Following is Part 2 of a 3-part article, a ‘guest post’ written by my better half. She continues about the good & bad of those rare trips home.
When you only see grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends once or twice a year (or even less frequently) there are a lot of expectations: lots of people to visit, events to attend, and fun times to be had. It is great! But it can also be exhausting and overwhelming. It is impossible to truly make up for lost time…you just can’t squish one year into six weeks.
Our solution: As much as possible, make them come to you. Don’t wear yourself out by traveling all over the place once you arrive at your destination. We’ve learned that if people really want to see you they will understand your situation and make the effort. Also, don’t be afraid to say “no”. Sometimes what everyone needs is a “down day”.
The division of the family for several weeks is another difficulty. The kids are missing a parent, one spouse is playing single-parent and the other spouse is left behind in an empty house.
Our solution: Keep the communication lines open. My husband and I frequently send text messages to fill each other in on some event of the day or to just let the other know we are thinking of them. We also schedule regular Skype calls to keep us all in touch with each other.
The “vacation” may not feel like a vacation. Since you’ve been living far away from your family support network, it is easy to build up hopes of having more time to yourself…a little vacation from being Mommy or Daddy. But, Mommy is always Mommy and Daddy is always Daddy. Your children will still want and need you no matter how many other family members are around. And with all the people vying for your attention and the break in your typical routine, it’s more likely that you will find yourself with less time than usual to do your own thing.
Our solution: Be realistic. Don’t imagine yourself spending the day basking in the sun, reading a book, if it’s really unlikely that you’ll actually get to do this. Instead, plan small outings for yourself. Sit down with family or friends and schedule some me-time while they enjoy some one-on-one time with your kids. You’ll all be happier for it. And don’t forget to be thankful for the time you do get.
Pre-trip preparations, especially gift-shopping, can be daunting. In addition to the challenge of packing for you and your children’s month-long trip, you will find yourself madly gift-shopping in the days before you leave. You’ll be trying to imagine what people would like, how much children have grown, and what unexpected visitor you might have while you’re there.
Our solution: Limit gift-giving to children. Do some pre-trip window shopping to get an idea what is out there. Consider price, weight, and packability. If possible, buy multiple gifts of the same item to give to children in the same age range. Aim to get shopping done well in advance of packing time to make it less stressful.
With trips like these, the stakes are high. You’ve paid a lot of money, taken a lot of vacation time, and put a lot of energy into preparing for the trip. The anticipation is enormous! And yet, just like any other time in your life, you must brace yourself for the unexpected. Both of our kids were coughing on the way to the airport at 4:00 in the morning. We even pondered cancelling the trip…and may have for a lesser vacation. But, really, how could we? And so we continued, flying Prague to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Montreal, Montreal to Halifax. The next morning, we took my daughter to a medical clinic where she was diagnosed with bronchitis and prescribed to inhalers. Later that week, my grandmother (back in Canada) ended up in the hospital, and by week’s end we discovered the kids’s heads were infected with lice (Jeff’s addition: from the flight, we suspect)
Our solution: Roll with the punches and keep a sense of humour. If nothing else, you’ll have a good story to tell when it’s all over and done with.
There are some well-practiced tips & tricks offered, from a well-traveled mom. Thank you and I look forward to putting up the last Part soon. -Jeff