Monday, March 3, 2014

Things travelling and stay home parenthood have in common

Modern Mothercraft strongly advises against travelling with young children unless absolutely necessary. In fact, it proclaims "it should be avoided as far as possible" for reasons including change of routine, "digestive upset", and infection from crowds. It also strongly advises against train travel if possible, noting that planes are "usually quite safe".* 

I love travelling. Before having children, my husband and I spent many a happy time wandering around far-flung locations armed with guide books, backpacks, and ugly-yet-practical shoes. Now we have kids, we've only been two holidays that didn't involve staying with extended family.  While I'm sure that travel is much easier now than it would have been in 1945, it's still harder than before kids. The closest I have gotten to real travel recently is looking at other people's pictures on Facebook.

I have been thinking, though, about how there is a lot that stay-home parenthood and travelling actually have in common.  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands as a stay home mum, and perhaps I am grasping at straws in a deluded fashion, but here are ten things I've come up with:

1. Sleep deprivation.  Jet lag wakes you at odd hours, and we had many an early morning to catch a bus, plane or train. So, it's just like now with a toddler.and a newborn!

2. Sleeping in odd uncomfortable places. An airport floor while waiting for an early flight. A toddler's bed when they can't sleep on a stormy night. The discomfort of an Indian slat bed. The discomfort of the aforementioned toddler deciding my pillow is just the place for his feet when the storm does lull him to sleep. Exactly the same!

3. Being hassled. When travelling, I was often hassled to buy a person's wares, or to give them money, or to ride in their taxi/auto rickshaw/tuk tuk. Now I'm hassled to put on Peppa Pig and provide a never ending supply of Tiny Teddies.

4. You have some amazing moments... Seeing the Taj Mahal in sundown. Having both my children snuggle up to me while I read them a book. Riding camels by the Pyramids of Giza. My children pulling faces at each other and laughing like hyenas. Both travel and parenthood are full of little moments that I wish I could put in my pocket and keep forever. 

A lovely moment: playing with my 2 lovely children
5.  ... And there are hard days too.  The day I accidentally dyed the washing blue. The looooong trip between Mexico and Guatemala in a bus with what felt like 3cm of leg room.  Spending hours changing nappies. Spending hours in passport queues and smelly bus stations. 

6. The people you meet. Other backpackers, other mums. People in hostels, on buses and at historic sites, other parents at music groups, at the creche door and at other kid activities.In both cases there is always plenty to talk about at first.  While travelling it's: where are you going? Where have you been? And in the case of other Kiwis - don't you miss Burger Rings? Do you know so-and-so's aunt's cousin? Me too! I sat beside him in school science! And in parenthood, small talk is about age gaps between children, milestones, what creche/kindy/playgroups are good, what other activities are you enrolled in. Composted nappies vs reusable nappies rather than Rome vs Paris.

In both cases you meet some fabulous people and have excellent conversations, and build up great support networks. In lots of other cases, though, I am struck with how the instant conversations can mask the fact that you actually have very little in common with some of the people you meet, a difference that isn't highlighted until the conversation strays from travel or your precious offspring. 

Another lovely moment: Marrakesh at sun down.
Although you don't want to see all the photos we
took of this as there were plenty!
7. The photos. In both cases, it's easy to take hundreds and hundreds of the same things from different angles. In both cases, they'll also bore other people silly if you try and show them more than a dozen at a time.

8. Expect the unexpected. Having to cancel plans due to an outbreak of hand foot and mouth. A train or bus delay throwing out all your schemes. In both travel and stay home parenthood you really have to be flexible.

9. Conversations about toilet related things and "digestive upsets". I'm sure I don't need to elaborate on how much stay home parents talk about this. I haven't talked so much about poo-related things since husband and I developed our rating scale of public toilets after me trying to describe a particularly bad public toilet in Laos.And as for digestive upsets Mothercraft should have noted that you don't need to leave the house to be at mercy to these. Or cleaning up after these.

10. Time flies too quickly. While travelling, it seems to last forever, but in no time you're a stay home mum to two children, looking at your photos and thinking about how young and thin you look in them. It's the same with parenthood. My two are growing so fast, already I look at photos of them a few months ago and marvel at their changes. In both cases, I wish I had some sort of machine to perfectly capture all of the little moments, and to allow me to better remember them.

So, perhaps travel with children would be a bad idea due to the reasons Mothercraft states. Whatever the reason, I'm certainly not doing any right now. But I've decided it doesn't matter. Being a stay at home mum is just the same.  <insert me begging you with my eyes to humour me and agree>

* Not that the word 'usually' would provide comfort to me if I were inside a 1940s plane in turbulence, but perhaps I'm of an age when I expect things to be 100% safe? Or, at least, more than 'usually'.

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