'Four Kids and a Dog' by Elizabeth Bottiaux
‘Four Kids and a Dog’ by Elizabeth Bottiaux

By Elizabeth Bottiaux

Once a year I escape. I get away from the daily grind of arguing offspring, complaining littles, messes and general household mayhem. A few other moms and I slip away from the rigors of family life, and convene in a non-family atmosphere. Although we’re all roughly 40 years young, we call it our “girl’s trip.”

This past weekend was our second annual chosen weekend. Palm Springs was our destination. Four of us were on board for the grand escape from reality. Some of us are married, divorced, employed outside the home or employed inside the home. All of us are moms.

After becoming a mom, it took me nine solid years before I decided that I could get away with just girlfriends. There was guilt involved. It’s easy to feel badly about ditching my double life as drill sergeant. For many years I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my kids for longer than few hours. Routines, schedules and consistency are some of my closest cohorts.

Getting away has been an exercise in letting go. My husband normally runs the show if I’m away. But this time he was camping with our daughters. I have had to accept the fact that the babysitter, also known as Grandma, is not a duplicate of me. My kids stay up later than I’d like—or normally allow—eat junk food only found in Grandma’s cupboards, and rules are bent and broken when she’s in charge. The kids look forward to it. Grandma lives for it. And I’ve come to accept it.

There’s a certain “Thelma and Louise” factor involved in heading out of town with girlfriends. It’s a liberating feeling to skip town, sans kids. I had big plans to stay up late, sleep in, eat lots of indulgent delectables, use bad words, converse freely without constant interruptions, drink ice cold big kid libations and nap poolside without worrying about drowning children.

Hours were spent catching up on each other’s lives. It’s nearly impossible to snag a few uninterrupted minutes to have meaningful a phone conversation. So, it was truly a treat to chat without restrictions. After inhaling my first few meals, as I do when kids are involved, I realized I was able eat slowly and savor my food instead of sucking it down in two minutes or less. Turns out I do know how to sleep in. I did wake up at my normal 6 a.m. but was able to drift off to dreamland again. The weekend was perfectly relaxing.

Although I need breaks from them, I never regret being mom to our four kids. It’s easy to lose yourself though. After seemingly endless years of difficult pregnancies, gag worthy diapers, non-sleeping colicky babies and a whirlwind of little people that took us by storm, I’d gained so much. But, I also slowly realized that I’d lost a small part of myself. By spending time with my long time friends, I start remembering.

On our first annual getaway, we stood there in that college bar we’d frequented back in the day, in all of our mom glory, feeling utterly out of place amid a sea of sauced students. I prayed that nobody would recognize us. No part of me wants to return to that era. My life now is much more fulfilling than it has ever been. By spending time with my longtime friends, I started remembering that tiny spark of me who is spontaneous and a little wild. A weekend away provides much needed reconnecting, relaxation and recharging. I’m me; version 2.0.

These days you won’t find me busting a move on top of the bar. I no longer write cute dudes’ phone numbers on my arm. I just might be spotted driving our family car, packed with noisy kids and our dog, rocking out.

My kids still think I’m cool. Well, sort of.

Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 4, 6, 8 and 10. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.

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