Louise Emma Clarke misses holidaying solo…
Before the birth of my second child, I listened to a hypnobirthing CD. I pressed play, sunk into a deep bath, and listened as the narrator asked me to imagine the place I felt happiest in the world. This, she informed me in soothing tones, was the place I should try and take my mind during the agony of childbirth.
So I shut my eyes and imagined that place – and I was soon transported to a tropical beach, where I lay on one of those huge day beds strewn with gigantic pillows to lounge on. To my left was a table with a chilled cocktail to sip on as I listened to the waves lapping the shore. My company was my husband, reading on a lounger nearby (I wasn’t kind enough to share). I had a book and my phone (as I’d probably need to share a few pictures on social media to boast about my good fortune). It was definitely the place I wanted to go when contractions gripped my body – in fact, it was definitely the place I wanted to go full stop.
There was, of course, one thing missing from this idyllic vision; the toddler. And if I were to imagine this place again, his baby brother would be missing too. As let’s face it, holidays just aren’t the same anymore.
When it came down to it, the hypnobirthing CD was forgotten and I relied on something a lot stronger, but I haven’t been able to get the vision of that beach out of my head. Because as much as I love my children, I miss the holidays we used to have. I miss floating around in pretty kaftans, falling asleep on sun-loungers, swigging cocktails until the sun rises, and lazing in bed until we realise we’ve missed breakfast. And when I count how many years it will be until we can enjoy such holidays again, I run out of fingers.
It starts with the journey. Gone are the days when we can enjoy browsing in Duty Free. Now we spend our time arguing over whether to keep the toddler trapped in his buggy (easier now) or let him run around to burn some energy (easier later). On our last trip, we plumped for the latter and released him as we sat in a café outside our gate. As we munched on pain au chocolate, we kept a careful eye on the toddler running up and down a ramp a few meters away – but the next time we looked up from our pastries, he was attempting to run the wrong way down a moving walkway, tripping up two Japanese tourists in the process, While the husband leapt to his feet faster than I’ve seen him move in a long time, I enjoyed a few quiet moments fantasizing about running in the opposite direction and boarding the plane on my own.
Then there’s the holiday itself. As a mother, the first few hours are spent carrying out a careful risk assessment; the pool that the toddler could slip into, the staircase he could fall down, the coffee machine at toddler height… As a father, however, the first few hours are spent identifying the best spot at the pool, the location of the bar, and the sports channel on the TV. For this reason, it usually takes until day two to start enjoying ourselves (by which time, the toddler has discovered the coffee machine and slipped into the pool three times).
Then there’s the food. Despite packing my suitcase with familiar snacks, there comes a time when you have to go local – and with a fussy toddler, this is always a battle. My mind turns to a recent holiday in Thailand, when we ordered fish fingers from the resident chef (phew, we thought, something we know he likes, we thought), only to be handed a plate of fresh fish fillets drowned in chili sauce. We weren’t surprised when the kitchen cabinets enjoyed more of that chili sauce than the toddler as his plate was flung across the kitchen.
On that same holiday, we also dealt with a case of extreme food poisoning, where a villa of 4 children and 4 adults fell one-by-one throughout the night. Our son was the last to succumb, waking up happily at the usual time before vomiting over my green-tinged husband as he stooped to pick him up. When I consider travelling overseas, this is the day I choose to remember. It stops me in my tracks.
In fact, this year I’m seriously considering saving the holiday fund and booking onto a hypnobirthing course instead. I may have to fake a pregnancy to get away with it, but that will be child’s play compared to travelling with my brood. I’m already working on the waddle.