In the last few months, I've found myself saying some version of this sentence to various friends: "You know what we need to do? Take a vacation together!"
My sisters-in-law and I have a fantasy where we all head to Vegas for the weekend and leave the kids with their dads. We'd love to do it, but haven't yet. Our schedules are hard to coordinate, yes, but for me there are two other big factors to consider:
“Am I going to spend money on a vacation that doesn't involve my husband and kids?” (the guilt factor), and “Where will that money come from?” (the financial factor).
While out with one of my dearest friends, the "You know what we should do?" conversation started as we hit our third glass of wine. Our daydreaming took us to Chicago, a city I love and one she's always wanted to visit. I suddenly got a little annoyed and more than a bit frustrated by this redundant, unfulfilled fantasy.
"We always talk about this but you know what? We never do it," I said with shrugged shoulders, a "hmph" and a swig of wine.
"Fine," she said. "So let's put a date on the calendar."
She pulled out her phone. I did the same. We started throwing out dates. Anything between the start of school and Christmas was impossible. January through March were out because of my husband's travel schedule. We finally settled on a date 10 months away, in June. To ensure that the wine did not sabotage our plans by erasing memory of this monumental decision, my friend sent me this email:
"In June, you've committed to going to Chicago with me."
Waiting 10 months seemed, at the very least, sad. But then I realized, planning this far out would help alleviate the issues that have held me back from taking this time for myself. I could budget for it financially, and I could budget the time as well. And considering how busy our lives are, it seems planning far in advance is the only way this dream will happen.
Three days away from work and family might not seem like much, but when you're new to the idea it seems daunting. In the next few months I can prepare my kids for what it's like for Mom not to be there at their every waking moment. I can ensure that my husband blocks off the time at work so he can single-handedly take care of the pickups and dropoffs. I can also convince myself that it's okay to do something fun and something that is just for me.
And I can make sure that when the time comes to get on that plane, I don't feel guilt over spending money I don't have. If I put away $100 a month for the next 10 months, I should have enough to cover airfare, hotel, food and, since it's Chicago, shopping.
Every week I'll take $25 out of our cash budget (which doesn't feel like too much of a hit) and put it in a jar. By June, I'll be financially and mentally prepared. And I'll be excited, too. Spontaneity has its allure, but having a date on the calendar to look forward to delivers long-term satisfaction.