Holidays. We dream about them all year. We chat about our plans with friends, family and colleagues, sharing ideas and secretly hoping we’re making each other a bit jealous. And when they arrive there’s that anticipation of a week or two simply doing nothing. Or abseiling off bridges. Whatever takes your fancy. But for us it was always about doing as little as possible, good food, books, and some gentle sightseeing.
Not any more.
Here is what we learned this holiday; the lessons Baby B taught us.
Travelling any more than two hours with a baby is not a relaxing start to your holiday.
We thought we had it sussed. Do his morning feed then set off in the car when he’s due a morning nap. Stop for a feed and a coffee at 11am. Keep going till we arrive at 4pm and then he’d be awake till bath time and bed from 6pm. The destination was Cornwall, a tiny hamlet near Truro called Malpas.
What we didn’t factor in was his refusal to sleep in the car (goes against everything we’d read about babies and cars) or not being able to find a service stop at the right time, or getting stuck in traffic jams. How people fly with babies we can’t fathom. At least in a car you can sing along to the radio to try and counteract the wailing. Or maybe he was singing to counteract our wailing. I can’t be sure anymore.
Conclusion: shorter journeys make for happier babies and less stressed parents. The next trip is going to be by train to the north of England. A report will be filed here in due course.
It’s not your holiday. Get used to it. Your baby doesn’t know or care about holidays. He is in a strange place with a weird bed and his routines don’t fit in with your desires to lie on a beach or wander round a castle or eat out. You haven’t been eating out at home so why should you get to do it just because you’re on a holiday? Exactly. Get real mum and dad. It’s all about me now.
Conclusion: Make plans but don’t expect to stick to them. Stay somewhere that has somewhere nearby to eat and have a beer so you can easily rush home if it all goes pear shaped. On the other hand you really will appreciate the quiet times when your baby is asleep. And the fact that you aren’t surrounded by all those jobs that you never get round to doing at home does help you to relax.
Finally, stay somewhere baby-friendly. By this I mean that the accommodation, be it a hotel or cottage or shepherds hut on a mountain side, should come equipped with as much baby paraphernalia as possible.
This means you don’t have to bring it (thus doubling the amount of luggage you used to bring – which already mainly consists of nappies and baby clothes, leaving you only room for a pair of socks, shorts, a t shirt and a book or preferably a tablet computer to while away the hours you’ll still be spending shushing the baby to sleep.)
As a minimum there should be
- a travel cot. Unless your baby sleeps on a blanket of ferns beneath the silvery moon.
- baby bath or support to use in the bath or shower. We ended up buying a foam support as there was only a shower and this worked really well.
- a sterilizer; otherwise you will have to keep filling the sink with water and tablets that kill all the nasty bugs. So then you can’t use the sink for ages.
- a high chair if your baby is onto solids, or even if you just need to leave them in one place while you try to read the paper in the morning.
- And if you’re going anywhere that might be slightly hilly or have lots of pesky steps take the sling or baby backpack. That way you’re ready for anything the local terrain throws at you.
This time we were lucky to stay somewhere with a very considerate owner who provided a cot and bath, but i’d also consider Baby Friendly Boltholes for future trips.
None of this is meant to sound negative. Holidays can still be great with a baby, people do it all the time and in fact I think they’re essential. And if, like us, it’s your first one since the birth a holiday is a vital part of feeling human again and making time for each other away from work and the day to day drudgery of daily life. It will never be the same again. But you knew that when you signed up to this parenthood lark.
And for working mums and dads having an intense period of time with your rapidly growing baby is an amazing chance to catch up with them. I normally only see Baby B at weekends and sometimes just as he is going to bed. So being able to hang out together showed me just how fast he’s growing up, and at almost six months how much more interested he’s becoming in the world and in us.
We also had some much needed nights on the terrace with booze to reflect on the ups and downs of the last year; the pregnancy, birth and the first stumbling months of becoming these people called mum and dad.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the endless chores and forget to pause and take in the changes and talk up the good stuff.
Holidays are of course always over too soon, as is this one. Back to work for me and back to being full time mum for now for S. But not for that much longer really. Work is looming for her too. We talked about that on holiday as well. So the next post will be about that knotty problem of childcare…