‘Holidays with kids’ is an oxymoron. And I’m an actual moron because I always forget this and am surprised when I come home exhausted. So I’d really appreciate it if someone could invent an alternate word for ‘holiday’ that doesn’t imply rest and relaxation. Because then, parents everywhere would have a more accurate way to describe their Christmas break.**
If you’re a working parent, holidays are a great reminder of the difference between spending quality and quantity time with your kids. Kids need both. Quantity is harder.
Without the buffer of childcare, grandparents or even the occasional babysitter, it can be gob-smacking to discover how much hard work full-time parenting is. “Mums in the playground often say ‘I don’t know how you do it'” sighs a friend of mine with three kids who works crazy hours in her small business. “But work is the easy part of my life. I have staff, a nice office and a brilliant nanny. I’m never as knackered as after our annual Christmas holiday. As much as I love them, entertaining three children 24/7 is harder than the toughest day at work.”
This is the part where stay-at-home mums (and dads) get to high-five themselves while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with: “I TOLD YOU SO, SUCKERS!” I endorse their smugness and I salute their t-shirts. I’ve always thought it’s far easier to spend your day at work where no-one demands you share your food, drink and toilet time or fractures your concentration span into a million teeny pieces. Full time at-home parents are legends.
But a lack of match fitness isn’t the only holiday challenge. It’s also the lack of props. Homes with kids contain mountains of stuff. Toys, DVDs, play areas, childproof cupboards, computer games, ergonomic change tables, cots, car seats, high chairs, no-more-tears shampoo, bikes, playstations, piles of assorted plastic crap and snacks and on and on. You start accumulating this stuff while pregnant and it never stops. Until you go on holiday when you’re suddenly cut loose from your stuff mountain and are forced to fend for yourself.
I’m sure there are resourceful parents who embrace the opportunity to fashion a make-shift high-chair out of a dog-eared yellow pages and three rubber bands. But not me. Nope. I like my stuff. I neeeeed my stuff.
And I’ve never needed it more than after two weeks trapped indoors with two bored children while so much rain fell on the North Coast I began texting friends “PLEASE SEND ARK”.
To keep my spirits up and my perspective in check, I’d regularly remind myself how lucky I was even to be on holidays. How lucky I was to have happy, healthy children I adore. How lucky I was not to be camping. Or homeless. When all of this lost its cheering power, I dug deeper, trying to summon gratitude for having limbs and the ability to blink.
Eventually, around day 10, when the rain became so torrential it was falling horizontally, I said buh-bye to my gratitude and my sense of humour. Then I threw such a spectacular tantrum my husband threatened me with time out and my toddler looked at me with new respect.