A couple summers ago, the boys and I spent four days in sunny Orlando. It was sort of a last minute trip idea. I was originally supposed to go on a girls’ beach trip but childcare fell through and ultimately it was God giving me a big fat wink because I wouldn’t trade our time in Orlando for anything.
Once I decided we were traveling somewhere, I asked the boys what they wanted to do. Brooks said, “Ride on an airplane” and Case said, “Stay in a hotel.” So we rode an airplane to Orlando and stayed in a hotel. And even though we were in Orlando, we didn’t do any Disney parks or Seaworld or Universal.
One day as I was sitting at the pool straining to find two little heads among the many wet, goggled heads out there when I realized there are some definite pros and cons to a solo parenting vacay. I wanted to share those with you all.
No adult interaction: As you’ll see in a minute, this one is also a pro, but with no adult interaction, all conversations are entirely kid-centric which is fun and innocent but every now and then, it’s nice to have a conversation with another grown-up, especially when the kids are playing for an hour straight or only want to talk about Minecraft and Disney pins. In Orlando, my book, my thoughts and Instagram were my adult friends during our trip.
Lack of spirits: And by spirits, I mean libations. When sitting out in the sun all day at a waterpark resort, it’s fun to have a cocktail or two but when you’re the only adult responsible for every single thing, it’s not wise to get even the slightest bit tipsy, especially in an insanely crowded environment where it was already challenging enough to find my own children.
Lack of supervision: This was a big source of anxiety for me. I’m already not a fan of crowded spaces, especially when my boys are in the middle of one, so when they would run off, I tried to keep my eye on them constantly. At least when there’s another adult present, we can share this task. Also, there were several times when I had to leave the hotel room to quickly get something at the market or reserve our pool chairs and the boys wanted to stay. This was the first time the boys stayed a hotel room by themselves, and even though it was only for 10 minutes, it still made me very nervous. I made Brooks lock all the locks behind me and we had a secret knock for when I came back.
Always having to be “on.” In my everyday life as a single mom, always being “on” is a constant thing. It doesn’t only happen on a vacation but on a vacation, it feels even more pronounced. As the only adult, I can’t ever really let down my guard or relax entirely because I’m 100% in parenting mode. This was annoying when the boys were bickering. Being the one and only referee and making sure everything felt “fair” was hard sometimes. Also, they both wanted to sit with me, snuggle with me, play with me at the exact same time and with only one of me, it seemed like one of the boys always felt left out no matter how I tried to work it.
Danger: I’ve been traveling my entire life. In college, I traveled alone to Europe and didn’t feel one ounce of fear and even now, when I attend blogging conferences far away, I’ll ride in Ubers by myself and do other things alone that don’t feel dangerous but with it being just me and the boys, everything makes me slightly more anxious. If one of the boys got out of my sight in the airport, I felt panicky and riding in an Uber with a complete stranger at the wheel made me a bit nervous. But I certainly didn’t let the boys know this. If they think I’m worried or fearful, they start to feel that way too. I just had to make sure my eyes were on them all of the time and now with Uber’s ability to share a ride with someone so they can track you, I felt much safer than I would have in Uber’s earlier days.
Siblings must play: If the boys have friends or cousins around, they will typically choose to play with them as opposed to one another, but when we travel without friends or family, they have to play with each other. Some bickering definitely ensues but when they are forced to play together, it shows them they can do it very well and to their surprise, even enjoy it.
Calling the shots: Sometimes when multiple adults are present, there can be some disagreement about plans, rules, timing, and so on. When I’m the only adult around, I have to make all the big decisions. They may not be the best decisions but at least they are made with no debate, fanfare, backlash or deliberation.
Nada on the booze: When you are parenting solo, it’s obviously not wise to be tipsy or intoxicated. While it’s nice to relax and let loose on vacation, significantly limiting the spirits helps save money and calories. Furthermore, I felt great each morning and was up early raring to go.
Packing light: Last month I traveled to Cabo San Lucas on a romantic getaway. It took me an entire week to pack, not to mention the shopping that took place during the months leading up to the trip. I wanted everything to be flowery and tropical and Cabo-ish with hats and accessories and the right shoes and well, you get my drift. For my solo-parenting trip to Orlando, it took me one hour to pack from start to finish. I packed three pair of shoes, bathing suits that offered plenty of coverage and support for sliding down slides and playing in the pool, yoga pants and several comfortable yet cute dresses for evenings. Zero amounts of stress resulted from packing.
Friendly faces: There’s something about a mom being alone with her children that makes people smile and tilt their heads with curiosity. Maybe they’re thinking, “I wonder if they’re going to meet the dad on a business trip” or “I wonder if they’re running from something” or “Wow, I can’t believe she’s taking children on a trip with no the other adults.” Whatever the reason, everyone from flight attendants to servers to Uber drivers are extremely nice when it’s just a parent alone with your kiddos.
Eating in moderation: When you’re the only adult helping children manipulate a buffet, cut meat, clean up spills, etc., you can’t eat very much yourself, so in Orlando, by the time both children were sitting down happily eating and I got my food, I usually enjoyed one plate. If/when I was ready for another trip to the buffet, the boys were ready to leave at that point. The benefit was I never got overly stuffed or ate more than I needed. My one demand was coffee. I made sure I had enough coffee every morning. My children know coffee is more of a priority for me than food so they were excellent about making sure I found coffee before anything else.
No adult interaction: As you’ll see, this one landed on both lists. While obviously it would be nice to have some adult interaction, it was also kind of relaxing to be the only adult. There were no serious conversations; they all centered around playing, bathing, clothing, souvenirs or what we were going to do next. They had a lot of good questions about new things we were seeing but they were sweet, interesting questions.
Mindfulness: This is definitely the best pro of all. When two or more adults are present, there tends to be an “us vs. them” mentality, meaning the adults congregate and do their own thing while the kids congregate and kind of do their own thing, but when it’s just me and the boys, I’m focused on them and entirely in “the zone.” I love this and it makes my time with them more meaningful and mindful, so even though I had to deal with some of the cons above, it was totally worth it to have this special time with them.
This trip was very special to me, and the three of us made memories that will last forever. As a single parent, you miss the family unit but you also become much more mindful of your children when you’re with them and that is a huge blessing. If my mom were still living, she probably would have gone on this trip with us and been the “other adult.” I miss not having her here, but I won’t let it stop me from traveling with the boys alone. Their childhoods are so innocent and fleeting. I wish I could bottle these young years and re-visit them later in life, but because I can’t, I’m determined to make the most of every moment I have with them.