ON GETTING AWAY

A few days ago I polled Instagram on what's the thing that's helped you the most in motherhood, and the responses were great. Not one single product was mentioned, but all the non-tangibles and little (big) things. Among them: grandparents, perspective, grace, coffee, alcohol, a good babysitter, friends, self-care, and time away. It took me a long time to realize that last one but after our trip last weekend I am a big believer.

Daniel planned this trip and it was his idea. Last year we attempted a 2 night getaway and Trey was too young, it was too soon, and I wasn't ready. I was kind of expecting the same thing on this trip, but agreed to go anyways. I know it's good for me to get away and I wanted to, it's just also really hard for me to leave Trey.

This trip was night and day from last time. The resort was incredible. A boutique, luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona and I think it might be my favorite place we've ever stayed. (Not sponsored at all, just sharing.) The design is mid-century modern and the concept is little bungalows all over a sunny, warm, resort nestled near Old Town Scottsdale with mountain views. We absolutely loved it.

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I think the biggest realization for me on the trip was: baby/toddler/kid life is demanding. These years take A LOT of resources - time, energy, money, etc. But they are not forever. In the midst of the day to day craziness that is raising small children you think they will, but this pace of life will someday feel slower. When we retire yes, but also when we're empty nesters, and even when we're at the elementary age, we won't be parenting as intensely as we are during this time of life. It's chaotic and messy and crazy most days, but now that I've taken a step back to notice this, I can more fully fill myself up first. I think I gained the perspective that self-care is a THING. A real thing and a needed thing, and exponentially more so during these all-hands-on-deck years.

It was shocking to me the amount of noise and speed that is raising kids. I don't think it was so much the place (even though it was amazing) but just the time away to chat. To go whatever we wanted, to really pause and relax, to have time. That is the biggest scarcity element I think of my days right now and the kicker for me was that I realized: someday I will have more time.

I am trying to parent out of this new long-term mindset. I am trying to find pockets of rest and relaxation during my days, and right now, I have to be strategic about it. I have to find it/make it/get creative with it/put boundaries around it. I typically run at about 110% percent, like most moms, since we have a lot of roles and responsibilities that we keep spinning each day. But I'm slowly learning to also put myself on that list of importance things. What would fill me up today, what would I like to do? It can be hard as moms because we take care of so many needs that what we'd like often gets pushed so far back that we don't even know what it is that we need or want. Also, I think our culture values productivity and busyness, and when that's ingrained in you it's hard to get off that train. But I'm doing it. I'm getting off the train of de-valuing self-care. I placing myself on my priority list.

I think sometimes as a mom I've thought about things in pretty black and white terms. Can I both (fill in the blank) and be a good mom? Can I take a parents-only trip and love my child? Can I work and still love my child? Can I enjoy time away for a pedicure and still love my child? I think subconsciously I've thought I had to be this mom martyr, dying to myself all the time in the name of loving my child well. And I know now that while I fiercely love my child, I'm actually a better mom when I'm filled up first. It's the oxygen mask strategy. Our needs matter. What we do for ourselves matters. Not just matters, but is vital.

Part of it for me is that I get so much joy out of being with Trey. This is a great thing. But it does make it hard for me to leave him, for trips or even just a night out. I know these years go fast and I don't want to miss it. But I think there is also something to be said for doing them well and being able to do both - I can love my child well, and enjoy time away. Filling me up fills my family up. We take care of so many needs as moms. Let's make sure to also take care of ours.

PACKING LIGHT

I'm convinced there are two kinds of packers in this world: people who pack Everything You Could Possibly Need and people who pack minimally, almost effortlessly, delicately accounting for all kinds of weather and occasions into three coordinating outfits and one easy to manage, well organized, carry on.

I am in the first camp, certainly.

Overpacking is one of my spiritual gifts. Minimal packing is my husband's.

Naturally, it's a joy to travel with me. Once we added a baby in the mix, our packing level went to an even higher, unfathomable level. The soundtrack to our trip prep started to sound something like this: "Hey! Got any extra room in your suitcase for more diapers/wipes/a hair dryer/my ice skates?"

If could pack the kitchen sink, I would.

Thankfully, people change, and I'm learning how to pack more efficiency and effectively. Travel-sized instead of Costco-sized bottles are a start, as well as limiting my shoe choices (still working on that one.) Also helpful: durable, well designed suitcases. Thule, who makes outdoor gear (and our favorite stroller) just released a line of luggage, built to withstand the elements just like their well loved roof racks and bike racks. The two sizes we have are the 30" and the 28". The 30" is ingeniously designed to zip into two bags, one rolling and one duffel, perfect for using alone or together, for separating baby items, or for overpackers like myself still learning how to pack light. My husband loves the laptop bag for work, and it's designed to hook onto the top of either suitcase.

When I pack lighter, I realize that I usually don't even miss whatever's not there. There is always, always a creative solution, and sometimes, having fewer choices can actually make it easier than having too many (capsule wardrobing taught me that).

I started to think about other things I carry with me (figuratively) that actually make my life more difficult or unnecessarily complicated.

