Why Vacations With Kids Aren’t Really Vacations (For Parents)

My ideal vacation is leisurely and relaxing. Sleeping in until my internal clock tells me it’s time to rise. Relishing a cup of coffee in the sun. Eating a slow, savory breakfast. And reading a good book on the beach, only to be interrupted by the occasional call of the ocean to submerge myself in its salty goodness. Please note that nowhere in this description do I mention frantically chasing a toddler down the shoreline, taming an impending tantrum over the denial of a second ice cream cone, or co-sleeping as a family of 3 in the full-sized bed at the Airbnb.

Listen, I know how it sounds. So spoiled, right? Trust me, I feel rotten just thinking these thoughts, let alone writing them. In my defense,- I love taking family vacations that involve my child. In fact, those are the only vacations I’ve experienced since becoming a mother. But to consider them leisurely and relaxing? Well, not quite. And while I’m thankful for any opportunity to explore new places with my family, sometimes I can’t help but think, “did I really just travel and pay to do the same stuff I already do at home?” But here’s the thing- vacations with kids aren’t really about you. They’re about your kids, and you’re just along for the ride.

You see, a vacation doesn’t mean that your mothering duties suddenly take a backseat. When your child is present, it is always at the forefront of a parent’s mind to put them first. And that’s great! It’s how the human species survives, and Charles Darwin would be proud. But that also means that you, sweet mama, don’t get to decompress at the level that you probably wish you could. You’re still initiating bedtimes, coordinating feeding schedules, and reading a book without interruption will likely remain a fantasy for now. Because when your child is in your proximity, their needs come first. Why? Because you’re selfless and amazing. No, really. You are.

So the next time you go on vacation with your children, try and let go of your expectations and lean into the chaos. Because after all, there is nothing less relaxing than pressuring yourself to relax. I can’t promise that you’ll return home feeling well-rested, but I can promise you this. One day when your children are grown, you’ll look back on these days with teary eyes and a heart full of gratitude. You’ll miss the closeness of feeling your whole family squeezed into one bed. You’ll laugh at the disorderly dinners eaten on the boardwalk. You’ll smile at the memories of children by your feet digging in the sand. And then, with a still and satisfied soul, you’ll go back to reading your book on the beach- totally uninterrupted.

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