Eight years into parenting and I have still somehow not managed to come to terms with the fact a holiday isn't actually a rest, it's just a "change of scenery". Every holiday we've taken has left me more exhausted than before we left.
Our mini staycation in Wales over Christmas was the same. We had an action packed few days doing laser quest with the kids, mini golf with the kids, swimming with the kids, Santa's grotto... with the kids. Then it was back home and back to work.
Of course it's gorgeous spending time together as a family - but I was nearing almost total exhaustion and realised after eight years of being a full time working Mum it was time for a break - from the kids.
We've had the odd night away over the years for a birthday or anniversary - but never long enough to properly recharge our batteries and relax.
Clearly going away without the kids isn't an easy thing to do - emotionally or logistically. But I felt for the sake of my sanity it was becoming a necessity! So grandparents were drafted in from up North and with the help of our nanny and other parents helping schlep our kids to various after school activities - we were off!
Just arriving at an airport without three kids, five suitcases, two trunkies and a buggy was a revelation in itself. I had a sudden flash back to when air travel used to be fun - an adventure - time for a leisurely browse in WHSmith for a good read, a meander through duty free to buy that face cream or perfume I'd wanted for ages but hadn't got round to buying - and even a cup of tea and a sandwich. Instead of what's now become a frantic panic filled two hours - trying to stop the kids bashing into everyone on their trunkies, attempting to find a table to accommodate us and our luggage so we can grab some food for the kids and if I'm lucky a cup of tea for me! And then the mad dash towards the gate as we realize we've run out of time and have to haul ass to get to the plane before they close the gate. And then once we're on the plane unpacking three carry on's so every child has their DVD's/ipad/colouring books/snacks/drinks. We've all been there!
This plane journey was a dream - I kicked back and relaxed instantly - watching two films then having a quick kip. Arriving at the hotel we felt like giddy newlyweds. We headed straight for the pool- as I lay there soaking up the sun, I instantly felt my body and brain relax. I don't think I realised just how tense I had become. Like most mums I'm juggling a million and one different things on my "to do" list at any one time. The notion of having absolutely nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one else to think about - had become an alien concept - totally divorced from my reality. So this was it - this was what it felt like - bliss!
I read a 600 page book in two and a half days, had a swim without a child jumping on my head , went to the gym and chose a restaurant without basing our decision on whether they served pasta and cheese and/or fish fingers and chips.
My husband and I held actual conversations which weren't lists of barked instructions as to which child needed to be where and when. We talked, relaxed, and just laughed together. Unfortunately spending quality time together has become all too rare with day to day life just getting in the way. The major bonus was sleep - with two children still up most nights - a good uninterrupted night's rest had become a long distant memory.
I'd be lying if I said the trip was guilt free. Of course we missed the children terribly. But with the magic of face time we never felt far away, and we spoke to them every day when they woke up and before they went to bed. The calls didn't always go quite to plan though. We'd told the kids that we were only going away for a rest - and so they didn't think they were missing out, we said all we were going to do was sleep! Which to be fair - wasn't far from the truth. But when we face timed them from the pool our 5 year old was most put out - demanding to know why we weren't in bed - and how dare we go swimming without him!
When we came back my seven year old couldn't stop commenting on what a good mood I was in! And I felt genuinely lighter and more even-tempered. Of course it didn't last that long - but I did manage not to raise my voice to any of the kids -for at least a day.
It may have only been a short break but it gave me time to remember who I was - and maybe even as importantly who we were as a couple - not just mummy and daddy - but Mr and Mrs.