As with most families, travelling without children is a rare treat.
My husband and I are travelling to South America for 10 days, and I’m filled with nerves and uncontrolled excitement in equal measures. This is our longest and most extravagant leave pass. You see, I won the trip!
It’s an unbelievable adventure – not only because someone else is paying, but because any kind of international travel feels like a pre-kids escapade.
To ask my parents to look after four children for 10 days is a gargantuan favour, and they have kindly offered to move into our home to maintain the kids’ sense of normality.
Although I’m jumping out of my skin to take this fascinating trip, I’m dreading the goodbye. But I’m determined to make the most of this amazing experience by absorbing every moment without tarnishing it with guilt or sadness about leaving the children.
To make me feel better about going, I’ve made a list of things to consider in the lead-up.
1. Talk about where we are going and what that means for them
We’ve borrowed books about the destination and shown the children where we’ll be going.
We’ve explained who’ll be looking after them, assuring them their regular routines will be maintained and they’ll be well cared for.
We’ve printed out a calendar of dates to show them how long we’ll be away, and have given them the task of taking it in turns to cross off days. An itinerary is also helpful and connects them to the trip.
2. List of routines & contacts
A ‘routine-ranger’ I’m not, but it’s helpful for my parents to have an idea of when each child goes to bed, their after-school activities etc. Maintaining a routine for the children will also help manage any separation anxiety. I don’t expect them all to adhere to these routines stringently, but I’m also aware that tired children can quickly digress to feral children – and that’s not something I want my parents to have to deal with if it can be helped. Naturally, how they will manage the kids is completely up to them – after all, we’ll be 15,000 kilometres away!
In addition, I’ve got a menagerie of dear friends and other family members who have offered to help, which may just ease the chaos for my parents. A drop off from a sports activity for one child, or a little play at a friend’s house for another, can help relieve some of the pressure on my parents and give the children a fun distraction from missing us.
It goes without saying that a list of where we’re staying and all the important documents will be left with the grandparents.
3. A stocked fridge/freezer/cupboard
We intend to stock up the freezer with lots of meals. Although my parents are perfectly capable of catering for the masses (I was also one of four children), it’ll be one less thing they need to worry about.
4. Special notes in surprise spots
I’m going to leave special little notes tucked in sock drawers for the children to find: it’ll be a treasure hunt of hugs, if you like. It might give them a nice surprise while they get ready each day (or just another reason to dilly-dally!). Maybe a note sent to them in the mail the day we leave might be a fun thing to get in the letterbox?
5. Foster independence
As our children get older we’re encouraging them to undertake daily tasks independently, suchas cleaning rooms, taking dishes to the sink, putting their clothes away, making their school lunches etc. If we can amp this up a little before we go so the older ones are at least in the habit of independently organising themselves, it’ll make the job of coordinating the four of them a tad less crazy. And maybe when we return we can send them all out to get part-time jobs? Or not.
Ideally, this will be a wonderful way to stay in touch and be able to “see” each other, sharing our usual chats about their day. I’m a little apprehensive that it may unsettle them so I guess we need to take it day by day and assess their reactions. It’ll also depend on the internet connections!
7. Something to look forward to when we return
I suggested that we have a “Family Day” when we return, and on that day, everyone will get a present. Souvenirs from the places we’ve visited will be a great way to celebrate the trip and share our experiences with the kids – and what child doesn’t love a present out of a suitcase?
Finally, I need to think of some way to repay my parents for enabling us to take this holiday. They’ll need a holiday themselves once we return – perhaps somewhere child-free that offers all-day massages, butlers and chefs …
Have you travelled without your children? What are your tips for a stress-free time for all involved? Comment below or in the Essential Baby forum.
Her dream of becoming a back-up dancer for Janet Jackson quashed by a distinct lack of talent, Kylie Orr was forced into a day job of writing. Read more at kylieorr.com.