Idyllic sandy beaches, swimming pool fun, picture-perfect family slurping up picture-perfect ice creams. The insta-crowds would be proud. Throw in three over-sensitive, tired children and four adults with over-exposed nerves – including the mum with more emotional baggage than the plane allowance allows, and it’s anything but ‘instagrammable’.
Welcome to our annual paid-for-by-my-parents holiday to Carvoeiro, Portugal.
We’ve recently returned from our 6th trip to this beautiful town as a family and we hit the same frustrations head-on every year. It’s perfect, paradise, home. Yet it’s exhausting, full of irritation and pressure to ‘perform’, to be switched ON constantly. I feel shitty complaining as I sit in my seat of privilege, having parents that have the means to pay for all of us to go and spend time together abroad, but holidaying as a parent, wife and daughter certainly takes its toll.
I’m the daughter being moaned to about the kids not wanting to be in the pool constantly; the mum moaning at my kids to get in the damn pool; the wife being moaned at to leave the kids be. I’m no longer just referee to the relentless bickering between the kids, but also the go-between to my warring parents when someone drinks a few too many cocktails. I’m the wife transported back to my younger years of trying to be ‘amorous’ as quiet as possible on an old creaky bed. So yeah, I don’t really feel I can switch off… Though I did have the privilege of saying ‘to hell with it all’ and spent my day floating around the pool with a plastic cup full of gin.
I guess some things you should know about me are that I’ve lived with mental illness for 20 years and body-limiting chronic illness for 6 years. I’m an only child with kids aged 11 (BigKid), 8 (MidKid) and 6 (MiniKid). So imagine being housed with mind, body, kids and parents working against you for the better part of a fortnight. My pain wasn’t so bad abroad so long as I didn’t walk too much, or swim too much, or play too much, or… well, you get the idea.
Typically the kids had to be wrangled into the pool after the ‘sun-cream/swimwear production line’. Then wrestled out of the pool when their lips were turning blue and complaining they’d not been in long enough. They’d jump at the suggestion of ice cream, but not at the walk into town. They’d just about manage to get through a meal without a device but would spend the rest of the night behind a blue screen. They also made up fun games to play in the pool and spent some touching moments with their grandparents.
We celebrated my birthday out there as I’m lucky to have done these past few years. I foiled my parents plan to decorate the lounge area with balloons and banners. I sleepily stumbled out of my room somewhere around 6:30am thanks to the dulcet tones of a 42 year old man with a throat infection serenading me ALL DAMN NIGHT. I chose to set up camp on the uncomfortable sofa as opposed to smothering him with a pillow. See? I’m nice like that. Anyway, he more than made up for it by presenting me with a super awesome unicorn headband. It wasn’t as awesome when I was made to wear it walking all the way through town – past restaurants, bars and people with eyes! By the end of the night, everyone had eagerly modelled said headband and it was deemed awesome again. (Please note: this was after several strong cocktails had passed our lips – the adults, not the kids).
We spent some lovely nights in – cooking together, watching movies, playing games I’d found in one of the many pound shops pre-holiday. The kids even indulged in a cheeky late night skinny dip which they found hilarious. We greeted old friends we’ve made over the years and enjoyed the camaraderie that Carvoeiro offers. We dreamed of moving out there as we always do, trying to find a way to make it a reality. My dad even played the lottery over there just in case.
The holiday was definitely a rollercoaster – from me hiding in the bedroom to cry, to singing along to karaoke in a saloon themed bar. BigKid with heatstroke to mine and Hubs date night 3 course meal and a bottle of red wine (to myself!). My parents not speaking to each other for 24 hours – to playing cards as a family spotting geckos.
Every year the same ‘where/what shall we eat’?, the same moaning over one person wanting to lay down after a meal (usually me), the same comments about parenting and telling me how I would feel better if… Same shit, different country.
But we all feel sad on the day we come home; except MidKid whose holiday highlight is a Subway sandwich in the departure lounge of Faro airport. We all get home and remember the fun times, the silly faces we pulled in photographs. We miss the vague routine we moaned about whilst there and in hindsight we say we’ll eat in more, relax more, go our own pace more…
Guess who’s booked up for next year?
No matter where or if you holiday with the kids or extended family, it’s okay to not feel overjoyed every single moment. It’s okay to say you need some time alone to soak in the bath or stretch out in bed alone for a change. It’s hard enough being at home 24/7 together amongst comfort, so it’s no surprise it’s harder in a different environment. You’re not broken if you don’t watch in wonder, awe and pride the 16th time your kid shouts “WATCH THIS” and jumps in the pool. You’re not broken if you don’t want to traipse bars and drink your weight in cocktails but prefer a DVD and a cuppa. I think as parents we so easily forget that it’s our holiday too. So if the other half or your parents aren’t ones to offer to take the kids for an ice cream, or to keep them occupied for a little while, then ASK! And get yourself some you time.
A 30-something mum of 3 and guardian of a 40-something geek living life in middle England, her
parenting style is a little bit shouty, a little bit sweary, a whole lotta love and tends to rock it
under the philosophy of ‘pick your battles’ – a kind of parenting on the fly. A semi-reformed wine
o’clock mum who can still sometimes be found in the local beer garden, supping a beer and
letting the kids run off their energy. She’s an old rock chick at heart, at home at gigs (so long as
there’s seating!), a collector of piercings and tattoos. An ever-learning passionate intersectional
feminist, a fierce and vocal ally. Most likely to rant about inclusivity and the state of the World;
more likely to moan about school holidays and the state of her hips. Described by her family as
weird, crazy, funny, bookish, kind when she wants to be (or wants something), girly alternative
style with the compulsion to conform. She dreams of living the dream, but is still unsure of what
that is. Living with mental illness, chronic pain and navigating the maze of medication; starting
her own therapy journey (finally) and delving into assistance regarding her children’s mental
health. Always trying to figure out how to love her plus-sized differently-baled body. Probably
best known as painfully anxious with a badass edge. Looking forward to trying to make the perils
of parenting a little easier.