October half-term is over and we are all back to the grind this week. How was it for you? Oh, you went on a little family getaway? How lovely. You must feel rested and refreshed. No? Sorry, I forgot, family holidays aren’t particularly restful are they? Rachel compares how holidays have changed since kids came along.
We just got back from Robin Hood’s Bay, where we spent three nights with our two and four year old. It was a nostalgic trip, as the last time we were there was around ten years ago, pre kids (PK). This fact led me to thinking about how holidays had changed since we started our family. Here are the main ways.
1. We drink considerably less
Three pics, three drunken holidays, PK (hence the black and white, because it was in the ‘olden times’). Mallorca, Malaysia and, slightly less exotic, Buxton. After each one I needed another holiday to detox! Not so anymore…
I have to admit, for former party beasts like me and my husband, this is the first thing that pops into my head. Last time we were in Robin Hood’s Bay we spent a LOT of time in the several lovely pubs. Aside from walking, it was our main holiday activity. This time? iPad in hand, we braved one of our former favourite drinking haunts, optimistic that our gadget would buy us approximately two drinks’ worth of (hassled and distracted) chat. I remember, ten years ago, after a long night at the pub, heading back to the cottage to quaff red wine and scoff cheese in front of the fire until the early hours. This time? We gave up after a pint and a half, defeated, and went home. Once the kids were down we sunk a few consolatory glasses on the sofa. I got a bit sweary at X Factor (“I’m soorry, you are shhhiiiitttt!”). By the time Jonathan Ross came on I was drinking a pint of water to ward of a hangover in the morning. Well, you have to be up at 6.30am so what’s the point?
2. We can’t do what we want; it’s all about the kids
You have to do stuff that they’ll like when you’re on holiday (museums, beaches, parks). But it’s not all bad; sometimes there is a penis shaped sculpture.
This is obvious, but it’s a shocker once the penny drops that holidays will not be about what you want again until your kids are grown up. For example, for me and Adam to be surrounded by a stunning rugged coastline and wild countryside and not to be able to go walking is a bit torturous. But we can’t do it, so we just look on, longingly. Whatever you do en masse has to be interesting and suitable for the kids. It has to fit in around that home routine which, even if you’ve dropped naps as we have, still means you start the day at about 6 or 7am, lunch at 12pm, tea at 5pm, then bath / bed at 7pm / 8pm. You can’t really escape it. OK, so we can loosen up a bit but we can’t get away from the ‘daily grind’ of being a parent, even on holiday. Cue plenty of fore-planned activities and day trips that take all possible variables into consideration: is there too much potential for poorly timed napping in the car (resulting in them staying awake for hours – and eating into OUR time!)? Is there potential for death or injury? And will there be toilet facilities (I have a 2 year old whose toilet training is regressing at a rapid pace)?
3. You take a lot more photos
Here are just 3 of the Robin Hood’s Bay ‘shots’, of which there are many. You can come round for a slide show later if you like?
Why can’t we remember exactly what we did on the holiday ten years ago (aside from the fact that we drunk a lot of booze)? Ah, I know, it’s because we never took any pictures – of anything, ever (apart from the odd boozy night shot – see above). Contrast that with now, where you permanently have your camera / smart phone poised and ready to snap, catching those special moments that, when you look back with rose tinted glasses on, you’ll think were truly perfect – and peaceful by the looks of it. But in reality that scene took 15 minutes of you screeching “Bea! BEA! Look at ME! No no no, Bea, don’t eat the sand, look, look, LOOK!!” and only one of the twelve taken of that scene is worth keeping. (Thank God for digital eh?) Then when you get home you don’t have time to process and do anything with them anyway. So millions of holidays photos end up taking valuable space on your laptop, most of which will rarely be looked at again.
4. Meals out are over in 36 minutes
Children want to eat and be gone. They don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to linger over a meal when they could be doing something naughty / dangerous / exciting instead. Relaxing? What’s that?
I remember one meal with our then six-month-old baby son in the Brecon Beacons, where we attempted to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. The whole thing was over in just over half an hour. That includes starters, mains, and a quick glass of wine. Don’t make the amateur mistake of ordering dessert and/or coffee; you won’t enjoy it. I sometimes do, adamant that they will behave and comply. MISTAKE. That’s when they go into full meltdown. You’re better off just getting the food down your neck with a swill of wine, and getting the hell out of there. The only, ONLY, way you can have a lingering meal with more than one drink involved and maybe pudding too is if there is a group, and you and someone else can take shifts taking them for ‘walks’. A lunch in a beer garden will buy you extra time. Especially if there is a play area, then you’re WINNING! Not many Michelin starred restaurants have play areas though, do they? Think I’ve hit on something there…
5. You have to relax in shifts (AKA “Tag Team Holiday Relaxation”)
Going to a beach is a classic example of when Tag Team Relaxation comes into play. What’s the point of you both being miserable. No, my friends, you must take turns.
Lie-ins, reading the paper with a coffee, sunbathing on a beach, napping on the sofa in front of the fire – even having a spa treatment. All possible on family holidays, but with one condition: the other half takes over whilst you go into full relaxation mode. The rules are as follows: you can both take one session of relaxation per day, and it lasts an hour. Do with it what you will. On our last holiday in Robin Hood’s Bay I chose to visit a spa which was a stone’s throw from the cottage. When you return from said relaxation session, you are full on in the parenting mode and must allow the other one some time in return. That, or at least a sit down in peace with a large drink (lock the door, or prop a chair under the door knob to prevent disturbance).
If holidays now are not particularly relaxing or restful, then why bother? Even taking all the above into consideration, spending quality time as a family, rock pooling, watching a film, eating chips on the beach – whatever – the happiness of those times, even if there is the odd spike of stress, is truly unbeatable. I’d take that type of hard earned joy any day over the indulgent days before kids, I really would. And there are way fewer hangovers these days too, which is a relief to be honest.
And there is a surprising upside to all of this. You know when you finally do get a night away without them? It’s bloody bliss. A type of bliss you just didn’t know was possible prior to having kids. Then when you come home, you’re overwhelmed with joy at seeing them. Win win.