Child free holiday. Three words that most of us parents can only DREAM about.
Normally once you become mum or dad, family holidays are based around what there is to entertain the kids. What days out there are to do. What accommodation is best suited to fit all of you in without sleeping on top of each other. Or having a f*cking four year old’s foot in your face for half the night.
Whether you’re staying in the UK or heading abroad for some sun, a child free holiday doesn’t happen that often. If ever in fact.
So imagine my bloody excitement when I got to do just that. Leave my kids at home and jet off – by myself! This wasn’t even a couple’s weekend break away. This was leaving my boys at home for EIGHT days whilst I got on a plane and went to America. On my own! On my own for EIGHT DAYS! Shit. The. Bed.
Was my child free holiday all a dream?
I still can’t quite believe it actually happened, if I’m honest.
Obviously I didn’t leave the kids COMPLETELY alone. They were home with Daddy, and Granny and Grandad were heavily involved that week too. Who am I trying to kid? They’re heavily involved every week – but they upped the ante that week to help my Other Half who was working.
My child free holiday to the USA was probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done – certainly since having children! Probably shouldn’t admit to that maybe…?
It all came about when my best friends from Plymouth announced a year ago that they were moving to Connecticut for 3 to 5 years, and planted the seed that I should visit.
I wasn’t too keen on dragging all 5 of us on an 8 hour flight, partly because of the cost and partly because 8 hours on a plane with three young kids isn’t exactly my idea of fun. More the stuff nightmares are made of.
So I tentatively floated the idea of me abandoning my husband for over a week with our, shall we say, ‘spirited boys’. And he didn’t seem too adverse to the idea.
I didn’t take much persuasion for a child free holiday
This was obviously all I needed. Not an exact yes, but it definitely wasn’t a no, either. Within days I was searching flights and praying that Covid would have jogged on and done one by the time I wanted to go.
To make the most of it even more (or some would say to take the piss even more…) I decided to coincide the trip to Connecticut with a few days visiting another friend in New York. I mean, it was only 2 hours down the road!
Okay, I might have been *slightly taking the piss, but hell, it’s not like us mums get a child free holiday more than once in a blue moon. I might as well take the most advantage of it that I could. And I mean seriously, NEW YORK BABY! The best place I’ve ever visited.
So last month it actually happened. After lots of stress over travel restrictions, Covid tests, flight changes, last minute panics over Visas (that I didn’t realise I needed until 2 days before!), it ACTUALLY F*CKING happened.
I couldn’t quite believe that I was going to leave my children for such a long time. I’d only ever been away from them for long weekends before. I wondered if I was doing the right thing? (For about a minute).
Would they be okay? Would they miss me so much they’d struggle? Would they be massive pains in the arse for my husband? Should I really be going?
What other mums thought
I posted on my Instagram a couple of times about it, and some mums replied saying that they couldn’t do what I was doing. That they just wouldn’t be able to leave their kids for 8 days.
Obviously that made me question whether I was a bad mum. Whether I should feel guilty about doing what I was doing. (Which I didn’t, btw).
Luckily the majority of mums said they’d do the same given half a chance and that I should jump at the opportunity. Others said they couldn’t wait for me to go so they could live vicariously through me and my social media updates when I was there!
Bloody Marys, beers and lattes for brunch in Manhattan
Of COURSE the boys were going to be okay. They weren’t being left with a random stranger. They were in their own home, with their Daddy who is MORE than capable of looking after them just as well as I am. Their favourite people (Granny and Grandad) would be on hand to pick them up from school a couple of times and give them tea. They were even being taken out for the day by my mum and dad whilst I was away.
I was only going to be gone for one weekend, then I’d be back on the following Friday. The rest of the time they’d be in school every day. They’d barely notice I wasn’t there!
The joys of a child free holiday during Covid
Then started a fortnight of lying low, twice daily testing, and not going anywhere other than the school run. In a bid to stay Covid-free. Rates around here were high, at least a quarter of my eldest’s class had tested positive. And I had to do a pre-flight test the day before I went. If I was positive, America was off. To make matters worse I had to stick a swab up my nose whilst being checked I was doing it right ON A ZOOM CALL! That was pretty mortifying, I can tell you. Thank f*ck I didn’t have to shove it down my throat and potentially throw up on my virtual call too.
The other small matter of not realising I needed an ESTA visa two days before I flew was another ‘little’ hiccup. I actually had a little cry at my desk when I realised I’d f*cked up and hadn’t sorted it. Then I applied frantically online only to be told that it can take up to 72 hours to be approved. I had exactly 69 hours until my flight took off. Bollocks. A lovely man at the US Customs and Border Protection Office told me that under no circumstances could I get on the plane without it. Just to add to my sheer panic and tears! Luckily it came through within 2 hours and I practically kissed my phone when I read the email.
