I Check Into a Hotel Twice a Year by Myself, and It's Made Me a Better Mom

This past weekend was one of my favorite events of the year. It wasn't a holiday or my birthday or some big milestone for my beloved children. It was an event of my own making, one that I've also decided should happen at least twice a year. It's the weekend I check myself into a hotel — all alone — and don't emerge for at least 24 hours (48 hours is preferable, but I'll take what I can get). It's my biyearly, kid-free self-care extravaganza, and it is glorious.

My now-mandatory tradition began organically. My town, a far western suburb of Chicago, boasts a charming hotel, known for being located on the river, housing a sweet little spa, and hosting many a wedding and anniversary party. A few years ago, my husband and I had scored a night away from our kids, then 1 and 4, and instead of heading downtown, as was our normal tradition, we decided to ditch the hour drive and check into the hotel we had heard so much about, located less than 10 minutes from home.

I have only one rule for myself during these weekends: I don't do anything I don't truly want to do.

The minute we got in our room, which featured a balcony overlooking the river, a huge bed facing a fireplace, and a bathroom with the biggest tub I'd ever seen, I was sold. Relaxation flooded over me instantly; I didn't even need to visit the spa that was literally across the hall. Thirty minutes in that bathtub, followed by an hour of reading a book in front of the fireplace, wearing the plush robe the hotel provided, was more soothing than the best massage I'd ever had.

My husband and I read, watched Netflix, and ordered room service (getting dressed to go out to dinner seemed like way too much work), then slept 10 hours that night. We ate the complimentary breakfast the next morning, read the paper while sitting on the balcony, and went home feeling more chilled out than we had since our oldest child was born.

I realized there was just one thing keeping the experience from being total self-care bliss, and although I love him, that thing was my husband. He's my best friend, but alone time has always been vital to my happiness, and it's been sorely lacking since I had kids (duh). If one night in that cozy hotel room had been that beneficial with him along, just how zen-ed out could I get all by myself? Plus, not bringing him meant I didn't even have to worry about finding childcare for my night away. Bonus.

In the few years since, I've become so dedicated to my solo hotel experiences that it's become almost ritualistic. I request an early check-in to my preferred room (the same one from that first stay); I unpack the pajamas, loungewear, books, candles, portable speaker, and wine I bring along with me; and within an hour, I'm in that tub, soaking my stresses away. It's amazing how much relaxation you can pack into a couple of days if you really try.

This past weekend, I had a facial and a massage, took two long baths, read a book and two newspapers, and binge-watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I have only one rule for myself during these weekends: I don't do anything I don't truly want to do. No working out unless that sounds enjoyable. No meeting friends for a coffee or drink. No leaving the room in general unless it's for something that will add to my self-care experience, like more wine or that massage at the spa across the hall.

I'll admit that coming home after a day or two of doing absolutely nothing but taking care of my own needs can be a bit of a shock. But allowing myself a true break — one not filled with long travels or a jam-packed social schedule — allows me to come back to my kids totally refreshed and rested. And we both deserve that.