Needing a little time off the 24/7 schedule of parenting and full-time work, an Aussie dad and his wife take a cheap and cheeky holiday that turns out to be epically good.
Newspapers are spread across the table, our breakfast plates are almost finished and second coffees are on their way. My wife and I are enjoying what a lot of people would consider extremely normal: A long, lazy brekkie at our favourite café. Yet for almost the first time in over two years, something’s different. A strange, almost-forgotten feeling has swept across us. We’re … relaxed.
It’s just the two of us on this weekday morning, with our almost two-and-a-half year old boy at childcare. He goes there five days per week as my wife and I both work full time.
For most of our child’s life, we’ve had little hands-on support from family (none of whom live close by), with our relentless work-parenting-work-parenting cycle sometimes feeling overwhelming. Even on holidays, there’s little escape from the stress, which I’ve previously written about for DAD!
Which is why my wife and I hatched a bold idea.
Why don’t we take time off work but instead of a family holiday, we can leave our little guy at childcare and stay at home together?! We knew he wouldn’t mind, because he loves childcare, but we’d be able to take some much-needed time for ourselves.
At first we worried a ‘staycation’ would just be a waste of annual leave, but taking one week off together was one of the best decisions we’d made in ages.
The mornings were much the same, with the craziness of trying to get ready for work and to get our toddler fed and dressed akin to herding cats. Then we’d both jump in the car for the drive to childcare – a joyous and amazing experience for our son, who couldn’t believe his fortune at having both mum and dad with him when it was usually only one of us.
Once he was happily buzzing around his room and playing with his friends, my wife and I briskly walked back to the car feeling like naughty students who were about to wag school.
We had a whole week to do as little as we wanted, free of the stresses that accompany work and parenting.
Each morning, we made a beeline to our favourite café and enjoyed the type of blissful brunch we used to before we became parents – just papers, food, coffee and conversations, without worrying about our little creation running amok, or falling over, or spilling his babychino, or needing an emergency nappy change.
That entire week was spent taking time for ourselves and each other. We had mid-afternoon naps. We went to the movies and binged on Netflix. We completed odd jobs around the house that were too difficult to attack with an overly energetic toddler causing chaos at our feet. We took a couple of long walks in the nearby parklands, read books, had hourlong massages and even enjoyed a sneaky pub lunch together.
Of course, by the end of each day we were both dying to see our little man, to experience the joy of his crazily enthusiastic running hugs once we arrived at childcare to pick him up.
By the end of that week, my wife and I were more relaxed than we’d been in a long time. Our batteries were recharged and we’d been able to reconnect a little as husband and wife instead of the intense 24/7 mindset of parenting.
There’s no doubt the joys of being a dad far outweigh the stresses and difficulties, but that week-long ‘staycation’ reinforced to me the need to find some downtime and switch off when possible.
I think we’ll make it an annual event.