THE KIDS BICKER, THE DOG IS SICK, the inbox at work never clears. Dirty clothes are breeding in the laundry hamper. And what's for dinner?
There's only one response to this chaos: road trip!
For decades, men carved out time to be with their guy friends and get away from it all. They've had bowling night, poker night, golf tournaments and Vegas weekends. Now, more and more women want "girlfriend getaways."
"The relationships we build are `snippet relationships' -- a little bit here, a little bit there," says Traci Williams, 41, of Dallas, who does regular getaways with three other women. "When you're a mother and a friend and a wife, you're interrupted all the time. Men will take their time. But in order to get quality time, women need getaways."
A survey last year by AAA found that 24 percent of American women have done a girlfriend getaway in the past three years, and 39 percent plan to do one in the next three years. An American Express Travel survey of agents in June found similar results.
"They're getting away, they're doing it in style and they're saying, `I'm away. Don't bother me,'" says Audrey Henley, vice president of marketing for American Express Travel.
"Everybody's lives are getting busier and more complicated, and I think there's just a sense of people wanting to connect with each other," she says.
The Fine Living Network plans to launch a series next month called All-Girl Getaways, and Williams and her friends will be featured in one episode. The industry is taking notice, too; many travel agencies cater to women travelers.
April Merenda, founder of Gutsy Women Travel, said the concept of "gutsy women" was "to indulge in that women's spirit of wanting to invest some time into themselves. It's not about climbing Mount Everest. It's saying, `You know, I nurture everyone in my life, everyone in my circle, and I need to do something for me.'"
That theme of deep friendship echoes among women who go on girlfriend getaways. So does trust.
"In our society, mothers tend to judge each other -- parenting styles, working versus nonworking, breast versus bottle, whatever," says Kelly Brown, 39, of Silver Spring, who goes on getaways with three female friends she met in high school.
"In this environment, even though the four of us run the gamut from stay-at-home to full-time work or primary-income person, we let go of the judging and see each other for who we truly are and realize that it's no different for any of us -- the struggles, the complications, the stresses."
Lisa Baldwin, 44, of Leesburg, Va., gets together regularly with some of her sorority sisters, all members of Alpha Phi whom she met at the University of Maryland, College Park. They call their gatherings "Estrofest."
"More than anything, you get a reconnection with people who really get you," says Baldwin.
Williams and her friends -- Dana Davis, 38; Michelle Kneeland, 36; and Cheryl Brown, 38 -- took a Caribbean cruise last July and tried just about everything offered, including the onboard surf pool and zip-line excursions.
"We let our hair down. We're free," says Davis. "Women lose spontaneity, adventure, relaxation. By having girls that you get along with and encourage you, you get that back."
Baldwin went on a getaway to New York City recently that started out with plans for appetizers at a friend's place in Chinatown, followed by dinner. "We never made it out of her apartment," she says. "We ended up -- like only women can do -- we ended up talking."
To which her husband, Tom, said, " `Lisa, I'm glad you had fun, but here's the deal, you guys could have gone to the Comfort Suites in Leesburg and saved a hell of a lot of money.'
"And I said, `Yeah, but it wouldn't have been the same.' Sometimes, you just have to not be at your house. You have to be away from your regular life."
Gutsy Women founder Merenda travels constantly with her tour groups, but she goes on her own girlfriend getaways, too, including a week every year at a timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
"I just love being able to open up to my friends," she says. "We all have pressures, a lot of things women are going through right now -- we're all caretakers. My mother is 86 years old and needs a lot of attention.
Many women enjoy the more upscale adventure, according to the American Express survey from last June.
Girlfriend getaways don't have to be expensive and distant, though. Locally, Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City offers girlfriend weekends.
Kelly Brown and her friends started out on the high-end side. "We went to a hotel that had an Elizabeth Arden spa," Brown says. "We did spa treatments all day, and we sat up until 3 in the morning and talked. And it was like we hadn't left the student lounge in high school."
But soon, the concept evolved to "well you know, let's just stay at somebody's house because it's more comfortable and easier and cheaper," Brown says.