Saying goodbye to the boys was easier than I anticipated. I gave them big hugs at home before the school run, slightly concerned that a big goodbye outside a classroom door wasn’t the best idea – for any of us. I’d talked a lot about it beforehand, and they knew that I’d FaceTime them every day. I explained the time difference and that I’d be 5 hours behind them. Clearly they had no damn clue what I was on about. But the one thing that they funnily enough did understand was that I’d bring them home a present each. Amazing how the promise of a little toy can overshadow all thoughts of Mummy not being around for more than a week. My kids are so easily bribed!
Bring it on
My pre-flight Covid test was negative, my VISA was approved, I was good to go. Just the entire day spent in taxis, trains, coaches and buses to get to a hotel at Heathrow Airport to get out of the way, then my child free holiday began. A night in a hotel room on my own would have been a big enough treat by itself. No bedtime to deal with, no four year old wondering in at 4am, no six year old having a bad dream. And this was just the start!
My flight to JFK was early Friday morning, and suddenly I was so nervous about travelling by myself. Pre-kids I’d flown lots of times on my own and it had never phased me. I’m not sure if it was because it had been so long, or because of all the added restrictions, but I suddenly wasn’t so confident! The seemingly endless questions at Heathrow before I’d even got to check-in didn’t help. I felt like I was being interrogated. You know when you panic that you’ll say the wrong thing and suddenly be carted off by the police. I mean, God knows what I actually THOUGHT I was going to say!
When the plane finally took off, tears actually rolled down my face! I mean, what the shitting hell is that all about? Thank God there was hardly anyone on the flight and nobody saw me. I think I must have suddenly been just totally overwhelmed by it all. Was I doing the right thing leaving the boys? The effort to avoid Covid when it felt like the net had been closing in. The thought of seeing my friends. The excitement of a child free holiday. The nerves of travelling by myself. The sheer relief! Or I was just being a total twat? Whatever it was I was more than happy when they offered me a prosecco with my in-flight meal. Even though it was only 10am. (And why the hell do they always give you random stuff like Thai Green Curry at 10am???)
Loving every second of a child free holiday
I won’t bore you with the details of my ACTUAL stay in America. Other than to say WOW – I loved every single second of it. To stay with my friend I’d not seen in five years was incredible, New York was OBVIOUSLY amazing, (if you’re thinking of going then read Things To Love About New York City). Then topping it off with four days with my best friends in Connecticut was the icing on the cake.
I slept all night with no interruptions. Albeit I was still awake at stupid o’clock each morning. I didn’t have to make 9 meals every day and be told nobody liked them. There were no fights to break up. Nobody saying ‘mum’ 3,698 times an hour. No laundry, no homework, no online maths or countless emails from school. (Okay, I did still check my emails, but I just put a reminder in my phone to look again when I got home then promptly forgot about them).
For 8 days I wasn’t mum. And it was so GOOD. For 8 days I was Helen. Helen who could wander, chat, eat, and drink, with no interruptions. With no consideration for anyone else. How utterly, blissfully selfish.
Of course I FaceTimed the boys each day and exchanged pics of what we were all up to. They were ABSOLUTELY fine. I don’t think they really even started missing me until a couple of days before I got home. And if I’m brutally honest, I didn’t miss them as much as I expected I would. Harsh I know. Although it was the BEST feeling seeing their faces when I surprised them at school pick up the day I got back.
All mums need a break sometime
The fact I hadn’t missed them as much as I expected to proved to me that I had needed this break. That ALL mums need a break like this. At no point did I sit their scrolling through photos, pining for them. So long as I knew they were fine, I was fine. (And having the best time might also have had something to do with it…) I had no idea before I went that it would do me so much good. I was incredibly lucky to have a husband who would hold the fort and be happy for me to go. ‘Happy’ might not be the best word to describe how he felt, but he got on with it, and smashed it. Now he’s planning his own cycling trip with the same friends in America, so hey, I’ll just suck that one up too! (Although no doubt moan like shit).
Obviously within two days of getting back, it all started to feel like a distant memory. And now as I write this, I’m back in the thick of husband being away for work, school runs, interrupted sleep, mind-numbingly frustrating hand-writing practice and what feels like endless swimming lessons. Not to mention the refereeing and laundry. That pissing laundry.
But I’m SO glad I had the chance for that child free holiday. That chance to be more than ‘just mum’. It did me the world of good that I didn’t even know I needed. So if you ever get the chance, grab it. It doesn’t have to be quite as extreme as me, for that long or that far away. But GRAB IT AND DON’T LET GO. You won’t regret it.
How did I do?
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