(as appears in You Magazine January 08 issue)

Boy, did Madonna get it wrong.
And no, I’m not talking about her Sex book. I’m referring to that early anthem in which she warbled about a holiday as a day to come together to release the pressure.

Admittedly, as I’m a jaded mother of young children, to me holidaying is not a time to celebrate, to put your troubles down nor to forget about the bad times (oh yeah). Instead, in recent years, I’ve discovered that vacationing entails packing up my domestic and parental duties in a green supermarket shopping bag and transferring them from one location to another.

My bitterness aside, most holidays usually offer some degree of battery recharge and much-needed life and lifestyle perspective. It’s just that taking your dependents on a getaway pretty much negates any chance of true relaxation, pampering and indulgence.

This may be ok with you if you’re the adventure-lover whose ideal holiday experience involves plenty of physical activity, challenges, risk-taking and you don’t mind a bit of discomfort in the process.

But sister girlfriend, that just aint my bag; my old backpack is in a forgotten corner of my junk cupboard and the wheeled trolley luggage is raring to go!

I first experienced the Parental Adventure Package when my son came on the honeymoon with his father and I. No regrets whatsoever on him being there, but let’s just say our honeymoon was more geared towards some activities than others.

Instead of romantic candlelight dinners, we enjoyed the early-bird specials. Rather than book ahead for a table with a view, we phoned the restaurant to reserve its high-chair. In lieu of romantic beach strolls hand in hand, we spent time at the zoo and the local playground. And although there were certainly bubble baths for two a-plenty, I recall having to sip my champagne as I washed my son’s hair while my husband got junior’s pjs ready.

On our last family holiday, I booked us into a five-star resort at a stunning coastal location. While child-friendly curfew restrictions on after-dark socialising and fun were hard to dodge, I reasoned that at least my husband and I could enjoy the evenings from luxurious surrounds; a room with a view and a difference.

That was the plan anyway.

The reality wasn’t so glamorous unfortunately. After an exhausting itinerary that combined sightseeing with nappy changes and troubleshooting toddler tantrums, the first evening we ordered a pizza from room service and my husband fell asleep watching the football on TV.

It gets worse. At one point during the evening, I noticed something very familiar about the sofa … it was the very same lounge in the very same colour as the one I park myself on every night at home (minus the stains, tell-tale re-upholstering stiches and dust). That’s when it hit me like a coconut: I was paying a decent chunk of money to sit in my very own lounge room!

Deep down I know it wasn’t the sofa that bothered me, it was the domestically humdrum, groundhog familiarity of it all. Turns out, it’s not my home I want a holiday from – it’s my life.

So, as holiday season rapidly approaches, I’ve come up with my wishlist of what I would like to holiday from – rather than to:

  1. Questions. When the three year old first starts asking questions, you begin well-intentioned, channelling Yoda, offering insight into the universe and its workings to your impressionable, young prodigy. By the 10th ‘why?’ in a row, it becomes necessary to bite your tongue to stop from screaming, “How the f*#k should I know!!!!!!”
  2. Domestic Blindness. It’s actually symptomatic of the Laziness Disease. Not your own but your family’s. The most common strand is being summoned to reveal the whereabouts of everyday items before the seeker has bothered undertaking even the most basic search.
  3. Going to bed at a reasonable hour. Even when the reason you don’t is because you’re caught up catching up with friends (as opposed to the ironing), the enjoyment factor of burning the midnight oil is dimmed because you know you’re going to pay for it dearly tomorrow. Parental duty knows no snooze button.
  4. Setting a good example. Eating junk food, drinking (a lot) with friends, using swear words whenever and wherever you want (without spelling them).
  5. The role of live-in maid on perpetual 24-hour/day shifts. Essential skills: the ability to respond to emergency scenarios that require you to resume picking up, wiping up, preparing and serving food … about 10 seconds after you finally sit down to rest.

Well, dreams are free. It isn’t likely a genie will grant me these five wishes … along with a never-ending pack of Tim Tams, so I’ve arranged for the next best thing. This summer, my family will take our temporary leave of absence at a holiday park rather than a resort.

Yep – I’m swapping room service for a barbeque; and a balcony with a view for a veranda with a mosquito zapper.

I’ve also altered my expectations and possibly my attitude in order to maximise my tolerance and enjoyment levels. And by George (and Brad), isn’t that what us mothers do so well?

As long as I’ve got a wine in hand before sundown; the venue does not too closely resemble my flat; I have some like-minded company; and my kids have enjoyed their day to the point where exhaustion prohibits them from asking, spilling or noticing anything; I may just find a way to holiday the way God … and Madonna intended.

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