Monthly Archives: August 2016

thinking monkey

Moms, chocolate and solitude

summer bunny

A couple of days ago I met a friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen all summer. She has three kids, and though her general appeal is very attractive, the way I remember her is: balancing between being enormously tired and trying to look content. There are no other ways multitasking moms can look.

But this time when I met her for a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, I noticed an alien light shining through her eyes, the skin looked fresh (makeup?) and there was an overwhelming look of victory in every gesture, movement and glimpse.

This is what a three-day child-free vacation can do to a mother. The short but rewarding tour was a present from her husband, who decided once in a long time to be generous and bring his wife 10 years back in time.

Not sure how long the effect will last, but one thing I am sure about: we all, mothers, need some time alone with ourselves where its only me and strong WI-fi connection.

What are the ultimate benefits of not seeing your child for a few days? I’ll name the obvious ones –and you are welcome to add the rest in comments.

1. You get some good night’s sleep.

sleeping dog

Even if your kids are big, they can still be night trouble-makers. Some kids like to share their parents’ bed (I see absolutely no problem with that, let’s argue about it in the next post). Some kids drink all your juices before falling asleep (a couple of fairy tales ple-e-e-ase, a midnight stand-up show they expect from you, then there is “mom-bring-me-some-water”, “mom-I-am-scared”, etc., etc.). So. When you are isolated, you can finally sleep in whichever position you want and at the time you want (after taking long, undisturbed shower).

2. Kds start appreciating their mom.

We tend to take for granted what we have. It’s terribly unfair, but often moms, who do not spend the entire time of their life with kids, are remembered as better moms. A short break from the routine is a good reminder that things do not last forever, that things can be different. Kids feel it very well, and don’t worry about hurting their feelings: it will take a lot more than 2-3 days to ruin anything (of course I’m not talking about kids under the age of 2-3 or super-sensitive/hyper-whatever kids).

3.  The “wow” effect on your husband/partner who starts appreciating you too.

All the “invisible” housework a woman carries on everyday without complaining: the magic of clean shirts, pairs of almost same socks, cooked food, visible floor (without supervision it gets covered extremely fast by pieces of Lego, clothes, paper, and small, sharp objects that cut into your bare feet in the middle of the night). So once your partner stays with the kids he will be, well, the one to do the laundry (we are not talking about romantic vacation, remember? It’s you and your laptop).

4. You view your own life from a different angle.

You have a rare chance to meditate, to NOT do things, to NOT worry – all your daily small and big house duties, concerns, thoughts and movements are frozen until the day you are back. For a couple of days you are back to your very old self, when you were a high school student, a teenage girl and could spend hours however you like. We, mothers, tend to completely neglect this part.

These are the obvious reasons I see for taking a short break, but there are surely more.

Now the practical guide: –how to make things happen.

There is no fairy who will turn a pumpkin into a carriage and bring servants to look after your kids. The good news is, that it is much easier to organize than it might seem.

First, decide where approximately you want to stay and for how long. Remember the main purpose: isolation, meditation and rest. If there are other things in your mind, like sightseeing, tours and restaurants, than the potential destinations will be different. So first, focus on your purpose: do you want to spend 2-3 days in blessed solitude with no crowded folks around, no buses, luggage and similar tourists\ attributes? Then look for a non-expensive quiet location and good, home-style hotel.

A hotel or an apartment? How to choose.

I personally would prefer a hotel with good breakfast included. I always read people’s reviews on breakfasts and I recommend you to do the same unless all you want to have is a piece of white bread with suspiciously-looking apricot jam (happened to me in a 4-star hotel). But it’s up to you: some people prefer having their coffee in a nearby cafe so hotel breakfasts are not a big thing for them. No matter what you choose, there is an important thing to bear in mind, from my own experience: while it’s obvious (to me, at least) that you don’t want to spend a fortune on this trip, don’t choose the cheapest hotel, just for the sake of it. Better pick a 3 star family run hotel with good reviews rather than 4 star hotel with worse feedback. The interior of the place you are staying in is one of the most important things: you should have this cozy homely feeling while staying there. So spend some time on research, read the reviews, look at the pictures, don’t give it up only because it’s a bit pricey. After all, it’s not like you’re taking this vacation every week.

Should I plan my time or just let it flow?

It’s a tough question, because planning contradicts the initial purpose of pure meditation and diving into yourself. On the other hand, being completely alone with yourself without knowing where to throw your body for the next 7 hours can be hard for some people. Especially moms who are used to continuous and often useless action. What I would advise it to check, just in case, what attractions and nice places exist around the place you are staying in. Parks? Museums? Open-air concerts? Even isolated villages can have nice sites but you must check for them in advance to avoid being stuck in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nowhere to go.

Who stays with the kids?

