Can you leave Mrs Guilt in the departure lounge when holidaying without your kids?
I am taking a break from the parent world to get a reminder of my pre-kids’ life with a carefree few days celebrating one of my best friend’s 40th.
When I tell other parents about this, I get a mixed reaction.
‘I would sell both of my kids to be able to do that.’
‘My daughter is 7 and I haven’t had a single night away from her. I don’t know how you can leave your kids.’
These reactions have made the guilt monster wake up and get right in my face. Slapping me across both cheeks.
Am I being selfish?
I have decided that no, I am not. Although clearly not everyone agrees.
I spend all my days trying to be all things to all people. Mummy, employee, wife, daughter, sister and friend. And this weekend, it’s that last category that is going to get my attention. Because my friends mean a lot to me. And yes I am lucky that I can do this. As I write this from the airport departure lounge, my husband and my mum are back home holding the fort. It’s not like I am sodding off and handing them over to complete strangers.
I haven’t written endless lists and instructions of what to do because they are Daddy and Nana to my girls every single day and they know what to do. They will just get on with things. Most likely doing things a little differently but not really noticing I am not there. And they will probably also have a lot more fun without Boring Mum interfering.
So what did I tell three-year-old, Martha?
I told her the truth. I told her I was going on holiday for a few days, that I loved her and I would miss her and that she was going to have a sleepover at Nana’s.
The squeal of delight was almost deafening.
And as I waved goodbye, feeling a bit teary, I repeated: ‘I love you, Martha’.
‘When is Nana coming to get me?’ she asks. ‘I love Nana.’
‘I’ll be home soon. I’ll really miss you.’
‘Is Nana coming after breakfast?’
‘A bit later.’
‘Or is Nana coming at lunchtime? Will Nana be here before it goes dark?’
Thank fuck for Nana. Not sure I’ll even be missed. Voice in head: My kids don’t even like me anyway.
So the chalk and cheese emotional rollercoaster rumbles along. I shed a tear as I drive away from the house. The heart strings pull a little tighter when I look at the excited kids with parents queuing to check-in and wish I had my little scamps with me.
And then I remember back to the last time we were boarding a flight as a family of four and I get shudders and realise I am not quite over that journey yet. (Yes, we were that family and one day I may even feel ready to tell the tale. I imagine the karma police are after me and I will be sat next to the family with the screaming kids. I will shoot them devil stares and tut a lot. Just make him stop crying, goddamit.)
But as I hand over my passport and boarding pass, an involuntary beam stretches across my face as I know I need this break as much as the next parent. I’m very lucky I get to actually take it. And I ruddy can’t wait to get on the plane. And read. And watch a film. And nap!
And then I start to feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Oh FFS. I give up.
Things I am looking forward to the most:
- Sleep – although I think I may be thwarted on this one – see below
- Only having to look after myself and my bags. Despite being the person in the group that used to always need hold luggage for a weekend away when everyone else seemed to manage with a clutch bag, it was so easy to pack just for me, myself and I. It took less time than organising the shit I need to nip out to buy milk with the rascals in tow
- Gliding through the airport and only having my own suitcase to look after. Not a stray buggy, trunki or lose-at-your-peril ‘fluffy’ in sight
- Dancing – to music, not the Postman Pat theme tune. But shit, I don’t think I remember how to dance like an adult, in the company of adults
- A bit of personal space – as far as I remember my friends don’t use me as a climbing frame, pull out my hair or stick their fingers in my eye/ear/nose just for kicks
- Washing my hair every day
- Wearing black and white clothes without fear of them being smeared in chocolate/snot/yoghurt
- Going to the loo and having a shower on my own – obvs
- Mealtimes – surely no elaboration required
- Going out for the whole day and only needing my phone, purse and a bottle of water. So long baby wipes! (Although they are bloody useful. Maybe I will take, just in case)
- Walking down the street at a normal adult human pace
Things I am not looking forward to:
- Not getting enough sleep – as a parent sleep is my obsession and I worry that jetlag will hamper my blissful, toddler-free hotel nights
- Sitting on a flight with a bladder the size of a walnut (Is that too generous? I think some walnuts are pretty big)
- Missing a little person reaching out with their tiny fingers to hold my hand or their infectious chuckling at unfunny things
- That’s all I’ve got – if this was a pros and cons list we can see which side is victorious!
I’ve been looking forward to this time away from the routine for yonks but I’m sure the reality will be I spend a lot of the time missing them and worrying that I should’ve written more lists.
This year I have 360 days to be Mum and so for the next four I am going to put that part of me on the backburner. Well, I will try. Looking down at my jumper, I seem to have two random Mr Men stickers firmly attached to my chest. She’s not that daft. She knows how to make sure she and her little sister are not forgotten about.