“I feel like you’re not really having fun,” my husband said as I flopped, exhausted, onto the couch.
“I’m not,” I whispered, and tears instantly welled up in my eyes. “I’ve been looking forward to this trip for so long, but now that we’re here, I just want to go home.”
We were two days into a weekend visit to Silver Dollar City, our five-year-old daughter’s reward for a year’s worth of hard work in our classical homeschool co-op. We’d talked about this adventure throughout the year, we’d saved our pennies, and my parents and one of our nieces had even joined us for the trek.
This little trip was a big deal for us, y’all. Because it wasn’t just a nod to the work ethic our daughter had shown us in her studies; it was a celebration of survival.
I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to homeschool a kindergartner while a very loud, very rambunctious, very iron-willed two year old streaks through your house (and yes, I mean streak in the literal sense), but let me just tell you: IT’S HARD.
This trip was the proverbial high five I needed to validate my efforts and recognize the growth we had all experienced over the past year.
And you guys… after just two days I was OVER IT.
Everybody else seemed to be having a great time, despite the fact that the kids were overtired, we got rained out from the amusement park, everything was expensive, and our food choices were less than ideal. (I should have known better than to order cashew chicken from Starvin’ Marvin’s all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. I should have known.)
But me, on the other hand? I was high-strung, stressed out, and more than a little grumpy.
What is wrong with me? I thought in disgust. This is supposed to be a special family memory and I’m about to lose. my. stuff.
And suddenly I realized: I was the only person on this trip who was not enjoying a change of pace.
My two girls and my niece all got to take a few days off school and ditch dance class (not to mention watch movies in the car, eat junk food, stay up way too late, and ride a carousel 46 times consecutively). My husband and my parents all got time off from work, and while yes, they were very much in the thick of the fray that is out-of-state travel with small children, they were still enjoying a break from their usual responsibilities and schedules.
But me? I was doing all the things I do on a daily basis – TIMES ONE THOUSAND.
As a stay-at-home mom, my day is packed to the brim with scheduling, chauffeuring, disciplining, entertaining, feeding, educating, playing, instructing, and a bounty of other duties. And on vacation? All those daily responsibilities are still there – plus the necessary evils of packing for the entire family, planning an itinerary, and preparing in advance for absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong.
In other words? Moms don’t get vacations.
At least not in the way we expect, right?
Once upon a time vacations (and even short weekend trips) were synonymous with rest, refreshing, and recharging. But with kids in tow, vacations are just straight up hard work.
Family vacations are the ACTUAL WORST.
But in a strange way… they’re also the absolute best.
They give us valuable opportunities to expose our kids to new cultures, new environments, new ways of living. They afford plenty of time for conversation and play and getting to know each other better. They allow us to share places and hobbies that are important to us. They train us to all work a little harder at getting along and learning how to compromise. They push us out of our comfort zones. They build memories that are so much more precious than things. And they knit us together in ways we can only experience when we step outside the walls of our home.
We just have to redefine our idea of “vacation.”
Because from the very first moment our kids invaded our world, we’ve put their needs first. We’re parents now, by golly, and one of the first things a newbie parent learns is I am no longer the priority. A priority, sure. But not the priority.
Getaways with our husbands and girls’ nights out are about rest, refreshing, and recharging. But family vacations? Family vacations are about planning, prepping, and working harder than you ever do at home.
Because it takes hard work to create beautiful memories.
And when you get smiles like these in return?