After recently returning from a mini break with my two young children, I reflected on the differences between taking a break before and after kids. I was left wondering whether or not parents might just be better off just staying home.
1) The planning
Over a bottle of wine with your partner one night, you google some options for your romantic weekend getaway. You check for proximity to the nearest chef-hatted restaurant and whether or not it has views of the beach. You press "book" and look forward to your relaxing break.
With just two weeks until the school holidays you get grumpy at your partner for assuming that booking the holiday is your job. You sulk for a bit then ask him to organise the pets while you spend hours on your lunch break looking for accommodation that isn't too pricey, has enough bedrooms and no steep stairs. After scrolling and swiping for days you get hotel-app fatigue and just book something with a pool and a "family friendly" bistro. That night you wake at 3am panicked – does it even have block out blinds? High chairs? A bath? A dangerous non-regulation balcony? You fall asleep trying to think of the great memories you will make.
2) The packing
You pull out your cute little wheelie case and pop in some clothes and heels for going out, swimmers for the beach and your usual toiletries. You pack some gym gear in case you fancy a run and your current book or magazine. Your partner does the same and in ten minutes, you are ready to go.
Two days before you leave you write a list that includes food and snacks, toys, clothes to remember and "DO NOT FORGET BLANKY/BUNNY/NIGHTLIGHT" underlined three times. You start making piles when you bring in the washing of undies and swimming gear for the kids, and your bedroom soon resembles an op-shop.
It is two hours before you go and the suitcases, beach bag, travel cot, stroller, esky, scooters and day packs are lined up ready for packing into the car boot. You spend the next hour sniping at your partner as you try to the tessellate the various bulky items into the correct position. It's similar to the Nintendo game Tetris from your youth but without the music, colours or fun.
You finally reverse out of the driveway as you realise the baby smells of poo and the eldest tells you he's hungry. You fling a muesli bar into the back, hope it is just wind and slap on your holiday smile while realising you have forgotten to pack your own undies.
3) The schedule
There is no schedule, just a never-ending list of possibilities. You arrive at your stunning apartment and start with a swim, then enjoy some sexy times followed by a walk to explore the local area and a spontaneous cocktail. Then you have another swim, a nap, a long leisurely bath and a delicious dinner followed by a solid eight-hour sleep. You wake up feeling refreshed to a great breakfast and you repeat.
You arrive at the resort or hotel and spend an hour unpacking and "settling in" whilst trying to keep the kids busy with snacks and games. One of you takes the big kid, who is wound up like a spring after all that car-time, for a swim while the other stays in the bedroom trying to the get the youngest off to sleep.
After a lunch of soggy homemade sandwiches, you attempt to bribe your kids with promises of iPad time while you do a quick dash into a winery/gallery/shop and then spend the rest of the afternoon tag teaming in the pool or at the beach. It is lovely seeing the kids have fun until one of them loses it over getting too hot/too cold/too sandy and you retreat to the apartment with a screechy small person under your arm.
You re-emerge at 5pm for dinner at the hotel bistro and speed-order fish and chips without even looking at the menu. You try to amuse the kids with colouring in and stop them from running up and down as the old couple on the adjacent table give you death stares. You pray for quick service and try to enjoy a lukewarm glass of house white before taking it turns to feed yourself and the little ones.
Back at the apartment everyone is finally asleep by 8.20pm and you are so knackered from all the "holidaying" that you crawl into the very hard master bed at 8.35pm. Just as you doze off, the baby wakes and continues to wail on and off half the night as he is weirded out by the unfamiliar surroundings.
Your darling eldest comes in at 5.15am excited and ready to start the day in the pool which doesn't open until 7am. You are beginning to look forward to going home to your own bed, Netflix account and cutlery and then you see those beautiful little faces having an absolute ball and you think that maybe, just maybe, it might be worth it after all.