When I tell people I’ve just been on a holiday- without my baby- the first question they ask is, “how did you cope?”
I’m not sure how I feel about this question to be honest. I mean, no one asks me how I coped for 32 years without my baby in the first place, but then again, I guess having an infant is the most all-consuming thing a person could possibly do. So maybe, in another’s eyes, it’s like going on a holiday with an amputated limb. You know, how do you get up stairs, go to the toilet, feed yourself, without, you know, that other extension of yourself?
Don’t get me wrong, it was an ambitious move and one, thankfully, my beautiful husband not only supported but encouraged (that could have had more to do with the fact his mother was going to be running around after him for the week, than it did him genuinely wanting me to have some quality sleep for the first time in a year…), nevertheless, I relished the opportunity for a last ‘hoorah’ before going back to work (which as it happens, fell through. A mother’s right to part-time work is STILL not a given, but that’s a story for another day…) and as long as I was able to find someone to go with me, he’d ‘let’ me go away. Cute. ‘Let me.’ So, I cajoled my neighbour into traveling with me (bonus points for realising as we have to live next door to each other we’d both be on our best behaviour to get along) and it was only 9 days in total AND 2-for-1. My stars had aligned!
I picked a place I was pretty sure my husband would never want to go (he’s a 5-star kinda guy) and ensured it wasn’t too far away, in case anything did go wrong. But Sri Lanka was the perfect destination, and it was the right amount of time to be away.
The trip itself was jam-packed full of activity, and naturally some lazy days on the bus (which was LOVELY- rest… ahhhhh…. rest), way too many buffet meals and an awesome selection of Sri Lankan curries (even if they don’t seem to really get the western concept of ‘mild’.) My neighbour and I were the youngest on the tour by at least 25 years, all of them were retirees, except for us and one other, but we were a cohesive group on the whole and I thoroughly enjoyed feeling one of the fittest with my post-baby body, and being the second youngest was also nice for a change!
Anyway, this isn’t a review of the trip or Sri Lanka itself (though I would definitely recommend you go. 8-10 days would be a perfect amount of time to feel as though you’ve seen a good amount of what it has to offer as a tourist-taster), but really, I’m going to respond to the question “how did you cope?” so other mum’s considering a baby-free trip away might make that decision with a little more confidence.
Firstly, let me give some context. It must be stated that I’m not a ‘mummy’ kind of person. I’m not particularly maternal and for many years I had no desire to have children. I met the right man, an amazing father, and knew, he was the only person I could have a family with. I had a horrific pregnancy (thanks to HG- oh so sick and sad) and it took a long time to recover from my emergency caesarean due to my little buddy sitting comfortably in a breech position. I had a shocking first three months trying to sort out feeding and sleeping (turns out he was super hungry) so once we got feeding under control, we then have spent that last 6 months battling sleep. He isn’t the world’s best sleeper by any stretch, and I average 4 hours a night of broken sleep- if I’m lucky. I’m exhausted throughout the day (as are all mums, right?) and struggled with the change of ‘identity’. Moving from a dynamic and fast paced job to my living room floor, was taking it’s toll and I was feeling quite lost, inadequate and frankly, just a bit useless.
So this trip away was like me clutching at my ‘old’ life. A reminder of who I once was, and not sure if I was ever going to be again, or learning somehow, to be someone in-between those two lifestyles. It was a chance for me to mentally and physically recuperate, and, I wanted to test myself on a couple of fronts. Firstly, would I be ok being away from my son (my husband travels regularly so I knew he’d be fine); and secondly, would I love traveling just as much as I always had, even if my family wasn’t with me?
The simple answer to both those questions is YES. I coped fine (face timing every day helped as well as numerous photos and footage) and I loved traveling just as much, also knowing that it wasn’t a trip my husband would have particularly enjoyed nor was it something I believe we could have done easily with an infant, especially not as a tour (which I always find way less stressful.) But, a lot of that rests on my desire for a break, being exhausted, needing to ‘fix’ my wanderlust habit and desperately wanting a moment where I could capture, in essence, who I was before EVERYTHING CHANGED. Could I have done two weeks? Now that would have been a stretch. The last 48 hours dragged and I just wanted to get home and see my baby, but one full week was delightful and I relished that lack of responsibility. Did I miss my baby? Absolutely, but it in no way ruined the trip or detracted from the experience.
Here are a few things that made this trip easier for me:
1. My husband had help. My in-laws flew over to look after him (and my baby) for the week. They absolutely doted on them both as they don’t see them much, and my mother-in-law is a nurse, so I was very confident that she would do an amazing job with my son. Plus, I liked the idea that she could spend some quality time with her son and grandson without me there. Not that we don’t get along, we do- she’s fabulous, but I’ve no doubt all mums want some alone time with their grown children, and I thought they would be able to relax a little more without me there as well.
2. I timed it well. 9 days in total, from departure to arrival back home, was really just weekend to weekend and it was a great amount of time for a first trip away.
3. Location. Going somewhere where every two seconds I wasn’t thinking ‘oh, he would have loved this’, or ‘man, we could have done that together!’ also made it easier. As I said, I don’t believe this was a place my husband would have enjoyed or we could have easily (and safely) travelled around with a baby. So some guilt was alleviated there.
4. Wifi. I love you. Thank you. Seeing my baby daily (even if he was a bit confused) really helped me remain calm and confident that he was happy and well taken care of.
5. Maintain routine. Even though my in-laws weren’t keen on my babe going to Day Care, I insisted that he maintain his normal routine. I believe this helped him keep a sense of normality and I felt a lot more comfortable knowing his whole week wasn’t going to be thrown out of wack.
It must be said (although I’m sure it’s implicit) that I’m not breastfeeding, so that made the trip possible in one way, and my husband is the one to put him to bed nightly as well (when he’s home) so our son is used to other people doing things for him. By all accounts, he was his usual chirpy and happy self. I feel it was a win-win for everyone, especially as within about 24 hours hubby was sending soppy messages thanking me and acknowledging that being with a baby full time is exhausting! I found that I was perfectly fine in my little bubble of no responsibility for 8 days, but by the end I was itching to get home. It was a wonderful rest for me, solidified my passion for travel- which hasn’t waned since becoming a mum, and was the perfect travel fix to slight cabin fever! It also helps that my husband is very hands on and I trust him implicitly with our son. Absence as they say, makes the heart grow fonder and I truly believe it was a helpful break and experience for the whole family. It was also an important reminder that there are two equal and contributing parents within this family. I personally couldn’t do it any other way.