I took a trip to London with just one of my children and it spurred quite the range of reactions from other parents on whether it was the right or wrong thing to do
Last week I took my five-year-old to London for a three day break - that statement alone can bring out a mix of emotions and opinions in parents, some good, some bad and some quite ugly.
But I am here to tell you it was amazing, and it was the one-to-one quality time that we needed. The break away from routine, from weaponized little brothers, from homework and strict bed times, turned my feisty and often whiney little girl into the perfect travel companion.
The reactions I have received to this break away are wide ranging. While some people thought it a lovely idea, many others were repulsed.
Pushing aside the very obvious (and unnecessary) expense of the trip many of my friends had issues with me leaving behind my husband and son, a few couldn’t fathom the thoughts of a break away from it all - with your child in tow. And others rolled out the age old “but she will never remember it” line.
As a working mother, my time with my children is precious because some days after cooking and cleaning and chores it can seem so minimal.
I often struggle with giving them both quality time, time to listen just to them, to do things the way they want to do it, to really get to know them as an individual. I know that one-to-one time is important for our relationship, for them to trust me as they grow.
Sometimes as we rush through meals and push out the door, struggle through homework and countdown to bedtime we fail to really listen to our children. What are they actually whinging about? Why did he lose his temper? I know I am guilty of sweeping it all up and racing towards the next activity or deadline.
Recently my only one-to-one time with my daughter is spent doing homework, a very important task that needs concentration from us both, away from the dinosaur roars of the two-year old. But it isn’t really special is it?
The London trip was a little spur of the moment, triggered by an advertisement for cheap Ryanair flights which predictably turned out not to be not as cheap as expected. As soon as I thought of bringing her, I also dreaded it.
The frantic images of the airport, and getting buses and trains and the stress and responsibility of traveling alone with my child sat on my shoulders, would we argue the whole time?
We didn’t argue at all, we flew in and out of Knock Airport which really makes travel so simple with children. We saw London from almost every angle, surfing the underground tube, walking, riding an open top double decker bus and even from 35 stories high in the Sky Garden. We ticked off most of the ‘things to do’ and did so on a tight budget.
But most importantly we spent time together, just the two of us, we chatted from early morning until late, about nothing and about everything. It wasn't a chore, I enjoyed her company. And because she didn't have to fight or cry for my attention, she was much more relaxed, she listened and obeyed instruction and revelled in the sights and sounds of this special time.
No, you don't have to go to London or Dublin or Carrick-on-Shannon to enjoy one-to-one time with your child. But you do have to make the time, set aside other jobs and distractions and make them feel like the centre of your universe - because they are.
Maybe they won't remember everything, but you will.