As we embark on our road trip back to Brisbane, I’m reminded of our first attempt at a family holiday. It was our seven-year anniversary and an opportunity to plan a getaway with our little prince.
The ‘me’ in me wanted what we’d always had, but the ‘woman and mother’ in me knew lists had to be made and adjustments were in order.
My pre-motherhood holiday checklist
- Is it worth spending money on nice accommodation or cheap accommodation and more spending money?
- Can I walk to the restaurants/bars/etc?
- Is there a fridge for alcohol?
- Is there a bottle shop within waking distance?
My motherhood holiday checklist
- The accommodation needs to have a kitchen to wash bottles, a kettle or pot to boil water and a fridge to store bottles and food.
- Need to do a little grocery shop.
- Need to make sure they have a decent bathroom with big shower or bath or decent laundry sink.
- Can a port-a-cot fit in this room?
- No stairs, too hard to bring pram etc. up.
- Secure parking.
- Lift from parking to room.
- If we want a night out we need a sitter.
- If we get a sitter we can’t stay too far away (wine country is four hours away, that’s out).
- If we stay more than one night we need to bring his jolly jumper or he’ll be too unsettled.
- We’ll spend more time at the apartment, so I want something nice with amenities.
My husband’s list
- Show up
This was the thinking-in-bed list before the actual list. Needless to say, this family trip was exhausting, even before we got there!
I’d booked a luxury sub-penthouse. It had three bedrooms so my brother-in-law could stay a night and baby sit while we went out for our anniversary dinner. I picked an apartment walking distance from the casino and our dinner reservation, so we could be home quickly in case of an emergency. The apartment had a spa, pool table, games room, sauna, and BBQ so being stuck at the apartment wasn’t looking too shabby. Big kitchen, great elevators, pram-friendly walking track. The apartment was immaculate with breathtaking river views, spirits were high, cue amazing first family holiday!!!
First night was a dream, managed pre-drinks, my first uber ride, food was amazing and lost all our money at the casino. A successful date all round .
Second day: The kid’s out of routine and out of his mind. Screaming down the apartments and refusing to sleep. Leisurely stroll along the river = someone being murdered. Home time asap!
What about a relaxing sauna or spa for some ‘me time’? NOT, they’re under construction. OK, let’s just go back to the apartment.
Slowly this beautiful apartment is feeling like a prison.
He’s finally asleep, yes! Some much-needed adult time. NOT! Husband has vertigo … wtf! So I’m on my own, on our last night, eating chocolate and crying. My husband is confined to the bedroom and I can hear my son waking up.
This seems oddly familiar, like my everyday life with a prettier back drop. I’m again, doing the changing, feeding, caring alone and since it’s our last night the next list appears.
My end-of-holiday checklist
- Clean apartment.
- Pack bag.
- Take him for a walk to calm him down.
- Get started on packing the car so it’s not a rush in the morning.
- Kill husband.
- Prep bottles for tonight.
- Never go on a family holiday again.
It’s not my poor husband’s fault or my precious son’s. It’s reality. The reality that things are not the same. The realisation that you are a parent, always a parent, always thinking, always listing and always preparing. I didn’t know at the time and felt hard done by. Now, I look back at it as a lesson. One that’s served me well on our current trip.
Being a parent is a full-time job. Holiday, road trips, dinners, anniversaries etc. never changes this fact. A privileged responsibility but a privilege nonetheless. The ‘me before’ struggled to grasp this sometimes, but the ‘me now’ knows this. A child doesn’t limit or restrict my experiences. I once had a picture of what life would be. Every day I draw a new picture, one that includes my beautiful little family. Spending too much time on the expectation of an experience, ruins the joy of experiencing it.
A family holiday may be more preparation, more lists, more time and effort but it’s precious valuable time with every member of my family, free from work schedules or daily routines. A road trip with a baby means more stops, longer drive times and long periods of entertaining a little human, but the sheer wonderment in a child’s eye seeing their first kangaroo, the countryside or dolphin in the ocean is priceless. Sure a dinner date with your husband and son as a third wheel isn’t what you imagined. But today we went out together, we went to that restaurant I was dying to go too and I had a chance to dress up and feel like the woman he married.
So maybe all those before things feel different and at times, not worth the trouble, but life happens so quickly and before you know it they won’t want to go on family holidays or will have holidays of their own.
Don’t spend too much time on the expectation of an experience and ruin the joy of experiencing it.