I love a holiday. Whether it’s a city break, week in the sun or just a night away in the countryside – I love it! I have always thought it’s really important to get away: time away from life’s mundanity. No washing up. No laundry. Time to read books. Sunbathing. Long hot baths. Perfection.
When I was pregnant, we didn’t have a babymoon. I was too poorly and quite frankly we were totally overwhelmed by everything we had to buy. I missed going away that year but had other priorities. So naturally, the next summer I was dying to get away. I planned and planned because I had a small precious baby that needed protection. I was still in the baby phase and hadn’t gone back to work so wasn’t really thinking about my needs and was, quite frankly, not capable of reading books again yet. Baby napped, we relaxed, it was great. The holiday matched my expectations – I knew I wouldn’t really be drinking or doing much. My main goal was sleep! And given that I was surviving on very little sleep – the bar wasn’t set too high.
Fast forward to this year. We decided we needed a holiday after going though 2 really gruelling miscarriages. This time I really felt that I needed a break from day to day life. I was craving the kind of relaxing holiday in the sun I’d had many times before. I looked forward to sitting by the pool, dipping in and out when I needed to cool off. I joyfully filled my kindle with books I could wait to read. I imagined late nights eating al fresco enjoying some sangria. I planned to return home with a tan.
Clearly I forgot that we have a toddler.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have loved this holiday. But I came with the wrong mindset. I needed time out … I was thinking very much from my point of view of my needs. Here’s why that mindset had to quickly be changed:
- Toddlers hate staying up late so when everywhere closes for siesta you will discover the only option for dinner is a smokey hole of a bar filled with the local drunks that never closes or … ice cream. Boo had ice cream and crisps for most dinners. We quickly learned to eat more at lunch.
- Toddlers don’t sit still. Sunbathing is out. That is far too boring for toddlers who want to be in the pool with you all the time. I discovered that if we timed a nap right I could get an hour or so in so all was not lost. I did manage to get really sunburnt though because I was trying to speed up my tan.
- Toddlers are noisy. And busy. Not the ideal combination to accompany a gripping novel. I love reading books from the Man Booker prize lists as they always have a bit more to them but I really should have opted for some holiday romances. It gets really tedious rereading pages because you had to stop and play with Peppa or help unpeal a sticker. Instead, my day time reading became night time reading … sleep is for losers anyway. And I’ve only read 4 books. That is unheard of for me pre motherhood!
- Toddlers find big cities and attractions stressful. We thought a trip to Barcelona would be great. I love it there – such a vibrant city. Boo cried from the word go that she had to hold our hand or go in the pushchair. We managed 45 minutes of high pitched screaming before giving up and getting the train outta there. Our site seeing quickly became all about the park. There were 3 within walking distance. We visited at least 2 a day. It wasn’t quite the exploring I had planned but Boo was happy and I got a little bit of walking in.
- Going to the beach is not fun for toddlers when it is baking hot. At home, I’d have a car packed with adequate equipment to deal with heat and being on the beach. Here it is a five minute trek from our apartment and everyone is stressed before we get there. The sand here is coarse and the sea goes from shallow to (adult) waist high in about 5 metres. Not ideal. Our beach is quiet so even an ice cream means a little walk. After strolling to the beach full of high hopes we decided to stick to the pool. We will go to the beach again at home and maybe try again in a few years when we are on holiday.
- Toddlers are fussy. Boo usually eats anything. On the first day she happily scoffed anchovies and olives. Day 2 she had paella. Day 3 she had had enough and wanted home comforts. Pretty much the only things she has eaten since then has been chips, crisps and ice cream. I get it – it can be overwhelming after a while. But it means her patience in restaurants is seriously lacking! We ended up going to the same place three times because they did chips Boo would eat. I never usually do that – I want to eat in as many different places as possible. But if Boo is happy, we are happy.
- Toddlers wake up early. Even on holiday. Fancy a lie in? Tough! M and I take it in turns to get up with Boo but, even so, the day starts much earlier than planned. It means the day ends earlier too but since we have to be back at our appartment by 9 to stop Boo turning into a gremlin it worked out ok.
- Toddlers are messy. Just because I’m not at home, I still have lots of the same chores. Boo leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. Thank goodness we bought so many wipes!! Thankfully my attitude is much more relaxed. That may change when I can’t get the blackcurrant ice cream stains out when I get home …
I hope you haven’t read that and thought I’m a) ungrateful b) totally self centred or c) a terrible parent. The truth is, we’ve had a lovely time. Just very different. And that’s ok. Before you become a parent you have glimpses of what your future will be like – but it’s the details that catch you out and are often totally unexpected. I have to say it hasn’t happened for a while that my expectations vs reality have been so at odds! Thankfully we are a good team and I’m happy just being with M and Boo. We are good at adjusting!
But, something that hasn’t changed … now we are the end of the holiday I cannot wait to get home. I want to put joggers and a hoody on and drink so much TEA. And put Boo to bed at a normal time and eat normal meals. Funny how you crave mundanity after being away from it for such a short time!