Would you go on holiday without your children?
A family of four enjoy some fun at a water park
Yes, says Deborah Collcutt
For the third time that morning I’d dried off, carefully reapplied sun cream, altered the position of the parasol, topped up my water and settled down again with my book.
Three paragraphs in and the call came again: “Mummy, are you coming in the pool?”
“I’ve just got out of the pool!” I replied. “What’s happened to your game of Boing?”
Boing was the genius ball game my friend and I had invented to keep our two daughters entertained in the pool of our Greek villa while we adults relaxed nearby.
I adore my 11-year-old daughter Dory and I love spending time with her – even playing several rounds of Boing with her in the pool – but when it comes to holidays I believe adults are from Mars and children from Venus: we want completely different things from a summer break.
In addition to sunbathing and reading I like wandering around local towns and villages, visiting markets and ideally an art gallery or two.
I’m no sloth, I love exercise but in short bursts: an early morning run and an energetic swim and then it’s back to my book and sun lounger.
In essence I like the sort of summer holiday I used to have with girlfriends and which is not of course of interest to two 11-year-old girls. With enough persuasion they will come with us to the market but the excursion needs to involve purchases – multiple and often – to include clothes, trinkets, ice creams and pancakes.
During the day, after a lie-in and leisurely breakfast because they go to sleep too late, they perform repetitive activities in water: ball throwing, handstands, diving and lilo races.
Unless you are a nanny or a children’s entertainer, no adult participates willingly in these games. If they do they are merely bagging time credits to be exchanged for solitary time on the lounger or at the beach pool bar.
Children want to eat at completely different times to adults who eagerly embrace vastly extended lunches and dinners and eat late like the locals.
By then children are hungry, bored and irritable which means that all too often it is impossible to savour a relaxed dinner amid the cries of “I’m bored” and “When are we leaving?” Nothing quite spoils the ambience like these words.
Some couples may want to enjoy a holiday without the children
Of course, going on a summer holiday means travelling there – cited in the survey as the most stressful part.
I am widely travelled but I did much of it before my daughter was born and often for work when I was always in a rush.
Travelling with my daughter involves a lot of waiting and a lot of patience on my part, with a leisurely browse around duty free off the cards.
So, yes, just occasionally it would be great to holiday without children.
The irony being that now my daughter is getting older she tells me that I’m the one who is annoying and embarrassing to go on holiday with – so I must be very careful what I wish for.
A family enjoy some fun on the beach
No, says Jane Warren
When my daughter was tiny I took a short break to Ireland, thinking this would recharge my batteries, and missed her every day.
When my children were both at primary school I spent a week away from them in Canada visiting old friends and every moment was underscored by the knowledge of how much they would have loved being on that trip.
I determined never to go away again while they were still living at home so each year we spend a week self-catering on tiny St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, where time stands still. I
t starts with a relentless eight-hour drive from Sussex to Cornwall and a notoriously wild three-hour Atlantic crossing but once there my son runs wild and barefoot on the unspoiled isle and my daughter and I paint, talk and walk. There is nothing better, despite the piles of laundry and full-on parenting involved.
The extent of a childhood is just 18 summers. Why would I want to squander this precious time without them – especially in the years when children still find joy in parental companionship? Bea is 13 and still thinks going on holiday with her brother Willem and me is an incomparable treat.
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How many more years will she feel this way? I don’t want to miss a moment by taking for granted their love of family times.
I spent my child-free years travelling the world but after having children in my late 30s my priorities changed.
Satisfied that I had indulged my urge to travel I embarked on the journey of motherhood aware that this was going to be a fleeting and exhausting adventure of an entirely different sort. And I want to squeeze the most I can into it, including the core memories that holidays offer.
That’s why in two weeks’ time I’m taking my children on a seven-day adventure holiday to the French Alps with La Source, a company that specialises in family experiences for independent travellers, and why for the past few years I have taken each child on an annual solo “mummy trip” – to explore world war battlefields and the Bayeux Tapestry with Willem and to Barcelona, Marrakesh and mountaineering in the Lake District with Bea.
There are no other people in the world I would rather share these moments and nothing I would rather spend my money on, including upgrading my old campervan.
These trips allow precious one-on-one time, adapting each day to them, and storing up memories that will inform how they see the world in future – along with the deep knowledge of how loved they have been.
I know that each year I choose not to sign up for the four-day European tour with my choir is a year that takes me one step closer to the decades when I won’t have two small hands to hold as we explore the world together. I’m in no rush to spend time apart from my children. It’s going to happen soon enough.