful city, in the sunshine, while slowly catching up with three friends who I’ve known practically since birth, was incredible.
We couldn’t even remember the last time we were all together which made it all the more special.
Remember those in-jokes? The times when you laughed until you cried and your sides ached? The shock horror moments and the cringe-worthy memories? Ever recounted these stories to someone only to be met with a “I guess you had to be there” response?
Bring those memories back with the very people who made them with you. Relive the humour and laugh about it all over again.
It’s not just humour that it’s nice to recall. There’s a myriad of memories to go back in time to – from the teachers at school to old acquaintances, from the mundane day-to-day routines to life-changing experiences. Remembering the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly is a fantastic way to keep the memories alive.
I still remember the first day that I put Thing 2 in nursery. Thing 1 was in school but I didn’t have much time as the settling-in period involved a gradual increase in time at nursery. I knew I should really get on and do something productive but, instead, I sat in a coffee shop for a glorious hour scrolling on my phone without once feeling guilty. The best part was that I had not one, but two steaming hot cups of tea in a proper mug instead of one of those takeaway cups with the lid in case one of the Things spill my drink.
Let me tell you, you can drink a lot of hot drinks when you’re with your girls, having a good old chin-wag – and no safety lids in sight.
Showering by yourself
While we’re on the topic of things you can’t do by yourself with Things around, let’s talk about privacy! When you have a baby, showering and going to the toilet on your own become elusive acts of self-care.
Imagine, then, the chance to spend a few days when basic personal hygiene returns to being the norm. Indulge in a long hot shower or put on a face mask. Get ready for dinner by styling your hair and doing your properly… And taking more than five minutes over it while you’re there.
Finish a conversation
How many times have you started a conversation with a mummy friend and just never finished it? I must have clocked up thousands of them over the years! Not only that, but I’ve now been interrupted so many times and then changed course, or gone off on a tangent, that I now can’t remember how to finish conversations! I’ve even had conversations (probably interrupted ones) about it. (You know who you are).
No matter on a girls trip; you can start a conversation and then come back to it a day later when you remember what you were talking about!
Quantity time with your friends
Don’t get me wrong – catching up over a quick dinner, meeting up for breakfast as a family, heading to the park with the kids or grabbing a quick glass of wine just the two of you is great. And waaaaay better than nothing.
But an hour or two here when you’re used to seeing these girls day in day out, maybe even living with them… It just doesn’t cut it. Spending 36 hours in Paris with the girls who have known me my whole life and three nights in Sitges with my uni girls was absolute BLISS.
Not getting the last train home
Up there with quantity time is the dreaded last train home. Invariably someone has been stuck at work or bedtime has dragged on so there are a few latecomers. You chat at 100mph for a couple of hours while eating and drinking. Then, suddenly, someone checks their watch and realises the time. At least half the table jumps up and starts gathering their coats and bags while gesticulating madly at the waiter using international sign language to ask for the bill.
On a girls’ trip, there are no such restrictions. Dinners can go on long into the night if you want to or (rock and roll), you can all get an early night!
Quality time with your friends
People talk about quality and quantity in binary terms, as if they’re mutually exclusive. But they’re not! Quality time will always trump quantity time but that’s not to say you can’t have both. A few days of quality time with your girls is always going to be better than a few snatched hours every few months. Two hours of catching up is just not enough, no matter how good it is (although it’s better than nothing!). To have a few days was the ultimate luxury.
While we’re on the topic of quality, those quick dinners often involve a boatload of alcohol. As much as I love a glass of something, it isn’t necessarily conducive to spending quality time together.
With a girls’ trip, we talked on the drive to and from the airport. We talked over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then we talked some more. We talked while walking around and exploring and while sitting out in the sun.
I’ll be honest.
Some of those conversations involved alcohol but a lot of them didn’t. That goes a long way to help you remember what’s going on in your friends’ lives.
Grown-up meal times
Have you forgotten what it’s like to travel and pick a restaurant because it looks nice instead of checking if there’s something your Things will eat? Or maybe it’s in a great location or is super fancy? Not just that but the constant thinking about the kids, while you’re there, is also draining. With kids, you take games to play and get up to take a child to the bathroom or change a nappy. You cut up someone else’s food or bribe them to eat. Mealtimes can be exhausting at the best of times, let alone when you’re on the road.
I had totally forgotten. Not having to do that is amazing!
Eating and drinking what you want, where you want, and when you want shouldn’t be a luxury. As a parent, it definitely becomes one. A girl’s trip is yet another way to indulge yourself.
No need to entertain anyone else
I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing it was to only have to worry about ourselves for a few days. I had forgotten how easy it is to make no plans. Not having to organise a day around naps or to have to remember the things we need for the day makes a trip so much simpler.
The mental load of being a mum is immense. We underestimate how much brain space and energy we need just to exist with our Things. Taking a break from all that is worth its weight in gold.
Don’t have to be hyper-vigilant
There’s a lot to tire a mum out and it isn’t just the mental load. Hyper-vigilance is a state of being on constant alert and, well vigilance. It’s a state that was supposed to keep us and our offspring safe in times of danger. Now it seems we live in a time when danger is all around us. It feels like there are 5,239,408 ways for our Things to hurt themselves, destroy something or, vanish completely. Mums are in this state of high alert all the time and it’s exhausting.
Taking time away from that was well worth it. I can 100% say that the naps I enjoyed by the pool in Sitges were even more enjoyable purely for the fact that I wasn’t keeping an eye open for a kid falling in or an ear open for sibling squabbles.
Pre-kids I was a huge fan of travelling with just carry on. For longer trips I’d cram as much as I could into a backpack and check it in. Since having the kids, travelling light has become a thing of myths and legends. It’s something I can barely remember how to do now!
Let me tell you, travelling light after travelling with kids is life-changing!
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
When you’re with people day in, day out, it’s hard not to take them for granted. The Things know nothing else other than having you around. Truth be told, you’ve probably forgotten what it’s like not to have them around too. Not just the kids, but you and your partner also can end up getting in a rut or as passing ships in the night.
Taking time out for everyone is actually a great opportunity to have a break and to refresh everyone. You’ll all be so pleased to see each other when you’re reunited!
Have you been on a girls’ trip? Where did you go and how was it? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment or drop me a line at [email protected]