You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. That’s how motherhood feels a lot of the time.
The day someone publicly compared the importance of putting yourself before your children with putting your own air mask on first in the event of an airline crash, I breathed a sigh of relief.
It’s that simple in my mind – mothers (and fathers) need to put their own emotional and physical needs first whenever they can, in order to be as fit and capable of giving to their children as possible.
I posted a super cute snap of me with my kids, on Facebook recently and someone posted “how on earth can you bear to leave them?”
“Because I love them, and I know having my own career, life and space makes me a better mum, and is therefore better for them” I felt like responding but didn’t dare write for fear of a Facebook war.
In addition, I am divorced from their dad and my children need and want time with him, so everyone wins when I take space – and in truth, I have no choice. When you are a single parent, you must accept you are going to miss out on loads of things in your children’s lives.
I’ve come up with some simple strategies that help both them and me when I’m travelling or away from them to ensure we’re connected and I am as present as I can be, and single parent or not, travelling without your children isn’t easy;
- They help me plan my trips. Kids love looking at images of foreign places, hotels and restaurants. I help them choose, and often they will pick something from a hotel I am going to stay at and ask me to photograph it myself and tell them if it is as good in real life as the picture.
- Sending postcards from every location. A very well travelled single Dad taught me this, and it is awesome. I send a card from every hotel – the message can be as simple as a kiss, but they absolutely love them and collect them all. My daughter recently took them to show and tell.
- Love notes; I encourage them to hide notes in my suitcase, which they love doing, and often write cheeky messages, and I do the same for them.
- Toy Swap: If they are feeling clingy, I will take one of their plush toys with me, and send photos of it on my adventure. Another big hit, especially with my daughter.
- Packing: My daughter loves helping me pack and is very forthright about what I should and shouldn’t be wearing on my trips away.
- Facetime: This has changed life for every travelling parent as well as divorced parents. It really is the best, as even a one minute chat can mean everything to them and to me.
- My mates: I make sure they know who my friends are here and abroad, and wherever possible, they communicate with them too, so they feel included in my thoughts and my life.
- Night before: The night before I travel, wherever possible, we have a special family night where they get to pick everything, the food the activities, the bedtime stories, everything. The same thing happens when I return.
Being a parent let alone a single one has taught me many things, but the biggest lesson has been not to judge. Not to judge other parents, other children, my own children, my children’s dad or myself. Everyone is doing their best, in the way only they know how.