When pregnancy strikes the first time, seasoned parents rave how wonderful parenthood is. They don’t tell you about the ‘OH F**K’ moment that hits within about seven days. It’s that moment when you realise that no matter what you do with your life, you will affect this little thing that you are now 100% responsible for. It’s that moment when your realise that if you take risks you have a knock-on affect on this little person’s emotional and mental well-being for the rest of their life which will impact on their kids and their kids after that. You have started a chain that cannot be broken. It’s that moment when you realise that you are now the adult in charge, you are the one that will have to fight off the zombies if there is a zombie attack. It’s that moment when you realise your life is no longer your own: it has been consumed by the ball of love – and even if you are not one for using bad language, a silent cry of ‘OH F**K’ screeches into your head.
It passes. We get on with the task at hand and do our best trying to achieve being even a fraction of the ideal parent we envisaged ourselves to be and we sometimes have a moment to remember the person we used to be. The person we are still somewhere underneath the peanut butter and jelly and parent taxi runs.
Every parent needs a ‘Me-Time’ trip. As soon as you have given birth to your last donation to the human population, start saving. By the time your last is 5 years old you have earned your right to a Me-Time Trip and will have enough cash to do it.
Steps to Your Me-Time Trip
1) Make a list of all the things you want to do before you die (let your imagination run!).
2) Match items on the list, i.e. ‘Learn to horse ride’ could be matched with ‘See elephants in the wild’, by going on a horse-riding trip to South Africa. Or ‘Help children in need’ could be matched with ‘Walk the Great Wall of China’ by doing voluntary work in a Chinese orphanage with a visit to the Wall while there.
3) Lots of charities do fundraising challenges abroad. For instance, Bóthar do a trip to India, and the IHWT do a Cattle Drive in Montana. Both of these are run by www.zarasplanet.ie. Find a charity that you would like to support and start fundraising.
4) Volunteer: If you are going alone, volunteering is a great way of having an adventure of a lifetime while making new friends from around the world at the same time. Check out www.vsi.ie for projects.
5) Start a Selfish Account. Buy a piggy bank or open a post office or credit union account and set up a weekly direct debit of a small amount from your salary. Save your loose change in a jar. You will be surprised at how little amounts add up quickly.
How Will They Survive Without You?
1) Cook double amounts of everything the week before and freeze, and leave a detailed menu for each day.
2) Leave complete outfits hanging in the wardrobe labelled for each day of the week.
3) Go during school term – this way the kids are occupied for the majority of the day and arrange with other parents for your kids to go visit directly after school.
4) Teach your kids independence from an early age a little at a time. Clean up a room, use a microwave, make a sandwich, use a washing machine and a dishwasher are all tasks an 8- or 9-year-old can be easily taught.
5) Forget the four steps I just outlined and get on the plane. So what if they live in the same clothes for three days, eat take-away every evening and have chocolate spread sandwiches for breakfast? Once you leave your children with an adult present, they will survive for a week without you and they will appreciate you all the more when you get back.
If you would like to read about my first Me-Time Trip to a Cattle Ranch in Montana click here.
So this week we are in Holland and while emerged in a different culture we are also learning new stuff.
A mess up in our car hire has given rise to an ideal opportunity to teach the kids how to read train time tables.
We went to the Van Gogh Museum and saw the classic Sunflowers and The Bedroom pictures. Sulls favorite was his Skeleton with a cigarette in his mouth. Van Gogh lived from 1853 to 1890. He chopped off his ear and sent it to the woman he loved Sull told me. He died two days after he had shot himself in the chest twice.
I also was quite thrilled to see originals by Henri Toulouse Letrec.
Ann put her grid reading into practice by finding everywhere we wanted to go on our visit to Amsterdam on the tourist map.
Sullivan observed that there were a lot of things for 18 plus in Amsterdam – he doesn’t know the half of it.
We learnt when a Dutch Uncle says to a shop assistant ‘you’re some prick’ he is actually asking for water ‘sooner prick’ which means without gas.
