By Deenaz Raisinghani
A child-free holiday is one where the parents leave the children behind for a break, often with close family or friends. This can work positively for your kids as well as you. Since the birth of our first born, we have been caught up with the daily battles of raising a child. What starts off as a routine of feeding, changing and making the baby sleep turns into waking the child up for school, packing lunches and pick up and drop-offs from art and activity classes. Before you know it, you are engulfed by the vicious circle of parenting where chores never seem to end and proper sleep seems like a luxury. This is why a small child free holiday is necessary to help you rejuvenate your mind and bodies, and also have some guilt-free fun while you are travelling. Here, I will point out some tips and tricks to help you plan a child-free holiday with ease:
Drop the guilt, Moms
As mothers, we go through each day with a suitcase full of guilt for every little thing we choose to do without the child. Whether it’s a meal with friends at a restaurant or a parlour appointment, we are always thinking about our children and how they would be managing in our absence. This is nothing but that dreaded term known as ‘mom guilt’ and is completely psychological. We know they can survive and thrive without us if provided with support and their basic needs are met; why then do we choose to punish ourselves by worrying endlessly? A child will learn to be more independent with a little separation from the mother from time to time.
Constant presence of the mother and dependency of the child for everything can lead to severe tantrums while you are away. Children get used to routine very easily and can cope with small absences if they know this is something that is expected now and then. They learn to look outside the familiar ‘mom zone’ and ask for help from other family members and family friends. It seems impossible but kids also learn to eat and sleep by themselves when the mother is away. All these little changes are actually stepping stones for them and while it may feel cruel to leave them for a holiday, it actually helps them adapt more quickly to the world outside and gain independence.
Plan in advance and plan well
If you have gathered the will to leave your child for a day or two, it may be wise to plan that break a couple of weeks in advance. This will give you the time to sit and make a list of everything that will be required by your child while you are away. The first decision will obviously be about deciding the place to head to, whether solo, with your spouse or with friends. Travelling somewhere close or a short flight away is a good idea if you are leaving the child behind for the first time.
I recently took a child-free holiday to Udaipur as it was a short distance away from where I currently live. I planned this a few weeks in advance when I knew my spouse would not be travelling for work and would be available to take care of her. I planned the holiday during the week so she would be in school with her friends and teachers every day while I was away. This would keep her mind occupied and tire her out as well after she got back home. This worked well as she did not miss me too much and was around her friends every day. She also came home and took a nap which gave my spouse time off as well to spend the rest of the evening with her.
Ask for support when available
If you have a nanny at home, do take her help and ask her to be as punctual as possible so your family doesn’t have to call you if she is late. Give her a briefing before you leave and check with her daily on the phone to make sure all is well while you are away. A wifi CCTV helps in this case as you can check on them from anywhere in the world.
If you stay with extended family or in the same city, it is a great idea to ask for their help in taking care of your children, even if it is supervising and being around while your nanny takes care of the child. The presence of supportive grandparents can be a positive change for the kids and they may like the prospect of getting to spend more time with them in your absence. Grandparents are famous for spoiling their grandchildren so do not fret over it and the possible change in habits and routine.
Remember that this is temporary, and your child is aware of the slightly lenient surveillance when they are around, so let them take decisions without you monitoring what is being fed and what time they sleep every day. Since we do not have a nanny for my child at the moment, I had to completely rely on my spouse as the solo caregiver and planned a shorter break so he would be able to manage her along with fulltime work. I also spoke to her school to adjust her drop and pick up timings along with my spouse’s timings. Most preschools are very accommodating and will make this little change for a couple of days to help you out. The tip is to just ask and not be shy about getting as much help as you can while you are away on your child-free holiday.
Remain accessible at all times
Younger kids often adjust to the absence as they are easier to distract and have fixed sleep times. Toddlers and slightly older kids are the ones that need more coaxing and cajoling as they feel the absence immediately. The parents should disclose the plan to the child just a couple of days in advance as children cannot process big gaps very well and will totally forget about your conversation about the holiday when the times comes to leave. To make the adjustment easier, speak to the child and tell them exactly when you will be back. Make up a story if you have to, but never leave the house without letting them know that you will speak to them every day (if they are younger) and you will be back soon. Leave a couple of videos messages and funny jokes on the family phone or computer so they can watch them when they miss you. This helps younger kids relax.
When I took a holiday to attend my friend’s baby shower in a different city, I left a lot of video messages and rhymes in my voice for her that she would watch with the nanny. It helped her settle down and go to sleep easily. If you are travelling internationally, it may be difficult to video call in different time zones but you can always send a video message to your kids once a day so they get to see you. Another great idea is to read a bedtime story together on video call or use an app such as ‘Caribu’ where books can be downloaded to phones at either end to read together.
Make a meal plan and leave instructions
If you are the parent that is responsible for arranging the lunch boxes, the uniforms and the meals, you will have to work out a plan to facilitate this before you head out. The simplest and most effective way is to make everything in an excel sheet or handwritten tabular format and hang it on the fridge. Day-wise meals and tiffin recipes can be written down with different coloured markers so it is easier to plan.
Also, kids’ activity classes along with timings can be written down in another table so the caregiver knows exactly what routine to follow for those few days. Inform the school or class in advance so they know who will be picking them up, and leave all contact numbers handy.
I also leave pictorial instructions for the child’s clothes cupboard and this helps a great deal while looking for school uniforms in the morning or a pair of socks without unloading the entire drawer. To do this, simply click pictures of your child’s cupboard, explain with arrows what each set of item is including medicines and send them to the caregivers before you leave.
Now go on that holiday and leave your worries at home
The most important part of the child-free holiday is to drop your mom guilt and proceed for a real break. Remember that you did plan everything just for this little break for yourself, and it would be unfair to not enjoy yourself while you are at it. This is the time to unwind, and disconnect for a little bit. Take the time to explore all those places that you wouldn’t have with a kid, such as a cosy little pub with great music or a museum that fascinates you and requires walking and lots of patience.
A lot of moms I know would just like to check into a nice hotel in the same city and get the entire bed to themselves for that holiday while ordering room service, sleeping and binge watching Netflix. That is a fantastic plan as well and leaves you super relaxed. Sit for hours and enjoy a delicious meal while talking to your holiday companion or just soak in the sights solo. This will help rejuvenate you and bring you back as a happier and calmer parent. Pick up a few gifts for your kids and promise yourself to repeat this at least once a year.
Until next time, it’s your friendly Backpacking Mama signing off. Happy travelling, folks!
(The writer blogs at Backpacking Mama.)