We recently took our first vacation as a family of three, nearly a year after bringing our daughter into the world. And to be honest, I became increasingly nervous it got closer even though I had been on this vacation before. Each year, my husband’s whole family gets together to spend a week on a lake, somewhere in Michigan. I spent last year’s trip navigating my third trimester of pregnancy dealing with heat, nausea, and my own general discomfort.
This year was going to be different, not just for me, but for everyone. So, I started mentally preparing myself. We’d have a 10-month-old baby with us and it would be her first time sleeping away from home and being surrounded by lots of people all at once.
I had no idea what to expect! I figured there would be good and bad moments, but overall, I was hopeful. I NEEDED this vacation badly. If I’m being truthful, deep down I was still hoping for a week of more sleep than I normally get, relaxation, and a chance to escape from the stress and emotions at home. Needless to say, this is not what I got.
Vacation felt more like those first months of parenthood when baby is up every couple of hours and you walk around in a haze of exhaustion. My little one was up constantly throughout the night the entire week and the spontaneous increase in nighttime nursing brought all kinds of milk supply and breastfeeding challenges. My kiddo was going through a ton of changes the week we happened to go on vacation – growing mentally and physically. All you mamas out there know the culprit during these times can be multiple things.
So, while I know this is one experience and that not all vacations will play out this way, it does have me reevaluating my expectations. Here are some thoughts I walked away with that might help you embrace your own experience with more success:
- Vacation will be different than it was previously. Just go ahead and accept that right off the bat. Mamas don’t go on vacation when their kiddos are with them. You are still parenting, even if there is more help around. Baby will most likely want you over everyone else, which brings me to the next point…
- Say “yes” to accepting help. If someone asks if they can take baby, say yes. Need a hand? Yes. Need a snack or a beverage? Yes. Take any and all help that is offered. And this includes taking time away. Let others watch the baby and take a walk by yourself. Go on a boat ride with your husband. Put your phone away and soak in the silence.
- Sleep will be different. That means for you, for baby, and for everyone within the sound of baby’s cry. Bring out the old adage “nap when baby naps,” if you can. It’s also ok to go to bed early if your child isn’t sleeping the best the first few days. There is no rule saying how late you need to stay up on vacation. If your baby is getting up early, let others step in and help so you can get a little more sleep.
- Give yourself some grace. Stop apologizing to everyone for everything. Babies cry, don’t apologize for it. You’re exhausted and maybe not the life of the party this year, don’t apologize for it. Baby is finally sleeping and rather than being social, you want a few minutes to yourself and might be feeling guilty about it, don’t apologize. Give everyone else grace too. Unless you happen to be on vacation with another mama and baby pair, it’s likely no one is going to really understand how you’re feeling or struggling. Try not to get upset. They want to help, so let things slide.
- When all else fails, adjust your caffeine intake and keep going. There is always tomorrow.
As I head back to work post-vacation, I’m thinking about how I’ll answer if someone asks how my vacation was. Looking past the haze of exhaustion, we did have a good time. I loved sitting back and watching my daughter interact with her aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I loved watching her grow and change every single day. And I enjoyed being able to give my baby my undivided attention, without the weight of work or home hanging in the background. Welcome to the new vacation mama.
How has vacation changed for you after having kids?