Motherhood and Beach Vacations: When It’s Not About Your Tan Anymore

I recently got back from my very first beach vacation as a mom … without the help of my parents. That’s right. No grandparents to foot the bill, hold the baby or enthusiastically respond to those constant “play with me!” demands from the toddler. 

Honestly, I was nervous. It’s almost like the day you realize no one else is going to take the initiative to schedule your dentist appointments anymore.

It’s…up…to…me now?

I thought about all my parents have handled over the years when it came to our beach trips. I thought about all they packed. All they carried back and forth from beach to condo. I thought about the cleverly packed cooler and the perfectly stocked beach bags. My anxiety was through the roof, yet I still felt excited about the challenge and about the funny memories we’d make as we made classic rookie mistakes along the way. 

We left with an almost-empty bank account, but we still felt like it was a huge success for our first try. There were no sunburns or injuries, and my husband and I managed to stay on the same team the entire time. We were proud. 

My top takeaways for fellow mamas? Here’s what I learned…

To them, you look perfect.

It’s a cliche concept, but it’s more important than ever to go easy on the self-body shaming when you’re hunched over building a sandcastle for your kids at the beach. Sure, your tankini doesn’t fit like you imagined it would. You didn’t lose those 10 pounds. Your stretch marks from baby #2 are more visible than ever, and your messy bun looks more like Miss Trunchbull’s from Matilda than the ones you see in Instagram ads.

The truth is, no one cares. The ones you love most are there in the sand with you, amazed at the hole you just dug, the drip castle you just made and the seashell you found in the ocean. You’re covered in sand, and you even packed their favorite snacks. You’re their hero, and you look perfect to them. 

Eat the popcorn shrimp, and enjoy it.

Save the buzz for nighttime.

You know that feeling you get after a couple spiked seltzers on the beach? The one that says, “Hmm…I’m feelin’ gooooood. Heeeeey, this is MY VACATION TOO! I’m gonna…HAVE ANOTHER ONE!”

While your little buzz won’t harm anyone, it’ll make the baby a LOT heavier on the walk back to the condo. It’ll make the heat a little hotter, and it’ll make that nap you can’t have look even more amazing. 

Yes, you absolutely deserve to enjoy yourself … but, I promise you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more if you save most of the booze for after the kids’ bedtime. Day drinking is a tempting little devil in our world. It rarely ends in our favor. 

Buy the wagon.

Need I say more? BUY THE WAGON. Buy the wagon, and consider the fact that skinny little wheels are a bitch in the sand. Splurge now, suffer less later. You’ve got your tiny humans, a million juice boxes, way too many Goldfish, five buckets, twelve towels, two chairs and an endless collection of overpriced sunscreen to haul everywhere you go.

Buy the wagon. 

The pool is most important.

Kids like the pool better. That’s that. When you’re searching for a place to stay, check out the pool option(s). Sure, they’re all full of pee, but some are nicer and much roomier than others. If you wouldn’t want to spend half of your trip at the pool you see online, don’t stay there. 

It’s not about you anymore.

This was big for me. Yes, I understand it’s not all about me. I have the sad boobs, postpartum hair loss and outdated wardrobe to remind me daily. 

Still, when I think back to trips to the beach when I was younger, I remember my tan being my top priority. As a mom, these trips are 100% different. 

My tan lines were hard to see after five days, but I left the beach with more sand in my bottoms than I had as a five year old. I wasn’t layering on the tanning oil. I was frequently reapplying SPF 30 to ensure I’d never be too uncomfortable to play. 

I would love a tan, but it’s not about me anymore. I think it’s important that I enjoy myself, but my standards have changed.  

While our young children might not remember these trips, we still get to experience those “firsts” with them. We get to revisit our own childhoods with shovels and nets and embrace those moments, knowing they’re having the time of their lives. We get to give them the “best day ever” again and again. 

It’s not easy. It’s different than it used to be, but it’s worth it. 

Mary Grace Pinkard is a mom of two precious girls, Harvey (2.5) and Palmer (5 months) and wife to Chad, a physician currently in his pediatric residency at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. She’s originally from Laurel, Mississippi, and attended the University of Georgia. After college, Mary Grace worked in public relations and advertising. While she now stays at home with her girls, she’s a certified sleep consultant and the social media director for The Cradle Coach, a baby and toddler sleep consulting company serving families worldwide. She doesn’t know exactly what she enjoys doing in her spare time because "spare time currently doesn’t exist"…yet, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Mary Grace is all about sharing her motherhood moments with zero filter, embracing the messy and connecting with other moms through the raw and the real (sometimes hilarious) struggles motherhood brings. If you're looking for sleep tips, be sure to follow @thecradlecoach on Instagram!


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