One of the things that’s been really eye-opening to me since becoming a parent is how easy it is to feel guilty about absolutely anything. It begins from the moment your child is born and people start to make comments about the birth that you had, or the way you choose to feed your baby, and basically continues from there. You feel guilty that you don’t take your baby to enough groups. You feel guilty that you’re not giving them a varied enough diet. Guilty if you decided to send your child to nursery and go back to work. Or guilty that you decided to stay at home instead.
Believe me, whatever lifestyle you have chosen for you and your child, there are bound to be elements of guilt along the way.
In some ways I think social media exacerbates this. Now I say this as someone who loves the benefits of social media. Having Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has allowed me to connect with so many amazing like-minded families around the world who have similar views to raising children. So I will never dismiss how useful it can be in building a sense of community and opening up your eyes to new ideas and experiences. Even when I am unable to travel, it is my view to the world.
But inevitably, social media also leads to comparison. It’s so easy to get sucked into the little pockets of perfection. Even I look at families who are travelling long-term and wonder whether we should be doing more with our little adventurer.
Our own travel with a toddler
However as we prepared for our Spanish roadtrip I realised that the way I travel with my own family can also make other people feel guilty.
One mum friend confided in me that she had just booked a package holiday. “We’d never normally do that,” she added quickly, as though worried I might judge her. “But, to be honest, I just want an easy life.” Another friend said she felt like she needed to work up the courage to take her little one on a plane.
“You make it look so easy,” someone else said to me, having seen my carefully curated grid of handpicked photos on Instagram which represent my trip.
But let me tell you now: travel with a toddler is not easy. Just because they’re on holiday doesn’t mean they are suddenly the perfect child. Your child will still try and wriggle out of their seatbelt during takeoff, resulting in you getting a telling off from the air hostess. They will still shout at you and demand countless versions of Old MacDonald when they get bored in the car. They will still discard their dummy in a packed street of tourists and then cry all of the way home because you couldn’t find it. (All true stories, obviously.)
Travel with a toddler is basically like taking your day job with you. Just because you’ve booked a week at the beach doesn’t mean it’s going to be all lazy days lying in the sun, reading your book. Taking your child on holiday is basically the same as lugging your computer from work with you and sending out emails. Same job with a nicer view.
And yes, travel with a toddler is also brilliant. Of course it is, otherwise why would we do it? But you have to do what is right for your child. We’re lucky that the little adventurer is very adaptable. She didn’t worry about sleeping in four different places over the course of ten days. She’ll eat pretty much anything and she loves meeting new people. And, of course, both Mr A and I love travelling. So the benefits for us far outweigh the difficulties. That may not be the same for you and your family.
There’s also a lot of talk about how much travelling abroad benefits children and while I do believe this to be true, I also think it doesn’t matter if you don’t. I spent most of my childhood taking holidays in the UK. But my parents instilled in me and my sister a love of adventure, of exploring wherever we found ourselves and, most importantly, getting on and enjoying it whatever the weather! That’s something I’m trying to encourage with my own little adventurer. And yes, she had an amazing time in Spain. But was she just as happy jumping in puddles and chasing pigeons once we got home? Of course she was!
So basically what I’m trying to say in this post is go on the holidays YOU want to go on. Despite some of the challenges, we’ll continue to travel in the way that we do, because it’s what we love. But if you want to spend two weeks at an all inclusive – go for it! If you only want to travel in this country because you can’t face the thought of airports and aeroplanes – do it.
Don’t let the way you travel and spend time with your children become yet another thing to feel guilty about!
Do you travel with a toddler? I’d love to hear any tips you have about making long journeys go more smoothly!
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out this one where I tell the truth about travelling with a baby, or find out what five things I think you should think about before booking your baby’s first trip or this advice about travelling during your maternity leave.