Working Mom Gets a Break: Life Lessons (and Survival Tips) from Traveling with Two Toddlers

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While there are many ways to prepare for traveling with infants and toddlers, I don’t believe any mom can completely anticipate everything that could happen on a trip. Having just arrived from a 2.5 week vacation in the US with my small family and my in-laws, I’d like to share a few insights that I picked up from being with family 24/7…while the experience is still fresh, and before the lack of sleep caused by jetlag interferes with my memory.

1. As a full fledged adult/parent, “to rest” on vacation takes on a different meaning. As a child and during my teenage years, vacation-mode meant a lot of rest. Even if we had activities planned for each day of our trip, we never bothered ourselves with chores outside of doing our laundry. Vacation-mode meant lots of good food, days spent outdoors, fun with family and friends, and solid, quality, sleep. As a parent, vacation-mode no longer has these luxuries. The success of activities planned are now dependent on a child’s need for sleep, mealtimes, and moods. Mealtimes are no longer simple, quick, and easy. They are battles to be won…because the unfamiliar food in a foreign place can either work for or against you. Sleep is elusive. Thus, “to rest” while on vacation with your children may not mean a break from all work or from the responsibilities of life, but may now serve as a respite from regular programming . It may mean the quality time with family you’ve been waiting for. And while may be different from what we are used to, it does not make the vacation any less memorable or meaningful.

2. Not every moment needs to be photographed, recorded, or shared with the world. Vacations promise to be full of photo-worthy moments that are too precious to keep to ourselves. And while it may be tempting to gather “likes” throughout our trip, there is that risk of missing out on the beauty of the moment, because we are so preoccupied with our screens. I was grateful at the end of our vacation that we opted not to rent a portable wifi router, limiting our internet access to the apartment at the beginning and end of our days. It allowed me to give my full attention to my beautiful surroundings, my husband, my children, my in-laws, and all the people I was with.

3. Sometimes, it is better just to flow. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I knew it would take some work for me to adopt a relaxed attitude during my trip. And while I think I did manage to do this 50 % of the time (ask my husband and my children for the truth) there were moments when I knew I needed to keep my cool in check. One example was that I could not, for the life of me, figure out why it would take us 3 hours to leave the apartment in the morning. In retrospect, it must have been the feeding, the bathing, the cleaning after breakfast…which we don’t need to do on a daily basis back home thanks to our household help. In fact, even if I prepared their outfits the night before, chose a quick and easy breakfast to make and eat, and showered FIRST, we were still at least 30 minutes late for our appointment. And as someone who values time and punctuality, this could have easily put me in a terrible mood…and on some days, I admit it did…but I dealt with it by reminding myself that I was on vacation after all.

I’ll admit. I never really stopped working, even if I was on leave. Such is the life of a job with a lot of responsibility, and of an entrepreneur. While I did limit my work to after the kids had gone to bed, I never resented a second of it because I truly love what I do. I never once felt like I was missing out on important “vacation time,” because the members of my family were asleep anyway.

But I suppose that isn’t the point. Vacations and opportunities for rest quality time such as this with family don’t come around often. As a working mom, most of my children’s waking hours are spent at the office and not by their side. This is why it was so important to me to make the most of every hour, every minute, every second I could be with them, even though they were driving me crazy half the time.

Motherhood, I am learning, is a lot about adjusting to seasons. “There is a time for everything,” said my religion teacher back in the first grade. And this was time to be with my family. If I could have, I would have left all my work in Manila. No emails, no messages, no nothing.

But that is not my reality…yet. It just gives me something new to work towards. Another goal to put on my growing list. 😉

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