Wednesday, 8 May 2013

I'm a neurotic mother, get me outta here

Weighing in at under two stone, you’d think the littlest member of the family would be the easiest to transport. Yet the smallest person in the household comes with the most paraphernalia you can squish into a car boot.

Being a keen traveller, and aspiring travel writer, I figured that until I can do the latter, I need to go somewhere before I can actually write about it. Now that we have an addition to our family, it makes travelling around much more strategic; instead of the usual last-minute passport check, it’s now a planned military operation: ‘Have we got bubba’s change of clothes (for all seasons)/milk/nappies/ highchair/ toys/ etc.?’ and I swear that’s just for one night.
The thought of a holiday – seven full-days, getting on a plane, brings me out in a heat rash already.

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve dipped my toe in most foreign shores: from your 18-30s girlie gallivants – sunrise to sunset European party package deals to your slumming it in Shanty towns. I’ve done the Brits-abroad backpacking, swum in shark-infested waters and got all romantic in Rome. I’ve stayed in most types of accommodation from mouse-infested hostels in New York to palatial hotels and private lodges in the South African mountains and floated to a swim-up bar in a tropical Thailand storm.
I’ve skied, safari’d, shopped, strolled, sailed, sunbathed and sight-seen. I even got married on a Balearic island. I think I’ve ventured pretty far, so why is it now difficult to travel ten miles down the road with a little person?

My initial reaction to planning a holiday or small trip should be one of excitement, but in reality, my first thoughts now are ‘Will there be a chemist nearby where we can buy Caplol?’ just in case, naturally.

A relative once nicknamed me ‘Nueromum’ - an amalgamation of neurotic and mother - we joked about it at the time, but actually, I think she may be onto something…Because I’ve now turned into a What If? Parent (WIP) e.g. ‘What if he gets poorly when we’re away? What if we haven’t packed enough nappies?’ etc.
And speaking of packing – our son’s day bag is always spilling out at the seams with stuff. There are even sections in there for different scenarios – teething, mealtimes out, rainy days, you know, just for what ifs.

The furthest we ventured with the wee one was a road trip in the UK to visit some rellies when he was three months old. We drove for about four hours – on a straight motorway with a couple of pit stops en route and bubba slept peacefully the whole journey. It’s not exactly anything to write home about but it was a sense of achievement at the time.
Help! Have I lost my sense of adventure now I’m a parent? I really hope not, I hope that our son can be well-travelled and cultured and see much more of the world that I have so far.

So with my travel quandary on whether to and where to holiday this year, I turned to my mummy friends who gave some great advice about travelling abroad with a baby:

  • Most airlines allow you to take more than 100ml of baby food/liquid as long as you prove it’s safe to airport security by drinking or tasting it – expressed breast milk anyone? 
  • Buy baby food airside at a branch of Boots
  • Bottle, breastfeed, dummy or generally feed for take-off and landings to help little one’s ears with the air pressure
  • Entertain with a toy that has a suction cup that can fix onto the food tray
  • For long-haul flights, reserve a sky cot if the airline provides one (do they have them for adults, please?)
  • Use a light-weight, fold up pushchair preferably with only one part 
  • Usually airline policies have extra luggage allowance for babies, so check first
  • Wrap baby up in layers that you can easily take off/put on if it gets hot/cold on the plane
  • Pre-order formula and collect it airside
  • Throw money at the situation if you can – buy the extra baggage/legroom etc., happy parents = happy baby
  • Most of all relax – don’t contemplate or stress about routines and ignore the clock; most of the time baby will be relaxed abroad and will be content in the buggy
OK it sounds more doable now in my head. I now have visions of my husband and I sipping cocktails on a roof terrace while the boy is next to us snoozing happily in the pram. I’m imagining walking along the beach with baby on hip... actually scrap that, with him soon to be weighing two stone that may not be likely – perhaps more toddling and dipping his toes into the warm sea and making his first sandcastle with Daddy.

And anyway, I have to remind myself that we are very privileged to be living in a world where we can travel around, have access to almost everything we need in shops and where we can use our plastic abroad. Some people aren’t lucky enough to go away at all. Maybe it’s not so stressful after all? 

Hmm, perhaps this year we’ll just caravan it, one of those trailer-types would do. That way, I could simply fill it all up with the baby bits we need for all those (un?)necessary occasions, you know,  just in case...maybe my inner WIP will still need some working on.