Things like, first birthday party expectations. Somehow (maybe thanks to Pinterest and other forms of social media), this event is HYPED. Where did we get this idea that babies needed this extravagant first birthday party? If you want to go all out for it, great, but if you don't? Also fine. We all know this party is more for the parents than the baby anyways.

In June, we will be celebrating Trey's first birthday. But I'm choosing a small, simple party. Nothing fancy, no paper invites, no rented space, no caterer.

I'm taking this off my plate because it doesn't bring me joy to spend the time or the money in this way. I will celebrate the one year milestone in a way that works for us, not how someone else (or society or culture or social media) thinks I SHOULD be doing it.

These days I'm taking more and more off my plate, letting go of thing after thing, lowering my expectations, packing lighter. This "good enough" space of motherhood is so much better than striving for the unattainable perfection.

I'm trying to pack lighter this spring in all sorts of ways. It's a work in progress, but a great place to be.

Shared in partnership with Thule, the trusted outdoor gear brand. We're big fans of their durable designs.

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A BABY

I've taken Trey with me on 6 flights so far, and 2 of those were three hour, solo trips. On those flights it's mostly a survival game and anything goes, really. But I wanted to share a few things I've learned along the way to make flying with a baby easier. (There are also a ton of helpful suggestions also in this post here from other veteran mamas on Instagram.)

On baby and child ID: TSA requires ID to get through security only at age 18 or older, but each airline has their own rules, and some require additional documentation to get your child a boarding pass. The airlines that we've flown with have required some form of birth date documentation, such as a medical paper from a doctor's visit, etc. Make sure you check or call ahead of time to find out what you'll need.

On the feeding plan: I'm exclusively breastfeeding, but Trey will take a bottle (thank the Lord) so I bring breast milk in a few bottles as well as my nursing cover to have both options. On some of my flights I've been able to nurse Trey (it's almost a guarantee that he'll fall asleep if he's tired while nursing) but sometimes, you happen to be seated in a middle seat and next to a Very Large Man taking up half of your already mini seat, and nursing simply isn't feasible. For this reason, I bring a few full bottles and am always so glad to have them.

On breast milk through security. You can bring as much breast milk as you want through security, it's an exception to the liquids rule. They'll run it through the x-ray and open the bottles and test them again afterwards. Kind of a pain but worth it for me. I love our bottles (Dr. Brown's) but two points: make sure you remove the air vents prior to flying (both because of the altitude/pressure changes to prevent leaks, AND because they make you remove them to test them at security) and also make sure you follow the "max fill line" rule to prevent leaks as well. We've had no leaking issues since implementing those two things when flying.

On what gear to bring. When I flew solo with him, I had a connection, and I knew I needed the car seat and stroller at the gate in order to make it halfway across the airport by myself to my next flight. When you check your car seat/stroller at the gate on a connection, you can choose if you want to have it available at your layover, or if you want it to just stayed checked until you get off at your destination. I needed to have it at the halfway point and was glad I did. (This meant I didn't need a carrier, but if I did, I'd choose something easier to get on like the ergo over a wrap, I know some people who would say the opposite because the ergo is bulkier than a wrap, so it's totally personal preference. Besides the space issue, my other reason for not bringing a carrier is the "no baby wearing while take off/landing" rule, which is such a pain.)

On during the flight. I hesitate to say this publicly, but I think we might have an unusually easy baby. For all the flights I've taken him on so far, he hasn't cried once. He kind of fusses a little bit as he starts to either nurse or drink from a bottle, and then falls asleep and stays asleep for the rest of the flight. I think it might be a combination of the loud noise of the plane and the slight bumpy movements. He sleeps easily in cars too so that could have something to do with it. At first I was worried that his ears weren't popping with the altitude changes in take off and landing, and thought maybe I should wake him up to feed, but he's done that every time and been fine so I don't worry about it anymore.

On your SOS plan. If you're in that very last hour of your all day/cross country/solo travel trip and you're in that middle seat next to that Very Large Man and starting to kind of loose your mind, take your sleeping baby and go to the back of the plane. I stood in the back of the plane and chatted with the flight attendants for the last hour, and just bounced Trey while he slept, and the flight attendants gave me water and snacks and told me stories of when their babies were little. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Everyone (mostly) is so willing to help with a baby.

On not sweating the small stuff. Things likely will go wrong, as with all of life. In that same solo travel trip that was kind of a circus, I managed to forget documentation for Trey AND I left all the bottles at security after screening. It all worked out, I was able to provide other documentation and they called me back over the intercom to retrieve the bottles. All fine in the end. Same with my friends who have babies who scream on planes; they remind me that it's likely you'll never see any of those people ever again, AND they were all babies once too. People, generally, get it. I feel like it's more tense for us than it is for them. Having a level headed perspective helps.

Suitcase pictured is Away, featuring an unbreakable outer shell, organized interior pockets, a TSA approved lock, and a USB charger (SO helpful in crowded airports, no more waiting for an outlet to become available to charge your phone). Size pictured is the carry-on.

Shared in partnership with Away.