When I was 23, I had my Work Your Way Around the World 1996 in one hand and Pregnancy and Motherhood in the other. All I ever wanted to do was travel and then, I saw him across a crowded cafe and fell in love. He proposed before we kissed and I had already named our ‘to-be’ children. I decided the world would still be there when my ‘to-be’ kids were grown. So I reversed my life plan. Kids before travel rather than travel before kids.
Twelve years, two children and plenty of life drama later, the Pregnancy and Motherhood book was dog eared and circulating amongst friends who were just starting to need it. My youngest was five and able to survive for a week without me. It was time to dust off my travel guides.
I had helped out on a horse riding summer camp when I was 19 in Illinois, and it was something I wanted to try again. So when I saw an advert for a cattle drive in Montana I said to my friend, ‘Let’s do it!’
Six months later I was having a panic attack sitting on a plane flying over the Rockies with my friend snoring peacefully beside me. The two other Cattle drive Irish girls, Katherine and Miriam, we met at the airport were also sleeping soundly. In the 20 hours since we left I hadn’t slept a wink. The turbulence and exhaustion got at me, I suddenly developed an acute fear of flying and all I could say to myself was ‘What the hell am I doing here? I have two children, if something happens to me they’ll grow up without a mother. I should be more responsible!’. I felt miserable and wanted to go home.
However, one very deep sleep in a comfortable travel lodge in Bozeman Montana and a typical American breakfast of blueberry pancakes, grits, bacon and endless coffee and I was right as rain again, ready to start our adventure.
We were picked up by a yellow school bus and then switched to pick ups about half way and driven to our first campsite about two hours into the mountains. Along the way one of the first thing I noticed was that nearly every man wore a cowboy hat, they weren’t doing it as a tourist attraction, this was their way of life, these were real life cowboys and all very handsome!
Around a campfire where they seemed to burn telegraph poles (this may explain the lack of telephones) all 30 participants were asked to introduce themselves, most were from different US states – there was an ER nurse from NY, a firewoman from Connecticut, an air force pilot from Florida, A young family from Washington, a vet from San Fran, a 74-year-old Harley Davison biker and his 68-year-old wife from Iowa and a stag party from Boston. The international crew was made up of a mother and 40-year-old daughter from theUK, an English man and his son, a German, a Swiss and us the Irish contingent. Most were there because their favourite film was City Slickers or because it was something they always wanted to do.
Catherine, the Scarlet O’Hara look alike we met at the airport, had lost her voice on the flight and asked me in a whispered rasp to introduce her as it came to her turn. I said ‘This is Catherine, from Ireland, she’s a 26-year-old porn star and is here to research her next movie.’ For a moment there was silence and then the contagious laughter erupted, formalities were dropped and we instantly gelled as a group.
Discovery 1: I was still able to make people laugh.
The next morning we were split into groups introduced to our group wrangler. Our group of four Irish girls agreed there was a God when we were assigned Jeremy, the 29-year-old Chippendale lookalike who was a firefighter when not ranching. We were also matched with our horses and saddles. My three companions were regular riders. Me? I couldn’t even get into the saddle by myself, which meant poor Jeremy had to practically lift me onto my saddle every morning – a shameful way for a married woman to start the day.
Over the next eight days we drove 300 heads of cattle from their winter pastures to their summer feeding grounds. They need to be moved three times during the summer and the ranch previously employed the help of friends, neighbours and family to assist moving the herd along the track and keeping them together, then they realised out of towners were willing to pay for the experience and an industry grew around a necessity. The scenery was vast and beautiful, noise from the herd deafening at times as mothers tried to find their calves. Somedays we were riding for eight hours with an hour break for lunch. I stayed mainly at the back where the pace was usually not more than walking or mild trot.
On day three we moved to tents on the homestead, Battle Creek Ranch which meant warm showers instead of the river or wetwipe options of the first camp. There were still portaloos but these were plentiful and clean enough to get used to.
Discovery 2: I could still rough it and enjoy camping.
