We've all seen it. The gaggle of girls laughing in Nordstrom, the ladies storming through H & M, a handful of girlfriends eating salads and then a years worth of dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. The details can vary, some are louder than others, some talk politics while others focus on the perfect scrapbook die cut, and the accepted uniform is different from group to group. But all of these women walk about town with the same look in their eyes, the same look a sailor has when putting his foot on land after having been out to sea for quite some time. It is a girls' night out and the mommas in the group (you can tell them by the spit up and peanut butter hand prints on their shirts) have left their kids behind for the first time in days, weeks, months. They are getting their land legs back and, for the night, it sure feels good.
Girls nights out are a misunderstood ritual in today's culture. Seen as a puff piece way to spend an evening, most men think the talk is only about shoes and sex (they aren't totally wrong) and many mom's feel guilty about leaving the laundry, babies and handsome husband for an entire evening. So the nights out are canceled, put off or never even thought of in the first place. Our Mama sailors stay at sea. There are plenty of adventures on the water, the journey is full of running through sprinklers, sticky kisses and a husband worth loving. But there are also the storms of a messy house, meeting with the principal (my kid did what?) and the Nor'easter that accompanies an uncertainty of personal identity (do I exist outside of dishes and diapers? And if so, who the heck am I?)
I would like to stand up in defense of a night on the town and point out the serious good of a few hours spent in frivolity.
3 Reasons Moms need a Girls' Night Out
1. We love our kids even after they have cried, screamed and colored all over favorite dress with a permanent marker. We would like to keep it that way. When Margaret was 18 months old she began to find ways to show me just how independent thinking she truly was. She refused to wear pants, would only eat food at a certain temperature (lukewarm) and variety (chicken and fried) and began to yell, BAH! whenever something displeased her. I like a chubby baby in onesies so I was happy to forgo her little pants and I can think of worse things than fried nuggets for every meal. But that yell, that unholy, summoned from the pits of a darker place, crack my soul in half yell, was more than this mama could handle. And the little mop head knew its power. She would fire it at me over breakfast, carpet bomb me with it before nap time and save it as a parting shot on nights I made her take a bath. BAH! The yell had been with us for about a month when Riley came home early from work. He picked me up from amidst the wreckage and handed me some money. "Call your friends", he said. "Get out of here. Come back when you feel better." So I did. I left for hours and hours and hours and didn't come back until I was ready to face Margaret, my best little friend and most worthy adversary. Filled with energy, confidence and a new pair of shoes (found at 40% off!), I returned home invigorated and determined that no little toddler yell was going to own my day. The next morning, we ran out of Margaret's favorite cereal. She was outraged, indignant, and the yell came quickly, BAH! I just laughed at her, told her everything was fine and gave her a hug. The little monster (love you, honey!) looked confused and began quietly eating the lesser cereal I had put in front of her.
2. Mothers have lives outside the soccer games and dinner making.I remember the first time I realized my mom lived a life outside of my own. She left each month for a neighborhood game of Bunco, a night of girls and food and gambling with pieces of candy. One night she was just down the street and my dad couldn't find the wipes for the baby so he sent me over to ask her where they had gone. I walked into my neighbors house and it had been transformed, there were bright tables filled with all my friends' moms. They were smiling and talking and seemed so...un-momish. The pick the kids up from school sweats had been replaced by collared shirts and tight jeans and nearly every single one was wearing lipstick. And my mom! My mom who did everything for me, the woman that had just stayed up till 3am that morning finishing my school art project, was sitting in the center of it all, laughing. Why it didn't look like she was thinking of me or my siblings or my dad at all! She was apart from us in that moment, and I was jealous and a little proud. I went up to her side, whispered my question and got the answer along with a hug. I remember walking home that night, knowing I had seen something important but still unsure of exactly what it was. Now, I know. My mom and all those other women had gathered together to laugh and to breathe. But they were also learning about each others dreams and getting support for their own. They were planning and hoping. They were embracing the lovely fact that life is a full, round sort of thing and that while most of their important experiences did happen around the kitchen table, there was something worthwhile to be found at a card table surrounded by good friends.
3. Leaving the house long enough to gain a little bit of perspective puts most women into a friendly, hey honey should I slip into something more comfortable state of mind. Motherhood is bright, worthwhile and all-consuming. There are days when I spend so much time playing and care taking that by the time Riley get's home I can hardly remember I am a woman, let alone his ever lovin' wife. On those days, I forget to reach for his hand while we sit on the couch, forget how fun it is to make out, forget that the best stress release in the world is me and him and a little, ahem, grown up time. Putting on a pair of heels and walking away from the house, the kids and even Riley, helps me to remember. By the end of the night I am dying to get home and remind him of all the things he might have forgotten, too.
Girls nights out have a unique logic about them. At the end of the time away from our family there is nowhere a mom would rather be than home. We are not really so different from that sailor that has left her ship. Our sailor appreciates her time at port, the sites are interesting, the food a little different, the company varied. But as the sun sets and the salty wind blows in her hair, she misses the sea and the journey it holds for her. So she returns to the ship and the work and the water and sets sail with a smile, anxious to see what the waves will hold for her this time.
I think its' going to be something good.