The inherent stress of vacations

Most of us know that we need to take a vacation from work. Vacations are important to our health and well-being. But they are also stressful, especially for parents. There's the planning, the activities, the worry about the fun that you will or will not have, and the exhaustion from traveling.

This past summer I've been thinking about the vacations we went on when I was little. I have no idea how my Mom went about planning them. I know that she didn't use a travel agent, so I just imagine her spending lots of time looking through magazines for ideas and then making lots of phone calls. (Thanks, Mom!)

With technology, it is a lot easier to plan a vacation these days, but we have another problem when it comes to taking time off. A recent study which took a look at parenting advice doled out over the last 28 years show an increasing amount of fears that parents are trying to address when planning vacations - everything from their children slipping academically to everyone having a good time. So now we have the problem that parents need vacations from their vacations.

I want to return from our family vacations well-rested and happy. So, here's how we are approaching vacations as a family:
  • Keep it a surprise. I learned this from a coworker. She never tells her children when or where they are going on vacation - that way it feels like more of an adventure for them and it negates the pre-trip anticipation, so they can stay focused on school and other activities.
  • All inclusive resorts are wonderful. At first this seemed a little lazy to me, but honestly, the worry-free aspect to it is great for parents. You can always use the inclusive as your starting point and then add activities from there.
  • Be flexible. Don't schedule every moment of your day. That is the easiest way to make your vacation feel like work. A little downtime is a good thing.
  • You don't need to be together all the time. Do you normally spend 24/7 with your family? Probably not. It's fine to spend some time alone.
  • Take a vacation from your vacation. Are you one of those families that does the same thing every year? Mix it up a bit and see how that turns out. Or, if Mom normally does the planning, let Dad plan it. See what happens.
Are you taking a vacation this year? If so, where are you going?

Reading books - the paper kind - every day

Like lots of families, we are purging the massive amount of toys from our household this summer. (Seriously...why does my son have so many cars?) We go through his bins, his closet and his toy trunk, and he identifies the items that he no longer wants to play with so they can go "to other children that would probably like them."

But the one area of the house that has escaped our purge is his bookshelf. My son is on the verge of reading by himself, so I want to wait until he is able to read through his books on his own before we get rid of any of them.


My husband and I own a lot of books. So it makes sense that my son does, too. We make a point of reading with him every day - and this is something that we've done since he was a baby. (Even when he couldn't understand what we were saying.) We didn't do this because we thought he would be able to read as a baby, we read to him because it seemed like a wonderful way to interact with him.


Turns out, we were on the right path. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released a study indicating that in addition to stimulating brain activity and helping children develop their language skills, one-on-one reading strengthens the bond between parents and children. The study also points out that reading should start when children are infants.

I'm not surprised by those results. After so many years of reading with my son, it has become a special bonding time for us. Here's how you can help strengthen your bond with your child over books:
  • Hit up your local library. Our shelves at home can't hold any more books. But at the library, he can pick out his own books.
  • Snuggle up. I almost always read to him while he is sitting on my lap. He turns the pages and we sound out words together. It's a two-person process.
  • Do the voices and make it fun for everyone. If you are stuck reading the same books over and over again, it'll make you crazy. Encourage your child to pick different books every time you read.
  • Branch out. Boys don't have to read "boy books" and girls don't have to read "girl books." Switch it up.
  • Use real books. Yes, he can read books through some apps on our devices, but there is still something wonderful to me about having him feel the pages and to know when to turn them.
What do you do to make reading special with your child? Tell me in the comments.

Mommy on her own

As Mommies, we have very little time to ourselves. I know there are lots of days where my little guy follows me around the house because he "wants to be in the same room as me." That is sweet, but I don't appreciate it when that following me around includes the bathroom.

But you get used to it. (I'm not saying that is right, but you get used to it anyway.) So, any time you get to spend by yourself becomes precious - whether that is being stuck in traffic or waiting at the doctor's office. There is a certain enjoyment that comes from being alone.

For my birthday, my husband gave me one of my favorite gifts: A weekend in a hotel room by myself. When I say that to people, it sounds odd (and more than a little anti-social). But it is a truly wonderful thing. I take all my scrapping stuff and other projects I'm working on and have an interruption-free weekend. I wear comfy clothes and keep a continuous loop of movies on in the background for company. I stay up late and wake up late. It's lovely.

When I return to my family after check-out on Sunday, I feel like a better wife and a better mommy. (Thanks, Honey!) I highly recommend it - take a mini vacation just for yourself and see how much better you feel.

How would you spend a mini-vacation on your own? Tell me in the comments. 

Keeping up with Mrs. Jones

I know lots of moms. Some are crafty, some are incredibly active and others are unbelievably excellent cooks. Then there are the ones who make the whole work/life thing look ridiculously easy. It's that last set of moms that get to us. The ones who seem to have the perfect children, house, marriage - the ones that make us question how we are lacking in our own lives.

And all those thoughts are causing problems.

Researchers have found that moms feel that they are under pressure to keep up with other mothers, and oftentimes this leads to depression.

This is going to have to stop.

We've talked before about changing your inner mommy-logue and altering your negative thoughts, but we moms have to work on not comparing ourselves to other moms. Instead, we have to work together. We need to leverage our collective mommyness.

Once upon a time, I issued a grandparents challenge to teach my son the skills I don't have. Now I'm issuing a similar challenge to myself. I need to figure out the areas I normally shy away from (Sports. It'll be sports.) and see if there is a way to introduce them to my son. This might be through organized activities or something we learn together, or even with some help from another mom. 

I'm not doing this so that he can be better than another child, but to broaden his interests in life. No one should be stuck with the legacy of their parents' hobbies/sports teams/university because they were never given the opportunity to develop their own tastes.

What can't you do that you wish you could? Play piano? Speak another language? How will you give that opportunity to your child to see if he or she is interested in it? Tell me in the comments.