I was able to just be.
I wasn’t worried about bedtime or a small child falling over the railing.
I sipped red wine and read a book from a balcony overlooking the vineyards in Temecula, Calif. I chatted with my friend and we watched trashy TV until way too late. The next day, we indulged in an adults-only wine tour followed by a deliciously not kid-friendly dinner.
When I rejoined my family, my husband could tell that I was in a better place mentally.
I had been so grouchy and just off. The truth is, I was burned out.
I’m not sure if it was the solo parenting, even though he was technically home, that did it. It could have been the prospect of moving again after just eleven months. Then again, I could have just been finally feeling all of the things after battling back from severe postpartum depression while working full-time. Maybe it was the transition from full-time working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom.
I needed a break from life, a break from mothering, a break from adulting.
I needed a vacation STAT.
Every Military Spouse Needs An Occasional “Just Because” Trip
As military spouses, we are the Olivia Popes of our families. If there’s a problem, consider it handled. My own spouse’s schedule didn’t, and still doesn’t, offer a lot of opportunities for me to take a step back or get away.
Between his normal work routine and the occasional TDY, there wasn’t a really good time for me to get away. Plus, there is the ever-present guilt of maximizing family time. We all know the saying, “Live like they deploy tomorrow.” So skipping town when he was home felt wrong.
Added to all of that guilt was the simple fact that I wasn’t bringing anything to the table money-wise. Yes, I cared for our daughter 24/7/365. Our home was comfortably decorated and a healthy-ish meal was on the table every night. But I wasn’t adding to our financial cushion. Pulling money out for anything other than a necessity didn’t seem fair.
Plus, he’d never done solo parenting. Ever. Or at least not for longer than it took for me to go on a long run. How could I leave my child? She might end up eating donuts while watching the dreaded Caillou all weekend!
You Owe Yourself The Time Away
Sure, you might do little things that help you feel better mentally or physically. I do them too. I get pedicures sometimes, pick up new clothes occasionally and exercise daily. But when I get back from those short breaks, all of the things come rushing back in.
My mental bliss is destroyed. I’m right back to the stressed out, crazy military spouse I was before my pedicure. I’m just stressed out, crazy mother with prettier toes.
You owe yourself a longer break. Taking care of yourself is essential to running your military family successfully. You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes.
It’s OK to have some time just for you. It’s OK to plan a “just because” trip.
A “just because” trip is a getaway you take just because you can. This vacation is for you to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it. You can do everything on your “just because” trip. You can do absolutely nothing.
The tipping point for me came when I got yet another picture from my spouse on TDY. He was in a posh hotel room, with a king-sized bed and a deep soaking tub. Later, he was meeting his colleagues for a steak dinner and a few beers.
Meanwhile, I was covered in applesauce and had the Sesame Street theme song stuck in my head.
The kicker was that his work wasn’t starting for 48 hours. He had to go early to “adjust” and “settle in.”
If he could pad his TDY trip with that extra time, I could certainly take a vacation of my own.
Think of Solo Vacations As Your Annual Bonus
Every year, my spouse gets a pay raise. He gets an extra pay bump when he picks up rank. Why? Because he’s doing his job.
My job happens to be more like an unpaid internship that requires all day, everyday attention. There are no raises, just more work.
Laundry, cooking, cleaning and keeping up a household while almost constantly moving takes a lot of dedication. Parenting, and everything that comes with it, requires constant devotion. You work, hard.
Even if finances are tight, you can take a break. Vacations don’t have to be expensive or luxurious. Going camping or glamping at a state park with some close friends, and no kids, is a vacation. Chilling at the military hotel on base is a vacation.
Take A “Just Because” Trip With A Group Of Girlfriends
Traveling solo isn’t for everyone. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan. I like to share experiences with another person. I’m betting at least one of your friends could use a few days away too.
When you’re planning your friends-only adventure, start by coordinating your schedules. My friend and I just ran into this problem! We thought we had picked a weekend, only to have one of our spouses “forget” and schedule a TDY. Sit down together with your calendars and work schedules. Pick one goal date and at least one backup date.
Deciding where to go can be the most difficult part!
Many military bases almost beg for you to staycation. From SoCal to D.C. to North Carolina beaches or the dessert, you can find amazing options near you. Whether you head to the closest city, rent a local AirBnB or reserve a room at the base hotel, you’ll find something fun to do. Your “something fun” could be simple, like sleeping in or hitting a local cafe with friends.
There are also plenty of places to have adventures that bring you farther from home. Now that we’re stationed OCONUS, I’m craving an adults-only trip to Seoul or Taipei. I’d love to explore these amazing cities without worrying about dirty diapers or whether a restaurant serves hot dogs.
One great idea is to meet your friends at a destination, like Las Vegas or Savannah, for a long weekend. I know a military spouse who takes annual trips to Mexico with her sisters!
Keep It Simple For Your Spouse
After you’ve arranged your schedules and picked your fabulous destination, you might want to add in some support options for your spouse.
I know that my husband won’t be able to just stop working, even though my next trip is going to be over a long weekend. So I’ve made sure that he can bring them both to preschool at least one day and I’m delaying my departure until Saturday so that we’re not stressing over the preschool pickup on Friday afternoon.
Plus, I’m going to leave him a six-pack of his favorite beer in the fridge along with pre-packaged lunches and dinners.
Seriously, I wish someone would leave me ready-to-heat-and-eat meals when he’s on TDY. Oh, wait. That someone would be me.
Make their time solo with the kids, or on their own, fun and easy. Set your spouse up for success and a little pampering of their own. Schedule a tee time, a spa day or a sitter for a few hours. You never know, they might just beg you to take another “just because” trip!