Last weekend, my mum friends and I crossed an important frontier: taking a city break without our children. Most of us had left our kids before (they’re two), but for a higher purpose like work, or a wedding, or to save our tattered marriages. This time, we were heading to Rome to drink cappuccinos, eat gelati and never have to deal with a tantrum for three whole days. Here’s how we did it.
1. Fix a date
Inform your co-parent of this date. Write date on calendars around the house. Send text messages, emails, WhatsApps, Snapchats mentioning date. Consider tattooing date to some visible part of your body, such as your face. When your partner says, suspiciously, two days beforehand: “You’re going away? You never mentioned,” produce this paper trail. I like to use a helpful phrase to jog my husband’s memory, such as “I AM GOING AND THAT’S THAT”.
2. Organise childcare
Do not assume that your co-parent will take responsibility for childcare or you will end up like my friend Vicky, having to leave your child with a complete stranger (it was an agency babysitter and not just someone she’d flagged down in the street, but I could tell the anxiety really took the shine off Vicky’s in-flight gin and Ryanair scratchcards).
3. Organise back-up childcare
It is always helpful to have a Plan B, in case your Plan A backs out or, as in Breda’s case, ends up bed-ridden with hand, foot and mouth disease. “Could you please take my son for a day?” Breda asked her sister, who lives locally. “No way, I don’t want to catch it,” said her sister. (If your family are as helpful and empathetic as hers, maybe get a Plan C just in case).
4. Go far enough away
It must not be practical for you to rush home each time your chosen carer calls to report that “the little f***er won’t get dressed”.
5. Take full advantage
Browse the shops. Have a manicure. Wear heels and full makeup. Lie in. Drink heavily. Eat all the s*** that you tell your kids isn’t real food.
6. Let it go
The point is to get away. Whatever is happening when you call home, let it go. Sarah’s husband gave their daughter Cheerios for tea, Christina’s in-laws gave hers a scarily massive doll that looks like the Bride of Chucky and will never fit in any cupboard. My mum, who knows perfectly well that the first two rules of my house are #1 Thou Shalt Not Spoil and #2 No Princess Stuff, Ever, bought my daughter an elaborate Disney Princess Dress “because she wanted it”. Repeat after me: “That’s nice darling!”
7. Remind yourself of what you are not missing
“It’s so great not to have to change any nappies!” pointed out Christina when we visited a particularly gross Italian public loo.
8. Go with the right people
Our group really took this trip for each other – because it’s easier to see that your friends need a rest than that you personally are on the ragged edge and will go insane if you have to have one more 15-minute conversation of which half consists solely of the word “why?”.
9. Take home a bribe
Toddlers aren’t yet smart enough to see through your blatant guilt-gifting.
10. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY
We all had our moments. “Is my child missing me?” or “I’m spending too much” or “This is so selfish!” But I met a older mother on the plane who told me she left her family all the time, and she firmly believes that “I come back a better mummy”. Every mum deserves a break, we agreed. Don’t you?