Written by Amanda Blakeney for her blog, Legally Mommy.

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This past Friday, a close friend and I organized a local ‘Mom’s Night Out’ at the bowling alley. Most of the moms who planned to attend hadn’t even met one another before in person, but – as it tends to be for introverted moms such as myself – already knew so much about one another. Most of the women who came out were actually people I had poured my heart out to in at one point in time or another. It sounds bizarre, I know. And it kind of is. But that’s what life is like, I think, in the age of motherhood – especially for those of us with younger kids who can find it particularly hard to get out of the house. Your online mom group is your tribe.

Turns out, no one was really into bowling, but we did sit down together to eat and have a few drinks. It felt so good to get out of the house, laugh, and share stories with one another as we ate. It was a great time, and we’ll do it again soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important it is for moms to get out of the house and socialize. I get it. We’re all busy. We all have demanding jobs – whether we’re at home or in the workplace – and most times the last thing we want to do is put our bras back on when we’ve already taken it off and head back out into the cold. Or, maybe we’ve had a shitty night with the kids and we just want to veg in front of the TV.

And that’s fine! It’s called survival. Over time though (and I’m the worst culprit), it becomes a habit. Maybe even a coping mechanism. And suddenly it’s been months since we stayed up later than 10 p.m. and talked about something other than the kids.

I’m here to tell you, though, that I TRULY believe that female companionship is KEY to maintaining good mental health.

Motherhood can be lonely. And isolating. And amazing. And so many things wrapped up in one. It can be happy one day and crippling the next. But, one of the things I hear most often from other moms is that motherhood can be lonely. Even when we make opportunities to get out of the house, we feel guilty. Guilty about leaving our partners behind. Guilty about leaving our kids behind. Guilty about the pile of laundry we’ve neglected to get away for the evening. It’s always about the guilt.

Playdates are one thing – and I do see the value in them, I truly do – but they usually involve chasing your kids around or shouting over them. The opportunities for real, adult conversation are rare, especially with young children. And you usually leave feeling more drained than refreshed (with a cranky kid in tow).

I’m here to tell you – you have to get out of the house. You have to take the leap. No one’s telling you to take off your yoga pants – we’ll be just as happy you came either way. Taking time for you – and time to connect with others in a way that recharges you, not exhausts you – is critical to your success as a mom. You need this time away to be the best mom you can be. It doesn’t matter what that time away looks like. It shouldn’t be spend wandering the aisle of the grocery store, bleary-eyed and zombified. It should involve actual conversation with other likeminded adults. Most of all, it should involve asking or being asked: “how are you doing?” Meaning: “how are you REALLY doing?”

Motherhood is all encompassing. It is exhausting and overwhelming and amazing all wrapped into one. But, many of the moms I meet these days have lost a piece of themselves in the process: in this endless quest to provide our kids with the perfect childhood, we have forgotten who WE are. We are burnt out, anxious, and afraid to leave the house. We are pouring our whole heart and soul into this thing called motherhood.

Don’t forget: you’re still YOU. Underneath that mountain of laundry, that woman is still there – the person you were before you had kids. Don’t let yourself forget that you have passions and interests and goals and hopes and dreams that don’t involve potty-training toddlers. Spend time connecting with someone – I mean, really connecting. Carve in time for that passion project and make it happen. Don’t forget that you’re still YOU.

And, get out of the house every once in a while.

You owe it to yourself. And you owe it to your kids.