Every so often, a mother needs to get away from all of it and spend precious time pampering herself and pursuing her own interests. And there’s no better place to do it than in the bright lights, pulsing energy and vibrant culture of the Big Apple.
It was 4 a.m. on a cold October morning, and for once, I couldn’t wait to jump out of my warm, comfy bed and into the chilly darkness.
Most mornings, I reluctantly unfurl my groggy, morning-hating self from my duvet, usually at least 20 minutes late, and then my chaotic morning routine begins: rushing myself and my toddler out the door for a long day of work and daycare, then home to cook dinner and take care of and entertain the kids until their bedtime – after which, I usually settle down to do more work before retiring myself.
But not this day – this was a day of pure excitement, a rare adrenaline-filled morning. I was leaving all my monotonous routines behind, the chaos, the stress, the whining of my toddler, the antics of my preteen and teenager and leaving for several days alone in New York City.
I have done this, this little escape to New York, for the last two years. It has come to represent a valuable luxury, a cherished gift to myself, one small part of my life that is just for me.
New York is a faraway, fantasy place I can run to and, for a few days, just be me, the young-ish, artsy, music and theatre-loving woman who likes to explore and be stimulated, not the hardworking 33-year-old mother of three who juggles three jobs and struggles to cook, keep her house clean and life organized.
My New York vacation is a totally selfish endeavour, but it is also breathtaking and rejuvenating for my soul and I’ll do it as much as possible. I’ve come to realize that although it is all about me, it’s also not – these short getaways are good for me as a mother and a person. I come back refreshed, inspired and ready to dive back into the confines of my very ordinary life – with only the occasional pang in my heart, still longing for the city.
It started off as a fun fantasy. I had long been enraptured with all I’d read about New York and its reputation as a thriving cultural mecca. While I would often daydream about visiting the city, travel for me, was until recently
not really an option.
I was 18 and in high school when I gave birth to my first child, 22 and in college when I had my second. While I am thankful for them every single day, for the wonderful, good-natured and talented children they are, starting my family so early was definitely limiting in many ways, a fact I have come to terms with.
But that’s not to say I haven’t had my share of fun. I have made the most of my contained life, born and raised and raising my children in the same city, the pleasant, family-friendly Ottawa. I take time to go to concerts and the theatre, because I am incredibly passionate about these things and they fulfill me. I try to get out for dinner and drinks with friends and colleagues when I can. I write to express my creativity and to purge my feelings.
But my life as a responsible parent is, by necessity, extremely controlled, 24/7. So when I snuggled down in my seat that October morning, I knew I was off on a magical journey to the glamorous big city, with so many incredible cultural options in front of me and a few days of complete and utter freedom.
For me, there’s nothing quite like stepping into the streets of New York – the frenzied crowds, relentless honking of taxicabs, the awe-inspiring skyline. It feels like I’ve lived there all my life, and had I not started having children at such a young age, I very well might have.
And so over the next several days, I lived the bohemian lifestyle of which I’ve always dreamed. I took long, introspective walks through the parks, sipping coffee and watching the many fascinating New Yorkers and tourists.
I left midtown and ventured into the grittier neighbourhoods, including Chinatown and the Lower East Side. I stopped at the most delightful hipster street market and got a great deal on a gorgeous dress.
I found a fantastic music club on Houston, and stayed there for hours, nursing drinks and watching a musical showcase of indie bands from across the country.
I took in an off-Broadway show I had been longing to see, a rare opportunity to see one of my all-time favourite actors, David Hyde Pierce, in a charming and incredibly intimate venue. As the actors took their curtain call, I had goose bumps, my eyes filled with tears.
In that moment, I was so thrilled to be there, in that city. I had never felt more alive, more electrified. It was incredibly moving, and it occurred to me that these are the experiences every parent should have – intensely special moments, all for themselves.
Sitting in my midtown Manhattan hotel room, sipping wine, eating sushi and reading the New York papers in the trademark white terrycloth robe after a long leisurely soak in a hot bath, I was as close to nirvana as I’d ever been. But then, I’d hit the streets and see all the adorable babies and excited kids. And I knew, I felt, what I was missing.
As I made my way home to Ottawa, loaded with gifts to assuage the guilt sinking in about being gone so far for so long, I thought about how much I missed my children, and how, though I so need this “me” time and the soul nourishment, my lovely little family completes me. But I also know I will go back.
Hey parents! Do you have a particular place or activity you escape to? We’d love to hear about it. Tweet us @ParentingTimes or email email@example.com