Organizing a proper care for the kids is no less important than your hotel, attractions and meditation. The best way for a mom to relax is to know that kids are in good hands. Ideally, if you do it during the weekend so your partner can take maybe one extra day off to cover your entire absence. Nannies, babysitters, grandparents, goblins– are a good additional help. Additional – is the keyword here.No matter how many helpers come and go there must be one captain on the ship, who will supervise and take control of all the action: the babysitting hours, the kids’ eating/sleeping/bathing schedule (not necessarily in this order). This is probably the time to take a risk and fully rely on your partner.

 

A few words for conclusion:

Before setting on this kind of vacation keep in mind, that there is no goal. Don’t set high expectations to avoid disappointment. Don’t think you’ll return enlightened, super-young or as a totally different person full of secret knowledge. This may happen and this may not. It depends on many factors, some of which you cannot predict. So my advice is – do your best in terms of choosing a place, preparing your kids and husband for your absence and – au revoir.

How to survive summer with kids

bored cat

Summer vacation has always been a challenge for me since I was a school kid myself. It’s long, it’s boring, all the friends disappear and I found myself sinking into endless reading (at that time the internet was still somewhere in the horizon line). Walking under the sun was not tempting enough, so most of my summer days were self-exploration journeys between the walls of my room (lucky me, I had my own room).

Now, with my growing kids, I find myself in a similar perplexity, except that my time is strictly structured and there are much fewer opportunities for quiet self-exploration. Rather it’s a noisy exploration of everything in and around the house, sweaty bike trips, ice-cream absorption and a carousel of events I do not necessarily approve but they still take place.

So, how to survive the 2 months of heat, moist, bored kids, sounds of cartoons and the general feeling of wasted time? Is there a way to turn at least part of that time into productive being? My answer is – yes, but! First, you have to realize, that it cannot be perfect and some of the days will still be long, boring, annoying and so unbearably hot that all you will be able to do is watch and envy the polar bears. But look at the global picture and find the perfect angle under the air conditioner. Don’t strive to perfection or you will be doomed to failure.

Tip #1: make a list of venues for good and bad weather

carousel

Make a huge big list of all the nearby places you can go with kids in good and bad weather. Playrooms, trampolines, parks, playgrounds, forests, cinema, swimming pools, lakes where you can feed bears swans etc., etc. I’m sure you can find at least 10-15 venues. There are some great closed playrooms with excellent wi-fi where you can work or have a cup of something while thinking on the next project. Open spaces like forests, parks and playgrounds are great for kids but they also mean you will not be able to steal a minute for yourself (which is good sometimes, too).

Tip #2: enroll kids for daily summer camps

fire

An excellent but costly solution for kids from 6 to 12 years old. From 12 and on there are great vacation stay camps. What I like most about camps is, that the child comes home exhausted, happy and dirty. Putting them in the bathtub afterward will grant you another quiet hour. What I like less about camps is, that if you have another smaller child, whom you still don’t want to send into unknown social environment, this smaller child will provide you a solo entertainment during the entire day. When two or three kids are at home together they get along better (even if they fight), rather than you staying at home with the youngest one(s) alone. This is based on own experiment and is subject to an argument.

Tip #3: invite your children’s friends

mom and children

This is not something you can use on a daily basis, but keeping one day in a week busy inviting your kids’ friends for a sleepover or just for a play date at home can be a good option. The pros are obvious: kids play, destroy the house in an unusual way and you can maybe have some relatively quiet time (depending on the size of your house/apartment). The cons are obvious as well: mess, extra responsibilities (kids can break their jaws, get cut, get hurt – you are in charge).

Tip#4: make them clean – it’s soap opera time!

bathroom

I know it might sound boring, but in fact, kids love to clean. Give them sponges, liquid soap (make sure small kids do not have access to chemicals), warm water and – voila! Cleaning all kinds of surfaces – windows, tables, kitchen marbles; once they start you won’t be able to make them stop. My kids end up making a “soap pool” in the bathroom or even on the floor (sounds very weird but they like “skating” on it). To avoid dried soap stains and other unpleasant signs of “cleaning” activity, my preference usually lies in the bathroom area, but it’s definitely not a rule of thumb.

Tip #5: throwing away stuff. Out, out brief candle!

garbage bin

There are lots of things in our house we don’t really need. There are tons of things we keep just in case but have never used and never will. Summer boredom is a great time to actively throw these things away together with your kids (don’t throw the kids away, at least I didn’t say that). So, if your little ones are 4 years and older they are legit for this creative assignment. Each child gets a sac and a task, for example: find 10 things in your room/play area that you don’t need. You can take the kitchen or the living room, and then you all meet after 10-15 minutes to see what surprises you have in your bags. It is amazing how we never pay attention at the junk we keep, but once the mission is set your mind works clearly: in, out, in, out etc.

These are, so far, my creative recipes. I’m sure there are a lot more ways to entertain your offspring but I’ve listed only those I have personally tested on my flesh and blood. Any more ideas?