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How to navigate holidays with children when you’re a single parent

by Lia Hynes
24th Feb 2020

When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, ‘Things Fall Apart’ she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves, as well as the realities of life as a single parent in Ireland

Shortly after I became a single parent, I saw something Anna Friel (also a single mother) had once said, about how since her marriage ended she and her daughter take a holiday each year, just the two of them. I promised myself I would do the same.

That was almost three years ago. I’ve just gotten around to our first solo trip. The delay was mainly down to the fact that we are lucky in the holiday department, we have inserted ourselves into my parents annual holiday and they seem happy enough for us to do so, so I wasn’t faced with an all or nothing, do it on your own or not at all, situation. Which meant that making memories (which let’s face it, for a four-year-old, would be mostly soon forgotten) didn’t seem that pressing.

She’s five and a half now. Flying isn’t the minute by minute assault course it feels like in those early years. We can move about without the mountain of small equipment tiny children require.

We’ve started small, nothing too ambitious. A weekend in London, staying at the house of my oldest friend, who has two small daughters.

Comfort zones

Holidays are a break but they also take you out of your comfort zone. For a single parent, they can show up all the things you are missing, so to speak. Whether you’re staying with friends, or in a hotel, chances are you’re going to brush up against other family units. Of course, you do this in your day-to-day life, but after a while nothing new or unexpected; mostly you are seeing the same people. You stop comparing yourself.

It started as soon as we began; two other families from school, units with both parents, siblings were on our flight.

But the thing about taking yourself out of your comfort zone is that it can make you realise you no longer need a comfort zone. That you are no longer raw or tender in the places you once were. That at the sight of other families you simply think that is them, this is us.

This is not to simply say we had an amazing time, hashtag making memories. The trip was mostly great. But at times exhausting, silent scream-inducing, draining. Because that is what holidays with children are like. On the first holiday I took with my daughter, instead of the imagined hours on the beach and in the pool, she hated the water and wouldn’t countenance touching sand. It took hours of rocking for her to go to sleep, and at one point I fantasised that I was diagnosed with a serious, but ultimately non-fatal disease which meant I had to be hospitalised for bed rest. My daughter would be brought to me for feeds, looked after by someone else in between.

You get over that first shock, that holidays with children are not restful, that at times, away from school and childcare, they can feel harder than being at home. But they are still a grind at times.

That’s the same whether or not you have a partner.

Of course, with a partner, there’s two to carry the weight, someone to give you a break. But sometimes I hear married couples, friends or families, bicker in that completely normal yet slightly draining way and think god, no thanks. I know that is hard to believe if you are in a couple, but wanting to be in one isn’t everyone’s default setting.

So that’s what our holiday has been like. Mostly lovely, but with some of the grind.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Read more: 10 things to do in New York City with the children

Read more: Things to know before visiting Dubai with children

Read more: 100 essential tips for first-time parents (from mums who’ve been there)