Home Again, to Recover from Vacation

We’re back from a week in Sedona, Arizona. We met up with friends and stayed at a rustic U.S. Forest Service cabin at the foot of Cathedral Rock, a 5-minute walk from Oak Creek.

It was gorgeous, fun to be with our friends, and nice to get away from our daily routine.

BabyC had a great time with her friend O, who turned two on the day we arrived. O is very chatty, already speaking in short sentences. He is fast and spent lots of time running laps on the screened-in porch where we ate our meals. BabyC adored him. She wore his shoes and followed him around the house. She watched him swim in the creek and wanted to do the same. She handed him toys, though he occasionally snatched them from her hands or pushed her with frustration. It was fun to watch them, even when they were sorting through their different ideas about how to be together.

It was also a hard week. BabyC woke with the sun for most of the week – approximately 4:30-5 AM – and could not be convinced to snuggle up and go back to sleep. She struggled to nap, what with the heat, the sun, and the excitement. For the last three days, BabyC has fallen apart into uncontrollable sobbing and flailing at nap time. Yesterday, we were back in her familiar room, and I held her while she cried and cried and cried, refusing to nurse or read a book or any of the other things we usually do to prepare for a nap. The last two days of our trip, she threw herself around wildly on the floor, not wanting to be held or consoled, until she finally collapsed in exhaustion. Stay close, but not too close, she seemed to be telling us. I know she is just exhausted and overstimulated, and I’m hoping that she can catch up over the next few days and we can return to our happy routines. In fact, last night’s bedtime was tear-free and full of kisses, so I’m hopeful this will happen sooner rather than later.

We’ve learned from previous trips to avoid planning too much and to adjust our expectations according to what is practical with a young child. And this was a very mellow trip, with just a few day excursions but otherwise lots of lounging around while the kids played, and yet it seems to have thrown us both out of whack. It makes me realize just how much it means to my toddler (and come to think of it – me, too) to have predictable routines and some down-time, where she is allowed to play quietly without lots of extra input from the world around her.

I am exhausted, and my vision of a week of reading and writing didn’t really happen. Midway through the week, I realized that what I needed was a vacation from the daily patience of caring for a child. And yet, on this trip, motherhood was harder than usual, what with the sleep deprivation and the meltdowns and the trying to be the patient safe place for my daughter in the midst of the upheaval of traveling. All of this left me wondering what I need to do as a stay-at-home mom to improve the chances that a vacation feels like a vacation, and not just more work. For that matter, what can any parent do? Any ideas, dear readers?

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23 thoughts on “Home Again, to Recover from Vacation

  1. I won’t lie, your post is a relief to me! I am curently doing the stay-at-home mom thing while I am out on maternity leave. I have a new baby and a 20 month old, and our previous days of mundane routine have been an upheaval of change the last few weeks. We have had doctor’s appointments, little league games to go watch, daytime excursions that we never had time for before… and it is really taking a toll! My toddler has been melting down at the brush of the cat walking by her, the slowness it takes for me to fill her juice cup, and a refusal to nap anywhere but where we are- usually on the couch. With my patience running thin, it has made me wonder, how do full time stay at home parents do it!? I feel guilty when I want a break from parenting because there truly is no other thing that is as rewarding in my life. To hear someone else express the need for this vacation as well makes it feel just a little less selfish.

    • I’m so right there with you:) I remember that my postdoctoral supervisor, a father of two young kids, used to return from vacation saying he was relieved to drop his kids off at daycare that morning. I used to judge that as uncaring, but now I totally understand. I know that it is really up to me to recognize when things are getting to be too much for me and ask for help, hire a babysitter, etc, and lose the guilt knowing that when mama needs a break, she needs a break. Doesn’t make it easy though. Anyway, good luck, and find a way to get yourself a break! I will if you will:)

  2. Hi there! I have no ideas, just wanted to jump in and say thank you for being so honest and transparent about your experiences. It’s so comforting to read these relatable slices of life and know I’m not the only one! In general I appreciate all your writings as they cover topics I don’t see elsewhere and even if I do, your take is always so balanced and thoughtful. I hope you and Baby C are back on track and catching up on rest! I get the feeling that for the next few years of our Babys’ lives, relaxing getaways might not be more than some extreme visualization while fading away on the couch after bedtime. But we have years of fun family vacations in our future where we sit back with our cocktails watching the kid(s) play, everyone eats together and bedtime is a snap. We’ll still be exhausted but at least everyone is old enough to unpack their own suitcase when we get home! It goes back to living in the moment and switching our mindset to one of gratitude and appreciating any little thing we can about the experience. Easier said than done, right!?

    • Thanks for your sweet comment! I’m glad you appreciate the honesty. I came back feeling in a slump and wishing that I could think of something uplifting to write about, but this is all I had. I hate to complain and whine about these things, but I guess I’m still coming to grips with the all-consuming nature of being a mom. Yes to more gratitude! Thanks for that. It is easier said than done, but just saying it helps to add some perspective. I LOVE being a mom and when I think about my life before BabyC, it seems empty. So I am very grateful for the fullness of my life right now.

