The disadvantages of traveling alone with a young child

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Innumerous days after days with a 3-year old during all her waking hours can be a challenge even to a zen-master monk. I´m not a zen-master monk, so I guess it´s ok to lose my coolness every once in a while.

The biggest challenge of the single-traveler parent is something like getting to the end of the day in a reasonable mental state, enough to keep the nurturing happening EVERYDAY.

Back home, I have my support system up and going. Friends can take care of my daughter Luísa virtually any time I need or any time I want. I might not use the support system as much as I could or should, but that´s another story.

Overseas it´s a completely different reality.

I´ve been around my 3-year old for full months. She´s been to school for 3 weeks now, for 4 hours in the mornings (little time that I use to work and tend to never exercise or simply chill not to loose any minute of productivity – as if that was even possible).

I catch myself frowning at my daughter a lot, getting pissed at the endless ¨whys¨ I hear in the day, at the milk spilled on her clean pajamas, at the non-cooperation moments (probably because I lack the creativity to engage her in brushing her teeth), at the nap she needs so badly but refuses to take and ends up grumpy for a few hours straight, at the lunch left uneaten and at the times she breaks things and we are not at our home, among other things.

I get so tired that usually I want to go to bed before she does, at 7:30 pm. I usually stay awake an extra half to one hour after she is down. Yes, this means that I´m down by 9 pm usually (if I don´t decide to party wildly and watch a full movie on my net book until 11 pm).

So the biggest disadvantage about being for so long alone with a young child is exactly this: being for too long alone with a child. It´s not having an escape, a moment alone, or a moment of simply chilling without caring for a little human being. Ok, I´m exaggerating a bit, but this is how it feels sometimes.

A single parent has it´s tricks to get things done though. Last time I went to get waxed, I took my netbook and put on a film for Luísa to watch. That´s when TV is good, by the way, when you use it as the cheap baby-sitter it is.

To get a quiet end of the day, I might schedule us a super busy afternoon, with lots of exercising involved (meaning basically playing until past sunset at the beach) and finishing at home a bit after her normal bedtime (having had a snack on our way as dinner), so it´s almost certain that she will crash in no time, and it ends up being almost certain that I will crash right after her :) .

When this happens, she skips the night-brushing teeth and maybe even the shower (the parent that never slips on making this happen, please share in the comments your secrets for brushing teeth success, really).

But surely, there are days when I´m burned out, when I wish I was home to deliver Luísa somewhere. I make plans on making new and solid friendships soon (I thought about adapting a friend´s strategy to meet women by taking yoga lessons).

Sometimes there are too many days without a solid conversation with another adult. I get into more superficial conversations for a number of reasons you can think of. I swear that everytime I see a window, I cut the small talk, and ask weird questions like: ¨What do you like to do most in life?¨

I plan everything for my child´s comfort and this often makes me uncomfortable, like being squeezed in the bus seat while she takes her needed nap between our travels.

At the airports, I have to say I envy the other passengers with bored looks over their books, iPhones and lap tops. Don´t these people realize the freedom they have to simply sit and wait for their flight? I can´t sit with my book, Luísa wants to play, to move, to be the 3-year old that she is. I need to keep an eye on her. And even though I ask random strangers to do so while I go to the bathroom and stuff, it´s hard to relax.

At the towns we visit, I can´t do many of the adventurous things I´d like to, like renting a kayak, surfing, walking long distances (anything that takes more than 30 minutes walking becomes easily a hassle or me being the horse), biking long distances, sip a drink in a bar at night. I can do those things with lots of determination and planning, but in the regular scheme of things, I don´t.

Sometimes, I wish I could sit quietly with my book or type some random thoughts at a spontaneous moment in the day, even simply chat with someone for a not scheduled amount of time. Sometimes I wish I could take just one parenting day off.

Photo Credit

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on March 10, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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