We weren’t meant to mom alone, and that is why it’s important to get together between moms to recharge and just have fun!
Being a mama means that we are usually giving to everyone, except ourselves. Let’s face it: we are needed all hours of the day, including while we are in the shower or in the bathroom. Mamas, am I right or am I right that kids somehow always need something when we are shaving in the shower or doing business in the baño? And although being surrounded by those we love is life-giving and often filled with love, we desperately need time away to be with other women. And it’s exactly why the doctor should order a girls’ wolfpack weekend for every mama, every year.
Why There Is Power in the Pack
We are beings who are meant to be in community. In my experience, one woman has power, but collectively, a group of women has impact. Why is that? Well, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our ancestors for that. Women in the past lived in community together. They raised their children together. They co-existed and co-created life and their familiar dwelling in unison. But today, we most often do not live like that. We build fences around our homes. We keep to ourselves, we muscle through raising babies without much support, we somehow keep our homes intact, and then we wonder why we feel burnt out, alone and unsupported. It’s because, let’s face it, we are burnt out, we are often alone (in regards to connection) and although our hunnies are amazing, they often do not “get us.” Women who are traveling down similar paths as our own, who have gone or are going through the extreme highs and the humbling lows of raising kids can relate. And it’s in those relatable moments when we feel understood, we know that we are not alone and our feelings are not only real, they are valid because others have felt that same way. Or they might be feeling that way right now, while you are also in the midst of them.
I recently went to a women’s retreat at my church. It was two days of ministry, worship and connection and for me, it was just what the doctor ordered. Women have this intrinsic way of understanding the unspoken. They eerily read between the lines and even women who hardly know each other can delve deep into some of life’s toughest questions. It’s as if women have a way to weed-whack through the head talk and go straight for what’s tugging at our hearts. And I don’t know about you ladies, but I have not experienced that when I’m sitting around watching football with my husband and his guy friends (no offense, fellas).
I have always had a hard time opening up and being vulnerable in my life. But I have (humbly) discovered that I can only maintain that persona for so long. When I am around women for any length of time, it is as if the community energy of the group allows me to let down my guard and fully engage. And that’s why it is so important for mamas (and women in general) to take time out of their busy lives to have a female wolfpack weekend. For me, a dinner once in a while or an afternoon outing is not enough. It does not allow people like me—a somewhat hard nut to crack—enough time to sink into the space, let down my guard and open up.
But there is also scientific backing to my thoughts and feelings about wolfpack weekends. At least 22 studies have revealed that having social support decreases those fight-or-flight responses and the hormones that go surging when stress arises. These findings could very well be the reason that we often come home from these girl times feeling rejuvenated, rested and ready to take on our lives again in a fresh, new way. Our bodies, while in community, can literally take a little break from being on high alert and often out-of-whack from the constant pulls of our daily lives.
How to Carve Out Time to Howl at the Moon with your Pack
Here’s where the rubber can often meet the road when it comes to needing a wolfpack weekend: it’s finding the date and then dedicating the time to actually follow through with it. When my kiddos were babies, my mom guilt seemed to run my life. I rarely went out for dinners with my girlfriends, never went away for the weekend with my soul sisters and felt so guilty about leaving the kids (and let’s face it, my husband) that I just didn’t. For years! He and I would have a short getaway from time to time, but I did not allow myself to have wolfpack weekends for a very long time. And mamas, if you are reading this and relate to what I am saying, then hear this: please do not follow in my footsteps. Take the time to nurture friendships now, to go on that women’s retreat with your church, or have a play weekend with your besties. It is vital for our health, wellness and yep, sanity.
But here are some tactical ways to actually making the time away happen:
1. Get organized
Give your husband, family or anyone involved with helping while you are away, lots (and lots) of notice. And then, help coordinate schedules so that you can (mostly) get away guilt free. One time when I went away for one night, I had a three-page (no joke) timeline from breakfast to bedtime of everything from what my kids could eat to their play and nap schedule, even what books were their favorite to read at night. I guess that was my way of alleviating the guilt of leaving them in the first place. Yes, sometimes the mom guilt doesn’t go away permanently. But as mamas, you just have to learn to live with it and do it anyway.
2. Get a date on the books and then book it
This one is a big one because money is often a motivator for people. Also, there is transformation in the transaction. For me, when I finally booked my first week away from my husband and kids (sidenote, this trip was literally six years in the making), bought my plane ticket and made hotel reservations, I literally felt my body respond. I felt my body say yes as I was saying yes to things in my life that I knew were healthy and that I needed. I instantly felt that I was happier and that I was conquering some of the things that were holding me back in the pursuit of my own dreams.
3. Make it annual
One of the best ways to ensure you are taking time for you is to rebook as soon as the weekend ends. On the last day of my weeklong wolfpack time, my group of friends immediately rebooked for the following year. When you have these unforgettable times with your girls, it’s important to make sure and plan for that time to happen again and again and again. Life gets so busy, so if plans aren’t made early and intentionally, it is way too easy to push off times, events and weekends that aren’t deemed “essential.” Wolfpack weekends are essential, but it is up to us to treat them as importantly as a weekend soccer tournament or a 4-H show.
4. Make sure it’s intentional
I am all for anything from a silly girls’ weekend to a wine tasting weekend with friends to a special women’s event at church. But keep in mind that oftentimes, women wolfpack weekends are hard to come by, so don’t treat them lightly. If you have only one or two weekends out of the entire year to spend in community with other women, make sure you are intentionally saying yes to the time that seems best suited for what you need at the current stage in your life.
What do I mean by that? I mean that different seasons in our lives means that our needs vary from time to time. This year, I needed time away for health, wellness and healing. I did not want a weekend poolside in Las Vegas, with cocktails in hand and buffet food in my belly. I needed the exact opposite this year (actually, most years). But other times in my life, that was exactly what I would have wanted. I also wanted a weekend of community with women from my church, because that has been a desire of my heart for a long time. So I made decisions to say no to other opportunities so that I could adamantly say yes to the experiences that my heart really needed most. I might have hurt feelings for those I said no to, but honestly friends, if we don’t practice taking care of ourselves and being intentional with how we spend our time, then it will be hard to get rejuvenated and recharged as we need to.
5. Get over the guilt
I know I have already mentioned the mom or wife guilt, but it can be such an obstacle to overcome that I think it’s worth mentioning again. Your kids may be sad, your husband may throw a little bit of guilt-trip fit, but it is imperative that you go on your wolfpack weekend anyway. Plan for the pouty faces, get ready for the questions that your husband already knows the answer to but will ask anyway, and pack those bags and take flight. When you return home, they will have already forgotten why they were pouting or what questions they asked, and they will be happy you’re home. They’ll also probably want a snack, to go to the park and will wonder where their favorite pair of shoes are, reminding you that life will be the same where you left it before.
We are never meant to live this life in isolation. In fact, isolation can breed all sorts of unhealthy mindsets, practices and ways of living. So get in community with other women. Share stories, laugh and cry together, and remember that the woman sitting next to you is there for your greater good… and hers too!