‘Did you read any good books while you were away?’ my best friend asked when I called her after returning from a four day vacation in Mexico with my four-year old. Read any books? Hahahahaha. My friend, obviously, is loco.
‘I could barely scan the pages of ‘Who Wore It Best?’ in Us Weekly, let alone tackle even three pages of an actual book!’ I responded, laughing my tanned butt off.
My friend also asked if I was ‘dreading’ going back to work the following day. Hahahahaha. ‘I can’t WAIT to get back to work,’ I told her, truthfully.
I’m suffering from Post-Traumatic Vacation Syndrome, also sometimes called Family Vacation Stress Syndrome, also called, ‘I Need a Vacation to Recover from My Vacation.’
At work, my colleagues don’t ask me, oh, about 729 times an hour, ‘Did you see me do that mommy? Did you see me do that? Did you see me do that?’ They also don’t demand, oh, about 729 times an hour, ‘Watch me Mommy! Watch me Mommy! Watch me Mommy!’
Don’t get me wrong. Vacationing with my four-year-old son was an awesome experience, one that I’ll never forget and also gladly do again…in a while. I’ve never seen him so happy before, which made me incredibly happy. But, as any parent who has vacationed with young ones knows, vacationing with children is just as much about enjoyment as it is about endurance.
After you pack your bags, drag your suitcases and carry-ons through security and the airport, and get settled on the plane, you’re exhausted before you’ve even arrived at your destination.
When I got back to the office and my colleagues asked me how my trip was, I answered, ‘It was amazing,’ which it was, but I was also thinking, ‘Well, here I am! I survived!’
I survived, but I am also bruised. Very. There should be something called Vacation Bruises, which happens not because you’ve gone on an adrenaline-fueled adventure, but because the STUFF you have to carry for your children, even just to go to the beach, bangs against your legs. The beach chair bangs against your arms; you whacked your thighs during one of the three dozen times you folded and unfolded the stroller; or you threw out your back carrying said stroller, with your child still in it, up some stairs because the wee one was ‘too tired’.
I didn’t even plan any real activities. At age four, going to the pool, or the beach, or just for a long walk requires planning enough, and I am not into logistical nightmares.
Speaking of nightmares, forget about any kind of vacation napping either, especially when you have a toddler who has always refused to nap.
My friend the comedian also asked, ‘Did you nap on the beach? Beach naps are the best!’ Yes, yes they are…so I remember, pre-kids.
But, excuse my Spanish, no I did not f***ing nap on the beach. My friend really is loco to even ask! How could I possibly nap on the beach, when I had to make sure to keep my son…alive?
The same goes for napping on a chair by the pool, where I’m more of a lifeguard than anything.
When on vacation with young children, I realize, you have to go at the speed of the slowest common denominator, the smallest child, which can be slower than a turtle. After the 20 minutes it takes to put on sunscreen, two seconds into the walk there’s the, ‘My Croc fell off,’ and then, 20 seconds later, another stop, because, ‘My croc fell off,’ and then 20 seconds later into your walk, ‘There’s sand in my Croc. Can you get it out?’ It can take twenty minutes to walk two blocks.
See? Along with the vacation bruises, the sunscreen application, the constant vigilance to ensure my child won’t drown, get sunstroke, sunburn, heat rash, or lose a shoe…a vacation with a child is no vacation at all. Which is why most parents feel as if they need a vacation after the vacation. That, or they can’t wait to get back to work, no matter how much fun their children had.
I’m realistic when it comes to traveling with a toddler. We accomplish what we can, but I have no expectations. If all we manage to do in a day is hit the pool, a restaurant, the beach, and a walk, I feel like Mother of The Year. As long as my child isn’t crying, Vacation Mommy feels like Mother of the Year.
I also prepare myself mentally. I know I’m getting a lot of bonding time, which is great, and we’re making memories, but it also means I’ll have no alone time. Just as important as not forgetting their security blanket is mentally preparing yourself.
Interestingly, the very next day I got back from vacation, I found an article online professing that family vacations can not only be ‘taxing, even on the best of relationships’, but can literally destroy a relationship. (This is ONE reason to have one-on-one vacations with your children. You may hear, ‘Mommy! Watch this!’ a gazillion times, as your child jumps into the pool a gazillion times, but you won’t be at the tipping point of a divorce because of it!) The headline read, ‘Divorce Rates Are Actually Highest Right After Family Vacations.’ (How could any travelling family not want to read that?)
The study from researchers from the University of Washington, conducted by associate sociology professor Julie Brines, saw a ‘pattern of dissolving marriages linked to vacations, with divorce rates constantly found to be the highest in March and August. The article argues that, considering it takes a few months to begin the divorce process, researchers believe that these peak months are the delayed effects of the winter holiday vacations and summer vacations.
Honestly, my son and I both had the best time—so what if im tired, bruised, and have ‘Watch me! Watch me!’ running on a constant loop through my brain?
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be napping—not on the beach!—but under my desk. Because it may be the closest thing I’m getting to a vacation after a vacation with a child.