Going away without my kids and husband was worth every saved-up penny, every ounce of worry, and every minute spent prepping for my absence. But it also made me realize how lucky I am for life I live with my family.

Sarah Bradley
Courtesy of Sarah Bradley

If you're a mom of little kids, you probably heard all those parenting experts encouraging you to take a momcation and thought, "Umm, yeah, that sounds great...but it's totally unrealistic." You can barely leave the house for a lunch date with the girls—how are you supposed to skip town for 48 to 72 hours without your kids? Can your family actually survive without you? And would it even be worth all the effort to make it happen?

Well, last summer I took one of these legendary momcations, and l'm here to tell you it was worth every saved-up penny, every ounce of worry, and every minute spent prepping for my absence. If it seems impossible to pull off, I won't argue with you there—but it was still one of the most valuable experiences of my parenting life.

A little about me: I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling, part-time freelancing mom of three boys, ages 8, 6, and 4. Needless to say, I'm busy. All. The. Time. And after eight years of never having more than a few hours to myself, my saintly husband decided it was time to send me on a mini vacay that could double as a solo writing retreat (I was knee-deep in the second draft of a novel at the time).

I was promised an Airbnb cottage by a lake. I was promised hours to sip coffee in absolute, glorious silence. I was promised no interruptions, no intrusions, no panicked text messages about what to feed the kids for lunch. As daunted as I was by the idea of going, how could I possibly say no to all that?

So I went—for four days and three nights, to a sweet little cottage within driving distance of our home. It was nestled in the woods and had french doors leading out to a screened-in porch that hung directly over the lake. The view was incredible.

But walking through the rooms for the first time, I felt unexpectedly anxious. It was both thrilling and unnerving to be alone. Where was the white noise I had grown accustomed to in eight years of raising kids? The racing footsteps and toys spilling out of boxes? The crying and bickering and incessant questions interrupting my every thought? The warm bodies asking to be picked up?

Honestly, I didn't last long before texting my husband to check in. When he responded with a simple "We're fine!" I was disappointed.

Okay, maybe not disappointed...more like lost. I knew I should try to distance myself, but it went so against my nature. My kids' lives—their schedules, their routines, their needs—had dictated my every move for so long that I wasn't sure what to do without them pointing me in one direction or another. I could eat dinner whenever I wanted. I could grab my keys and drive into town. I could spend literally hours upon hours writing. What parallel universe had I stumbled into here?

Sarah Bradley
Courtesy of Sarah Bradley

For the first 24 hours, it was bizarre. I missed my kids. I felt like I was missing a limb (or three). But then, waking up the next morning and eating breakfast on the porch, I realized what a privilege it was to be there. I had been desperate, for years, for the chance to occupy space in my own head without distractions. Without guilt. Without a timeline. I was not going to waste it moping around.

So I didn't. I finished my novel draft. I woke up naturally, on my own, without kids diving into bed with me. I watched old episodes of Parks and Recreation while I ate meals on the couch. I cleaned up after myself, appreciating the fact that there was no one else to clean up after. And I practically lived on that screened-in porch, parked in an Adirondack chair, soaking up the peaceful lake view and all the silence of the woods around me.

When the trip was almost over and I had only hours left before check out, I was ready to go home. By then, I was even looking forward to the lack of personal space and crack-of-dawn wakeups, the crumbs on the floor and the toys in the hall, the sibling fights and the high-pitched screams of "He hit meeee!" As much as I loved my solo 72 hours, being away from that stuff reaffirmed that my life at home with my kids, as chaotic as it can be, is exactly the one I want.

I firmly believe that this is one of the biggest benefits of the momcation. I mean, was it nice to sit down for a meal and not get up again until it was finished (you know, like a human being, not a waitress)? Of course. All moms should have the chance to slow down, savor, and enjoy life for a couple of consecutive days—yes, even you, exhausted mom reading this—but it wasn't the best part of the trip.

Being alone for an extended period of time was hugely restorative to my mom soul. So much so that when my husband asked if I wanted to book the cottage again this summer, I said, "No thanks." Don't get me wrong: I would love to go on a momcation again someday. I just don't feel like I need it right now the way I needed it before. It served its purpose—it gave me a different, more positive attitude about the noise, mess, servitude, and sacrifice that makes up life with small children. It's an attitude that's stuck with me ever since.

My momcation was, more than anything, a reminder of the life I live with my kids—and it's a life I'm lucky to call mine. While I don't need a break from it again just yet, I'm sure the day will come when I find myself frantically searching for an escape that lasts longer than a solitary stroll through Target.

When it does, I know just the place.