I’ve written before about travelling solo with my kids, i.e. without my husband. It’s challenging, but fun. Most of the time. Today I want to talk to you about another kind of solo travel which is also fun – the completely solo kind. Without husband OR kids!
When I did a search for ‘travelling without your kids’ the other day, I discovered there is a wide range of views about the topic of whether mothers should go travelling without their children, ranging from ‘yes, of course, sometimes mothers just need some time out for themselves’ or ‘no biggie, working mothers do it all the time’, to ‘how could you possibly be so selfish, you must be a bad mother to even consider it’.
In the almost six and a half years since my eldest son was born, I have travelled alone without my children exactly 16 times. Since that doesn’t include the two respective years immediately after they were born, it averages out at around 4 times a year. With the exception of one trip, which was just an overnighter, they were all 3 to 5 nights long, and all but two of them were to foreign countries. Five of the trips were work related, where I was attending or speaking at museum events or conferences. Another four were to non-museum related conferences, which I attended out of personal interest. That leaves seven trips which were purely for pleasure! The majority of those were long weekends in Scotland, a place always on my mind since we left Edinburgh.
My husband totally supports me in taking these trips for pleasure, because he knows that I need them – to catch up with much missed friends without the kids in tow, to recharge my batteries, and to feel like my own person again and not just a mum. According to the internet, I should either pat myself on the back for not giving up my sense of self, or feel ashamed for my selfishness and obviously not caring about my family enough. But, to be honest, as long as my family are okay with it, I don’t really care about what the internet says.
So, how does it feel to travel solo and leave your kids behind? There are plenty of guides out there telling you how to ditch the guilt and feel less anxious about abandoning your children. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve never felt that way. I’m not the kind of mother who has separation anxiety, I never have been (and that’s not meant as a jibe to those that do, we are all just different). Of course I miss my kids a little, especially when I see or do something and think “it would be nice to share this with them”, but mostly I just enjoy my time away, knowing they are in the perfectly capable hands of their father. We go over the timetable of the days I’ll be away, more for his benefit than mine, but I don’t prepare meals in advance or create cheat sheets or put big plans in place, or anything like that. I don’t worry that things are going to fall apart without me. I trust my husband to take care of our boys, and I’m okay with him doing things differently than I might do. After all, he is not their babysitter, he is their father!
These are the Top 3 things I enjoy about my time away alone:
Time alone! Yes, unsurprisingly perhaps, the best thing about traveling alone is being alone. Many solo travel guides will have you believe that travelling alone can be daunting, solitude is a struggle, and meal times on your own are little fun. Who are you kidding? Meal times alone sound wonderful. No having to get up every few minutes because someone has spilled something, or wants something, or doesn’t want something. No having to say ‘sit on your bottom’ or ‘pull your plate closer’ or ‘knees under the table please’ or – the inevitable – ‘leae your brother alone’ every few seconds. Actually getting to finish my dinner before it gets cold. Doesn’t sound daunting or lonely at all, sounds like Heaven! I just take a good book along and read that during dinner time. Because reading a book in peace is something else I rarely get to do at home.
Calling the shots! Travelling alone means you are free to do as you please, and it feels awesome. I don’t need to chose my sightseeing according to my children’s needs and preferences. I don’t need to double check in advance whether a place is child friendly or accessible to pushchairs. I don’t have to worry about breaks, or snacks, or naps times, unless they are for myself. I can spend a whole day shopping without anyone getting bored, or visit five museums in a day without anyone getting tired. I can be spontaneous and climb 287 steps up a tower to enjoy the view (see above). I can eat when, where and what I want.
Sleep! And here’s the biggie – eating your dinner before it gets cold, visiting five museums in a day, reading a book in peace…all these pale in comparison to sleep. Wonderful sleep. In a bed all to myself. No snoring husbands, no crying or kicking children. No one waking me in the middle of the night because they want milk. No alarm going off in the morning. No having to get up early. Just make sure you turn off your phone, so that you don’t get woken by a text message at 6:30am saying ‘let us know when you are up’…
And these are my ‘must pack’ items:
- A face mask! Yes, I always pack a face mask in my toiletry bag, for a relaxing pampering session in the hotel room or at my friends’ house, knowing there will be no interruptions from little people, or neighbours, or the postman, half way through.
- Something to read – a good book I’ve been wanting to get stuck in to and I usually pick up a couple of magazines too, at the airport or train station. Not only do I read these on the plane/ train, I also grant myself the luxury of sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day to read them (maybe with a decadent hot chocolate alongside – see above). Or, as mentioned above, during dinner, if I’m not dining with a friend.
- An iPad filled with movies or a favourite TV series I’ve been wanting to binge watch. I don’t rely on there being something good on the telly at my destination, and I don’t rely on there being internet e.g. for Netflix either. I make sure to download everything in advance, thanks to the new Netflix download option. So whether it’s in my hotel room once all the sightseeing attractions have closed, or at a friend’s house after we have all retreated to bed, I always look forward to some uninterrupted watch time. On my most recent trip, I worked my way through the first couple episodes of The Crown!
- Some favourite treats, such as chocolate or popcorn (my favourite treats right now). Just to make that trip away that extra bit special. So, if you are now picturing me on my trip to Scotland last weekend, relaxing with a face mask, munching chocolate and watching The Crown, you would be spot on! Lol.
And what about the children? Yes, of course they miss me. Especially when they are younger, there were – and are – some tears, mostly at bedtime, and crying for mummy. Especially from the two year old. But it gets easier as they get older, and are more capable of understanding what is happening and that mummy is definitely coming back. And both kids are familiar with the concept of mummy – and daddy! – having to go away for work, be it during the day, in the evening, at weekends or overnight. So we do sometimes cheat a little, and say that mummy has to go away for work, even when I’m just popping over to Scotland to visit friends, because it’s easier for them to process than ‘mummy just needs a little break from you’. And, of course, I’ll always bring them back a little gift, so these days I’ll sometimes hear ‘what did you bring us?’ before ‘I’ve missed you’ when I come home, lol.
Some mothers write little notes or record little videos for their kids to open every day, or schedule regular Skype or FaceTime calls. I don’t. If I’m around and there is internet available, then I’ll try to catch up with them, but I’m not going to cut short what I’m doing and go running back to my hotel room to call them. The whole point of travelling on my own is to get away from the routine and constant obligations. I’ll text them or send them photos if I see something along the way that I think they would like – e.g. on my trip to Scotland last week I texted home a pic of a bright pink car I thought my elder son would love (see below) – but I don’t need to share every single moment with them. Besides, then I’d have nothing left to tell them when I come back!
So, those are just some of my thoughts about travelling solo without my kids. I’ll leave you with the three key points I have learned from my solo travels over the past six years:
- Alone time is healthy, even for mums, and we rarely get enough of it. So take the chance when you can, the kids will be fine!
- It’s an old cliché, but absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and it makes you appreciate the important people in your life.
- And, finally, it is important for your children to learn that they can live without you – and that you will return.
Do you ever travel alone? How do you go about it? Feel free to share any tips in the comments below.