Out of the saddle, there was always a cowboy ready to teach you the art of lassoing or cracking a whip (easier said than done) and a catering crew who kept us surprisingly well fed with an amazing choice of food for each meal. The evenings were spent drinking, singing and talking around the campfire. This was mainly led by Hal who often sings at home with his good friend Willy Nelson. On the last night we had a barn dance and man, can cowboys dance! It was country and western all the way and for every song a different cowboy to glide you around the floor. Even Jackson, one of the cowboys five-year-old son put me to shame with his quick step as did his 94-year-old great grandfather. To ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ myself and Miriam did our version of Riverdance. All were very impressed and soon I was teaching half of the town, the 1,2, 3s and the Walls of Limerick. Considering I was thrown out of Irish dancing class at the age of eight for my two left feet and inability to master the 1,2,3s, this was quite an achievement.
Discovery 3: I still can’t Irish dance but am a good faker.
My overall memory of the trip was not the aching muscles or the realisation I was rubbish at horseriding. It was the comradeship and constant ripple of laughter through the camp 24 hours a day and crying with laughter at least twice a day.
Discovery 4: I am still able to make friends without my children being the introductory force.
I came home with great stories, a renewed appreciation for my husband and kids and some great gifts, including a cowboy hat for himself.
Rosie Meleady did the cattle drive at Battle Creek Ranch, Montana with Zaras Planet.
Yesterday I was freaking out a bit (actually a complete panic meltdown would be a more suitable description) about whether I should send the kids back to mainstream school and was I just being a hippy thinking of Home Ed (HE).
I decided to buy the books on the school book list just in case we decided that mainstream school was the right option – I bumped into another mother (who is a secondary school teacher) I haven’t seen in about 10 years and when I said we were going to do home schooling she nearly had a fit and said to my daughter, to quote ‘the people who have the most money have the most fun and the people who have the most money have the best jobs and to get the best jobs you have to get the highest points’.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that I met her yesterday. I just wanted to throw my arms around her and hug her. She had said just the right thing at the right time.
I’m glad I still understand the meaning of the word ‘education’. I walked away from her and her stressed out kids, knowing HE is 100% for us and feeling more relaxed than ever with our decision. I walked back down the street, into the book shop and exchanged the school books I had bought for more interesting books which the kids have already started enjoying.
When I was travelling around the USA by Amtrak, a woman I chatted to on one journey said, “I so envy what you are doing: I would so love to just take off and explore the world.” She was dripping with gold; I was living on a box of Bran Flakes and a large pack of M&Ms.
“Why don’t you?”
She laughed at my ‘innocence’, “It’s not so easy when you have a mortgage, kids, obesity and debts; you’ll see one day”.
So I sit here at my computer 20 years later with a negative equity mortgage, debts out me ears and two kids (they’re a positive as is my very nice husband). I’m hoping the gold will come next rather than the obesity, although, with my current sedentary lifestyle and diet supported by chocolate and wine, obesity is looking more promising.
I am feeling claustrophobic; I refuse to fulfil Goldie’s prediction – I am planning to escape, to find paradise and live the life of my dreams like I used to.
I don’t know how I am going to do it, but that’s where Life Is Short Magazine steps in. The magazine is like chocolate and wine – a complete self-indulgence. I interview people who fire up my passion for life, they inspire me and soothe the little voices in my head that shout ‘are you crazy?’.
So here’s the first steps we’re going to take:
1. Decide where to live.
2. Create an income stream that’s not location dependent.
3. Take kids education into account.
First thing to do is decide where to go. There is only one way to do this: list all the countries of the world and look at all the positives each has to offer.
How many countries are there in the world? A hundred maybe? Time for a Google Oggle.
At 18 years old, James Sullivan volunteered for the Great War and was assigned to the 10th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusilers. After one week of target practice he was on his way to the Front Line. Four years later, James Sullivan began his Memoirs of his three years and three months of service, in the First World War. For nearly 100 years, his First World War Memoir has sat, unseen, in the back of an old wardrobe. The words he recorded give a unique and vivid picture of life in the trenches, the everyday duties of a WW1 soldier, rest time, hospital stays, his brief encounter with royalty and the awfulness of war. These are the memoirs of my grandfather which I self published. The book is available through lulu.com (print) and smashwords.com for E readers.