Like many moms, I struggle with the guilt of being away from my family. So many households are held together by the invisible labor of women who are often in charge of the doctor appointments, nightly dinners, kids’ homework, and the (endless) piles of laundry, which is why it’s important that we schedule breaks to prioritize our mental or physical wellness.
“Wellness is experiencing harmony and balance in each of the many roles we perform as women, as partners, parents, professionals, and members of the community,” says Bianca D. McCall, licensed family and marriage therapist and founder of Reach-In Now, a virtual mental health hub. “Women who do not embrace balancing all parts of their identities outside of being a wife and mother are more likely to experience toxic levels of stress and tension.”
To tap into the harmony and balance that McCall spoke of, I recently spent a few days exploring the beautiful island of Barbados by myself. I had never been to Barbados before and on my way to the hotel, as I rode past Bridgetown’s colorful homes, I set my intention for the weekend – I would be in the moment and embrace my solo time.
I checked into The Crane Resort, a quiet property on Barbados’ eastern shore. Operating since 1887, the historic resort is also home to Crane Beach, one of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean. Its pink sand was the first thing I flocked to after checking in, and I spent that afternoon wandering around the 40-acre property, checking out the cliffside views. Inside, my suite had an elegant four-poster bed and a patio with a plunge pool, and I spent the night of my arrival watching the sun go down relishing the peace and quiet.
The next day, I signed up for a class with Danielle Lee, owner of Sweet Nectar, an artisan chocolate company. I arrived at Lee’s kitchen, and over the next few hours, we gabbed as we tempered chocolate, filled molds with caramel, and sprinkled sea salt and gold leaf on our handmade chocolate treats. Time flew by and when I looked up it was nearly noon.
“Where to?” My driver asked me when I got back into the car. I asked him to take me to one of his favorite hang-out spots, which is how I ended up at La Cabane nibbling on tacos and walking the shore of the chic beach club restaurant. That night, I ate at Cocktail Kitchen, where I languished over my meal, people-watched (truly the best part of dining alone), and relished in the thought that I had nowhere, in particular, I had to be.
The following day was spent digging into the history of Barbados and my tour guide for the day, Morris Greenidge. It ended up being one of the best parts of the trip. Greenidge is an 83-year-old historian who has written several books on the island, and his knowledge of Barbados was vast. We crisscrossed the island as we visited churches, abandoned sugar mills, the National Archives, and of course, Rihanna’s childhood home. Near the end of the day, we headed out to Bathsheba, a little fishing town on the western edge of the island. Neither of us had our beach gear on and Greenidge just wanted me to sit and be still – something I’ve always had a hard time doing.
“Just close your eyes,” he instructed. I did, and the world faded away as I listened to the waves breaking on the shore and the wind bending the palm trees. The rest of the day stretched out ahead of me. I had no schedule to adhere to, no tasks that needed to be checked off, and no workout to squeeze in after the kids went to bed. We sat for a few more minutes, and as the silence filled the space between us, the peacefulness of the moment made me exhale.
After we left, Greenidge told me that he could tell something shifted. “I realize you had a ‘spiritual’ experience at Bathsheba with the waves pounding and the surf resounding next to the old train line,” he later wrote me in an email. He was right. I had fully embraced the feeling of being unscheduled and unbusy – if just for a few days.
“Embracing rest is an act of honoring and respecting self and is a demonstration of the belief we have done enough because we are enough,” McCall says. “The truth is, we have a natural desire to spend time alone and connect with ourselves. When we rest, discovery, self-nurturing, healing, and restoration of peace occur.”
Taking a break from our lives doesn’t have to mean boarding a plane and flying to another country, and McCall says that there are plenty of low and no-cost activities that can restore peace of mind like meditation, swimming, reading, and journaling. The key, she says, is to seek out spaces where we aren’t distracted by our professional or household work. And for those who have never spent time alone away from their families, McCall says to broach the topic with your partner when things are in a good place.
“Don’t wait for a personal crisis or when stress becomes unmanageable to have a conversation with your partner about your desire for self-care. Collaborate with your partner on a stress management plan to execute when you recognize your signs of stress,” she says. “Communicating your desire to take time alone with intentions of connecting with self and recharging is an empowering statement. Taking time away may be misunderstood as a desire to be away from your partner or family, which may lead to an adverse response from them.
Prioritizing our own needs models for our children and families the importance of self-care, and it defines self-love.”
After my weekend, I vowed to set aside uninterrupted, unscheduled time for myself more often. The truth is, I checked in often with my family over the weekend, and things were fine. And I also returned home rested and grateful for the chance to reset. My weekend away reminded me that while my role as a mom and wife may be two of the most important ones I have, taking care of myself is just as important.