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No Vacation for New Parents

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of vacation is a respite from something or a time away from business in travel or recreation. I have not enjoyed Merriam-Webster's version of a vacation in five years. To celebrate our first anniversary, Andy and I traveled to Tuscany and Rome for eight days. We drank, we ate slowly and savored our meals, we dreamed in piazzas while watching passersby, we stayed up late, we slept in and we let time slide by.

This is not to say that since then we've not had time away from business in travel or recreation. As a matter of fact, we spent Caroline's fourth week of life on a beach in Puerto Rico. We took full advantage of the lap baby/free under two airline policy and have traveled to numerous weddings and family and friend gatherings. During these vacations, however, we did not drink. We did not eat slowly or savor our meals, we did not dream and admire the crowds, we did not stay up late, or sleep in and time flew. Before we knew it each vacation was over faster than it arrived.

As my friend, and mother of three, recently put it, vacation with kids is kind of like a business trip. And as Andy describes it, "you are just doing the same thing you do every other day, but in a different location."

Vacation for parents means weeks of pre-planning ensuring you have everything you and every member of your family could possibly need at any point in time during the vacation. This basically means bringing everything in your house with you, in the car or on the plane. You know you've seen them before, the family on the highway, with the mini van loaded with luggage and pillows with the extra storage on the roof. The airlines, with their new luggage fees, love, love, love to see you coming. You, your children and your 10 bags and 2 car seats ($500 additional charge to your credit card upon check-in) are the reason why the plane is only half full yet has already met its weight limit.

If you are driving to your destination add at least one extra hour for every three hours of driving time. Bring a paper towel roll and some trash bags along in case one of your kids gets car sick and pukes or falls asleep and pees her pants. The bag has so many uses in addition to keeping the pukey paper towels- including a car seat cover or jumpsuit. Forget about listening to music, books on tape or having that conversation you've been meaning to have with your spouse. Barney on repeat in the DVD player, a screaming baby, or one of your kids yelling that the other is "looking at me" will prevent you from having any silence or quiet enjoyment. And, who needs that massage chair from Brooks when all you have to do is place the kid with the longest legs behind your seat so she can practice her soccer kick on your back. At least when you are in your car you are contained. Nobody can hear what is going on in your vehicle and car manufacturers made mini-vans with tinted windows for a reason.

In my opinion, airplane travel is much more exciting. First there's negotiating the kids and luggage in the parking lot. If you are smart you have learned quickly that it is worth the extra $50 bucks to park in the closest lot or garage, rather than the econolot, to minimize the distance from your car to the check-in. You then juggle your bags, which are way too heavy and keep falling off of your shoulder and hitting the head of the toddler whose hand you are trying to grasp in an effort to keep her from running across the parking lot. You stop at least 3 times to put everything down and relax your arms and each time find yourself leaving the luggage in a pile behind you as you chase a child who has once again escaped your grasp in a desperate attempt to climb the escalator. (Sure, TSA person, my bags have been with me at all times.) You pray that your flight is on time. You pray that you packed your car keys and didn't lock them in your car. You pray that you are seated near the front of the plane for a quick escape so nobody sees your face and knows who is the parent of the kid who screamed from take-off to touch down.

Once you get to your destination you may be with other adults. You sit in your hotel room or walk laps around the hotel from 6-9 am as they sleep in. They get up for brunch and you say hello in passing when you are headed back to your room for an 11:30 nap time. When all your friends and family are heading out for dinner and drinks you are ordering over-priced mac 'n cheese and juice from room service. The time slowly slides by as you sit in the dark listening to your kids sleepily toss and the bed next to you, not in the incredibly heavy and awkward to carry pack 'n play that cost you so much money to check with your luggage.

The idea of a vacation is lovely. In theory I really love vacation. I am desperate for a vacation. Yet, at this point in my and my children's' lives, it is just easier, and cheaper, to just stay home. There's no doubt that everyone needs a vacation and Andy and I do our best to take mini-vacations, however, we have yet to take one together. I go to the gym for an hour, he plays baseball. He mows the lawn and listens to his ipod. I go to the grocery store alone.

Sometimes, in our family, a vacation can be as simple as going to the bathroom alone or taking an uninterrupted shower.


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