Becky Field remembers what holidaying was like pre-kids and dreams of finishing a chapter in a book on her next holiday.
Emma Gannon’s recent article in the Sunday Times (https://bit.ly/2OZMEVy) got me thinking about holidaying with children. She says we’ve 'forgotten how to holiday,' and reminisces fondly back to a time where mobile phones didn’t have data and - more than likely - cost you a fortune if someone called you whilst you were away. A time where you had to go to internet cafes to contact friends and buy phone cards to get cheap calls home. It was also a time before a lot of us had become parents.
Having just come back exhausted from a week away with the tribe, relaxing isn’t a word I would use to describe my holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish the time I have with my family. We aren’t together as a four as often as I would like, but bloody hell it’s hard.
It’s been a full-on week of sandcastle building, lazy river carrying, fairy searching, nose wiping, picnic making madness. And it’s been fun. We have laughed a lot. But I have also lost my temper, slumped in the car with exhaustion and uttered those immortal parental words “you will enjoy yourself”.
You see, I used to read books on holiday. I mean several books in a week. I would lie by a pool or sit in a coffee shop and lose myself in a story. Every so often I would have a dip in the pool just to cool down. Or maybe go exploring and stop to have a beer on the way. And I would have shaved legs, a waxed bikini line and a manicure all shiny and new. Last week, me and my hairy legs grabbed ten minutes of reading whilst I supervised child one in a sandpit. Thankfully, she made a group of friends and as they elaborately designed a fully operational sand restaurant, offering an alluring range of sand pies, I sat and read perched on the edge of an uncomfortable slope.
But as they all slowly departed, being dragged away by similarly weary-eyed adults, I heard a plea: “Mummy will you play with me?” My first response was instant: “Not now darling, Mummy is just reading”. Her answer came with a deafening silence. And that’s when the guilt set in. I imagined women typing in one of those Mummy internet forums about the awful mother who wouldn’t play with her child on holiday. How could she choose her own pleasure over her child’s? What a disgrace! Slowly, I put the kindle down and headed to the sandpit to play a game so complicated I still couldn't tell you what it entailed. But she was happy, and that’s what matters.
I think, for me, I desperately want to relax on holiday. I want to have an afternoon nap by a pool and read a book I got with a magazine in the airport. But none of this is possible when I have two small children.
On a normal day, it’s like they have swallowed rocket fuel. So when they are on holiday and have both parents at their beck and call, they go into hyper drive. Myself and my husband meanwhile, revert to tag teaming; swapping from eldest to youngest when we need a change. My husband is great, he takes them in the ocean (I have an irrational fear of seaweed) he builds sandcastles, (I hate sand) he splashes them in wave pools, (I don’t like getting water in my eyes). Then I step in for craft activities, ball pool play, board games, dancing at the disco and chasing them around play parks. All in all, it is so much fun. We get to be silly. We get our enjoyment from them. But we don’t switch off.
The youngest still doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t care where he is. He still likes a 2 am party. He still needs nappy changes and milk and carrying around. Routines go out of the window. Eldest child stays up late. She’s wired after downing a vat of ice cream at dinner. Husband is checking work emails. He is marching around the lodge looking for a signal because he has to phone the office.
A friend of mine once said that going on holiday was just like being at home, but you were in a place that made it all a little bit more tricky.
They were so right. Just packing everything you need for these teeny tiny people can be enough to send people over the edge.
So, like Gannon said in her article, I believe we don’t switch off on holiday anymore. I am guilty of retreating into Instagram after a full day of holidaying. But for me, it’s not that I don’t want to switch off. It’s more to do with the fact I can’t switch off. I have to be switched on 24/7 to kiss grazed knees, lick melting ice-creams, cuddle away bad dreams. I’m not complaining. I chose to become a parent. I chose to take my kids on holidays. It’s just the way it is and I am sure it will get easier.
It does get easier, doesn’t it?!
Written by Becky Field
Becky is a freelance writer based in Stockport. She has a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.