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.