Have you ever had vacation with babies… without stress?

(Ha! Say all of the “vacationing” mothers breastfeeding babies in airport bathrooms, desperately Googling “baby jet lag.”)

It doesn’t matter where you’re going. If you aren’t going with childcare, a vacation with babies isn’t vacation. It’s a trip. Stress sniffs you out. And one of the best techniques you can use during a stressful situation — whether on vacation or not — is one that I actually used recently.

We were in Provence the last time it happened, in the kitchen with the old stone walls and gorgeous, massive marble sink. I had just finished the dishes, drying my hands with the linen cloth, and replying to a text on my phone. My sweet one-year old boy played with some plastic cups a few feet away. For a good 5 minutes, it was all simplicity and magic. Then, all of the sudden, he screamed. That high-pitched, pain scream.

When I spun around, I saw it — buzzing away from him was a hornet the size of my whole thumb. The attacker was bumbling along on the floor, having just stung my angel’s left hand. I immediately went from mama Zen to mama bear, killing it completely.

And, in that moment, even though this was a potentially deadly accident for a baby, I was calm and focused AF. In that moment, I remembered a question that one of my teachers had asked:

“What’s your Mental Screen Saver?”

As in, literally, what message are you allowing on your mind, over and over again? This time, it was a powerful visual: “I can do this, we can do this.”

After disposing of the [insect] body, I held my boy and called the doctor. I checked him for allergic reactions, and thankfully saw none. We spent the next hour glued together, continuously monitoring for redness, nausea, swelling… with “urgency medical” service on speed dial, just in case. I can do this. We can do this.

Of course, we were extremely lucky. And I am very grateful. This mantra made a potential emergency situation more manageable. Especially the “WE can do this” part.  helped me feel that virtual mama village that helps any situation.

We need this as mothers, because we’re the ones who often take care of everyone else.

We’re the ones my friend Jenna calls the “default” parent. We need these small secret self-care weapons, because they make a huge difference in the tiny disasters (and tragedies) that we handle every day.

Maybe your baby is hurt or colicky or endlessly crying. Perhaps you’re late to the appointment because of that unpredictable traffic …or that predictable last-minute diaper change. Or the trash bag leaks as you’re taking it out, or you get a cray text message, or ALL OF IT ON THE SAME DAY. No matter what, you’ve got options.

Regardless of the flavor of today’s drama, remember that you always have a huge advantage: you can use every stressful situation to train your brain for more resilience.

And if that’s too theoretical for you, cool — just focus on a good, give-you-strength mental-screensaving mantra.

Stress can happen no matter where you are, even in the middle of paradise. But with your tools, you can do this.