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“Canadians?” the comedian said in front of the crowd. “What brings you to Chicago?” We told him it was a birthday celebration trip. “Oh! Is it your birthday this weekend?” he asked. “No, this YEAR!” we responded. The audience laughed. As three friends with young children at home, we had struggled to find a window of time when we could simultaneously leave our lives behind – but this was all the more reason to do it. This was our 40th birthday gift to ourselves.

I love my life. I really do. But like most good things, my life requires work. When will I get to the housework? What will we have for dinner? Who has swimming lessons today? What do I need to answer in my Inbox? How long can I responsibly let the kids watch TV? 

When I travel with my family, I’m not entirely off the hook from reality: I still have to cater to the needs of my children to some degree. On the other hand, leaving the kids behind isn’t easy. When I worked full time, going away without the kids meant using my precious vacation time that could otherwise be spent with them. Now that I stay home, I’m the primary caregiver and my husband has to cover for all of the times when we don’t have childcare lined up. But is it worth it? HECK YES.

Millenium Park Fun!

Meghan and Victoria were my roommates in law school and are still two of my dearest friends. Until I moved to Halifax two years ago, we were dispersed in three provinces (Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia). We’ve done a great job at keeping in touch and have had “reunions” in each of our resident cities, but our trip to Chicago was our first child-free trip together since 2009. Here are some of the main reasons this trip meant the world to me:

Enjoying some bubbly at the Godfrey Hotel

1. Conversation. As parents, it can often be hard to have an uninterrupted conversation with friends. We are either at home being interrupted by our children, or we’re squeezing in a personal conversation at the office between meetings. Our girls trip allowed us time to ask the extra questions, and laugh a little longer. One of my favourite moments of the trip happened after we had just gone for ice cream. Meghan doesn’t have a sweet tooth so she opted out. Afterwards, we were walking down the street and a hipster-type in her late twenties tapped on Meghan’s shoulder and said, “Excuse me, you have food on your…bottom.” I guess she sized us up at prudes because I can’t imagine she ever said “bottom” before or after that moment. Usually, Megs is a busy mother and Bay Street lawyer, but in that moment, she was just our friend with ice cream cone stuck to her butt, and we thought it was hilarious.

Hamilton is a must-see for musical fans

2. Food. Man, Give me allllll the foods. Chicago is known to be one of the best places in the world for food, and being able to enjoy it with my girlfriends made it even better. If I’m being honest, though, I know my family would enjoy the food, too.

Highly recommend the Wildberry Cafe for brunch!
Deep Dish Pizza: A delicious Chicago tradition!

3. Freedom. To be clear, nothing about my everyday life as a parent makes me feel trapped. It’s a life full of bountiful blessings. Even still, being with your girlfriends offers more freedom: freedom to be yourself (without also having to be a mother or wife), freedom to get up early and see the city before it awakes, freedom to stay up late and enjoy your hotel’s rooftop patio, freedom to go off on your own to ride a bike to a beautiful art gallery, freedom from anyone’s sleep schedule aside from your own, freedom to take an architectural boat tour!

Loved Chicago’s Architectural Boat Tour!
Navy Pier, early morning
Chicago has a great bike rental program!

4. Shopping. Holy moly, there is a lot of great shopping in Chicago! We hit the Fashion Outlets in Rosemont as soon as we landed. We had a pretty good haul but that didn’t stop us from doing some great downtown shopping! Vic and Megs are my perfect shopping partners because we’re able to spot items that we know the other will like. It’s a dream!

Yes, this is a new outfit!

I am infinitely lucky to have found these friendships, and it’s never something I take for granted. Taking the time to nurture the friendship away from other distractions is entirely worth it. And in a few years when the kids are a little older, it will be that much easier for us to sneak away for a long weekend. I can hardly wait!

Hotel rooftop patio views