On our recent holiday the beautiful sea-view we'd admired online definitely didn't disappoint but the constant loud clunking sound of the pool table directly beneath us (with accompanying teenage banter) wasn't the mellow 'post-kids-bedtime' soundtrack we'd hoped for. We plucked up the courage to ask if there was anything else available and were quickly shown another apartment that we could swap for.
What then followed was not our finest hour. Both lovely apartments had plus and minus points, we just had to decide which we preferred. If you looked up the phrase 'first world problems' in the dictionary, this weighty conundrum would be the definition. But we just could. not. choose. This minor decision seemed to take on huge significance - we debated the pros and cons of each one all morning, getting increasingly tense, until eventually we tossed a coin and picked the new apartment. Unsurprisingly it was much better and we had a fantastic holiday.
Afterwards, when mulling over why two relatively laid-back people drew such a big 'nil points' in the decision-making stakes, I realised that these moments of chronic indecisiveness directly correlate to being a parent for me.
The apartment decision seemed to have so many connotations - which one would our children sleep better in? Which one would allow my husband and I to have the most relaxed evenings together? Which one would make kids teatime run the smoothest? Which one was less likely to be broken into by a marauding psychopath in the middle of the night vs. which one had the lowest risk of a kamikaze toddler plummeting off the balcony? The ridiculous list went on. But, of course, what it all really came down to was two overworked, knackered parents desperately wanting these precious 10 days spent together as a foursome to be as fun and special as possible.
That's the crux of the problem. As a parent (especially as a mum, let's face it) we feel responsible for a whole family's worth of happiness through the decisions we make. Things like holidays, birthday parties and Christmas plans, which used to take a pleasant five minutes to discuss over a glass of wine, suddenly take on an overblown importance. And that's just the minor things - when it comes to the big stuff like house moves, catchment areas and our working lives, we don't stand a chance! When you feel as though you're mapping out other people's lives as well as your own, it can lead to paralysis when it comes to choosing the best path to follow.
So what's the solution? As my lovely husband would say 'any decision is better than no decision' and as usual, irritatingly, he's right. When I look at the proactive decisions we've taken since having kids, which include three new jobs between us, a house move, spontaneous days and nights out and various holidays to different destinations with different combinations of people - the answer is clear. All these experiences have been incredibly positive even if only because we've learnt something from them. You have to be brave enough to jump in with both feet and try on lots of different things for size as a family and then slowly and instinctively you'll find your own unique path.
Our daughter brought a sheet home from preschool once about how we can help our little ones to cultivate a 'growth mindset' - always learning, always open, always curious and positive. If that's what we're trying to teach our kids, we should probably adopt the same approach to life.