  3. Thank you for being so honest! Sorry I don’t have much to add in the way of suggestions, I can only say that I feel the same way. I work outside of the home, and often feel that vacation is more work, since taking care of kids is much harder than my job. I know that will change as they get older (mine are 4 years old and 6 months old), but for now I think staying close to water and sand is the best way to have a vacation. Nothing like the pre-baby vacations of wine tasting and leisurely exploration of a new place.

    • Thanks, Arin, it is nice to know that I’m not alone. And I think it is true that this frustration is the same for all parents, whether we stay home or work outside of the home.

  4. The most relaxing vacations I’ve taken since having my first are ones taken with my family. My parents and sister are more than happy to take turns getting up early, reading books, chasing a toddler, feeding her meals, etc. My husband I are happy to leave her in their capable hands and go back to bed or out for dinner and a movie, or whatever other activities there are to do in the area where we’re vacationing.

    The other thing we do is just leave her with my parents for a single overnight- it lets us go out on a date and then sleep in the next day. While there is some tumult from the disruption in her schedule, the less than 24 hours of disruption is pretty easy to recover from. And a morning to sleep in as last as we want is AWESOME!

    PS- The overnight thing was a lot harder to do when I was still nursing- since the pump never really cut it for me and I’d spend a lot of the time away from my daughter sort of uncomfortable. However, we did it a couple of times and it was worth it to rest and reconnect.

    • I think we’ll consider taking a grandma on vacation with us soon. None of our parents live close, so the night away isn’t something that we can do on a regular basis, but it is something to think about when they come into town. And to be honest, they would probably love the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with BabyC. My biggest barrier to doing an overnight away right now is myself. I think I just need to be brave and take the plunge. BabyC can handle that kind of tumult right now with enough preparation and explaining, but I think I have a harder time!

  5. Great post Alice. I have been nagging Adam for a few weeks to get away but I’m wondering if I should be careful for what I wish for. It’s tough to take them out of their element. I resonated with everything you wrote. ESP the getaway for the stay at home mom haha.

    • I think the key is to plan the vacation carefully. Stay in one place, focus on relaxing and don’t plan too many activities. None of this is enough to make me want to trash our travel plans, I just need to adjust my expectations and communicate to my husband and others when I need more help, I think. Do it, Katie! – Just expect to come home exhausted:) Hugs!

  6. I agree with mommacommaphd, bring along relatives! Especially those willing to take on all sorts of parenting duties. Our best vacays have had aunts, uncles and grandparents. But I do agree, even then, it doesn’t always seem like a holiday!

  7. This is precisely why we call it “Travel,” and not vacation. Relatives help, but it’s still just “travel.” I assume to have a vacation, especially for you as a SAHM, you need to leave the baby behind. We aren’t there yet. Waiting for the kids to be a few years older, but that’s our plan.

  8. What I love about this is that you manage to write about the very real difficulties of taking kids on vacations without sounding whiny. At all. I have opted out of several extended family camping trips, because they are the opposite of a vacation. It is so much extra work and extra stress to keep little kids out of the fire, out of the river, out of the road, out of trouble…

    • Oh good, thanks:) I worry about the balance between being honest and being fun/interesting to read. It’s tough sometimes. And I guess I’m still learning about how to pick and choose our “vacations.”

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  10. Thanks for the honesty! I have to admit that this is one of my biggest “fears” & one of the reasons we’ve only taken a few vacations since our first was born – granted, these were kid-free long-weekends! It just seems more restful to let her sleep at grandmas and for us to actually have a quiet weekend together. I have friends taking their 3 & 1 year old camping this weekend & I wish them luck! :) I agree with the response above that chasing a toddler out of the fire, out of the river, away from the poisonous insects, etc just doesn’t sound like vacation. I think the most toddler friendly vacations are those where you are familiar with the surroundings and where they will be able to be safe & (hopefully) get some good sleep – is there such a place? ;)

    My husband & I settled for a “stay-cation” a few weekends ago where we sent the baby off for a few nights at grandmas but also had her home with us for part of the time too – I got all the housework done beforehand & we read books, took a daytrip to the lake, watched movies, worked in the yard & ordered take-out all weekend long. It didn’t really scratch the wanderlust itch but it was pretty peaceful. :)

    Btw – I finally finished Eskimos :) http://loveandstories.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/review-how-eskimos-keep-their-babies-warm/

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  12. I read this and I found I could empathize with you. We took our first family vacation in October last year and I feel like I’m ready for another simply because I didn’t feel like I even really got a break. I too am a stay-at-home-mom and we opted for an all-inclusive resort vacation (airv) in Cancun. It’s not our first airv but the MOST important thing I learned from that trip was, in order for me to get a real break from what I do at home (though not having to cook and make the bed every day was a break), the resort needs to have a kids’ club that accepts kids that are my child’s age. This resort’s kids’ club accepted kids 4 and older and our child was 21 months old. We enjoyed the pool and the beach but it would have been oh so lovely to have a couple of hours to myself (either with or without my hubby) every day. THAT would have MADE the vacation. Will do another airv in the future, but next time it’s all about the kids’ club!! Good luck to us with our vacations in the future. =)

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