|Let's call this vacation "adventurous."|
I've always thought the most challenging part of parenting is that you never get a day off. Even when I've gone on trips, I've still worried about my children, their schedules, and what I'd do if something went wrong. I never felt like I had a full brain break from being a mom.
The mental load of being a mother is constant and weighs heavy. My brain is always, unceasingly full of the noise of knowing where my kids are at all times, arranging schedules, planning meals, knowing when and what they last ate, keeping track of birthday parties and gifts and playdates and favorite foods and strong dislikes. At all hours of the day, I'm tracking grocery lists, laundry needs, piano practice, homework requirements, house issues, bill payments -- and that's not including my 3-5 hours/day spent working a job, from home, in hours wedged between answering emails, online shopping, planning trips, checking news (too often), checking social media (too much), and volunteering time for various groups. I'm exhausted at the end of most days. I can't shut it off even when I try.
But in Haiti, the noise turned off.
I knew my children were in good hands, cared for by their loving and capable father (with whom I'd left a detailed schedule). Even if something terrible had happened, there's little to nothing I could have done (I wouldn't have received a text/call until evening, and I likely couldn't have even gotten to Port Au Prince to fly back). I thought about my kids daily, but only to think how they might enjoy something I'd seen, or that I hoped they were having a good day.
|Meals I was ravenous for were served here. I didn't shop, cook, nor clean. And no children complained about it.|
Relieved of the mental load of parenting and planning, I focused on the present. I watched one foot go in front of the other on long and dusty hikes and engaged muscles to keep going, not fall, not tire. I looked up and fully took in the gorgeous countryside, the plants I'd never seen and the bird calls I'd never heard. I smiled and engaged with hundreds of people who came to us for a very basic need. I savored food and was incredibly grateful for it. I slept soundly, exhausted yet fulfilled, each day.
In nine years, my brain had never been so clear. It was an extraordinary feeling. Now that I'm home and all the noise has crashed back in, I am doing OK, because I finally got that break I'd been wanting for nine years. I feel restored. I can do this again. And when I can't, I'll try to remember what clarity felt like, and maybe I can grasp it back without having to trek to the middle of rural Haiti.
So for anyone else whose mind never shuts off, here's what I recommend: book a tour where others do all the planning, leave the country to a place where your phone rarely works, do something physically challenging every day, and play a role/do a task that you normally don't do. It's no tropical beach vacation or skiing with friends, but it will sure be the mental vacation you may truly need. Sign me up.