One of the coolest things about my relationship with my husband is our joint sense of adventure that has led us to travel to many amazing places together, even as our roles in life have evolved. We have traveled as newlyweds, then first-time parents, and now second-time veteran parents. It is hard to believe how much our little family has changed and grown over the years. But it really was not until this year that I fully realized how vacation is not the same now that I am a mom. Here’s a list of what I learned about vacation as a mother:
1. The definition of the word vacation no longer means a holiday that includes rest and relaxation. From now on, I am calling it the Week of Non-Stop Family Activity. I hope I don’t come across as too much of a cry-baby about this because I am not upset at all. I am happy to be able to take a vacation and I have accepted my fate for the next several years to come.
2. Flexibility is key. We could discuss and plan activities ahead of time until the cows come home, but ultimately we have to keep our expectations low to avoid disappointment. With a four year-old and a 6 month old there is only so much that we can actually accomplish in one day without going crazy or falling over with exhaustion.
3. Sleep is for the weak. Day two is when I usually realize that I am not going to get much sleep during family vacations for many years to come. My kids consistently wake up an hour and a half earlier than usual. However, every single morning I am greeted with happy, smiling faces which make it all worth it. Besides, I have access to plenty of coffee.
4. Communicate with your spouse/partner ahead of time. On our most recent trip to Cape Cod, we came up with a phrase that my husband was supposed to say to me every time he could sense I was stressed. It went something like this: “I understand that you are frustrated, I am too. But we will figure it out and have fun anyway.” It always made me feel better when he repeated this phrase to me. Even when I knew he was just blowing sunshine up you-know-where.
5. Enjoy 10 minutes of alone time every day. I think the family members we were staying with on our last vacation at Cape Cod must have thought I had a serious gastrointestinal issue because every day I would take a few minutes and just hang out in the bathroom by myself. It was glorious.
6. Organic wine is a miraculous modern day invention that does not cause hang overs. Just thought I’d share. It is perfect to enjoy while sitting alone in the bathroom for 10 minutes.
7. Don’t blink. You might miss something awesome your kids just did.
8. It is not about me anymore. It is not about me anymore. I had to repeat that twice so it would sink in. This means doing things like going on a whale watch because your daughter would flip out if she saw a whale up close, as opposed to just sitting on the beach working on your tan while sipping a cocktail.
9. Breastfeeding mamas — get a manual pump to bring on vacation. It is small, easy to clean, and works great when you need pull over at a rest stop to feed your crying baby and you don’t feel like taking him/her out of the car seat. My manual pump is my most prized maternal possession. After four years and two kids, it still works amazingly well!
10. Pack lightly, but bring a lot of snacks for the drive. Not just for the kids, but the grown-ups too. Nobody likes a hangry mama at the wheel.
11. When you get home, take an extra day off from work if you can, hire a babysitter, and take that nap you so desperately need after making sure your kids had the time of their lives on their family vacation!
I wish I could have done this many times: