I immediately texted my good friend (I'd call her Poppy -although that's not her name, she just loves poppy flowers) to have her joining me. She was in immediately, before even knowing where we're going. If you remember our chaotic trip to Vienna with lots of kids, she and her family were in that trip, too. She's got two kids too, a 4-year-old boy and a baby younger than ours. We started planning strategically. Basically established the rule: the trip is girls-only, and the girls have to be moms. The trip would be a guilt-free mom time.
The days of London had finally come and the four of us enjoyed ourselves in London. Despite the frequent pumping and swollen breasts (Poppy and I are still breasfeeding) and the fire alarm that went off at our hostel and scared the life out of me, we've got three-and-a-half day free of kids and husbands, three nights of undisturbed sleep (f**k you fire alarm), many rounds of beers and uninterrupted lunches and dinners. We've even got the luxury of going to the National Theater, watching Macbeth in London!
I personally think that moms' getaways are necessary. We need to recharge ourselves to come back fresh to the husbands and the kids, be it a spa weekend of London. I know for a fact that I make a better parent when I'm a happier person. Now for a guilt-free mom trips, these are my tips:
- Get your partner on board. You need your partner's support for this. In return, your partner might also need his (or her) personal getaway. Don't forget that it's also beneficial that the kids have one-on-one time with their dad only, as well as with their mom only sometimes.
- Build a support system. Create a network around yourselves and your family so they could function well without you sometimes. My husband could easily stay alone with the kids. However, during the week, his long hours at work mean he'd be late to pick up the kids from the daycare. In this case we call my mother-in-law and she'd stay home with the kids for the days we'd need her to. Poppy got her mom to come and help while her husband was working, Mary combined the help of a neighbor and her sister. My sister-in-law lives in the same house with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law so she had a solid support. We even have a babysitter for the times when my mother-in-law is unavailable.
- Go with friends, make a group. If you still feel guilty and don't think you deserve a little me time and getaway, call friends to join you. They'd probably convince you to get a little break, and feel they'd join themselves. I made a little group of moms so no one needed to explain themselves why the needed the getaway.
- Explain about personal time to the kids. If your kids are like mine, most probably they'd feel sad of not going on trip with you. They love traveling and they're used to the fact that we always take them. Poppy's son asked her whether it's forbidden that kids go to this place called London, when he's wondering why she hadn't taken the kids. Upon arrival, do something fun and interactive to wrap up your getaway. I got "This is London" book by Miroslav Šašek which is basically a London city guide for kids full of classic 60s illustrations. For my younger, I got a board book called Busy London with interactive pages.
- Plan well, of course. Pick days that are not too busy. No painting class or french class for the kids during the days I was gone, no business trips for the husband at those days. I made a big pot of beef ragu so my husband and mother-in-law can just cook pasta and heat the ragu when they don't manage to cook proper dinner. I also plan the arrival to be on Sunday, because my kids love picking me (or their dad) up at the airport, so I planned my arrival to be on the day when my husband wasn't working and they made the trip together to the airport.
In the end, this is our three-day itinerary during guilt-free mom trip in London:
First day: we landed in Heathrow in the early afternoon, checked in to our Clink 78 hostel near King's Cross, then we took coffee-to-go and see the Buckingham Palace. We walked through the Green Park toward the Big Ben (that is under reconstruction -therefore is not visible!), crossed the the Westminster Bridge and got to Southbank on the other side of the Thames. Passing the London Eye, we strolled on the promenade and decided on having two rounds of beers and a Mexican dinner at Wahaca Southbank before heading back to rest.
Second day: we started the day at King's Cross station for Harry Potter 9 3/4 Peron, got scotch eggs from a local market at King's Cross for second breakfast (after the one at the hostel), then went to Kensington gardens and saw the Kensington Palace from afar. We strolled across the Hyde Park heading to the Park Lane, where we took our Megabus tour bus (cost only 2 pounds) that took us see most of London. Starving after the bus, we had lunch at Rose&Crown Pub at Park Lane, where we had baked potatoes and shepherd pie and a round of beers. Later we went to the London bridge, and had nice hot chocolates at Rabot 1745 at Borough Market. We walked toward Tate Modern from there, enjoy the view of London from the observation deck, and went see the exhibition at Tate (free entrance!). We settled on Chinese dinner at a restaurant nearby Tate (can't recall the name) where we had warm udon and Chinese beers before heading to the hostel.
Third day: we got up early and had full English breakfast at a bistro close from King's Cross station which also had vegetarian version of full English breakfast (Poppy is vegetarian). Then we headed to Covent Garden and Jubilee Market. It was too early for English afternoon tea, so we headed to the National Gallery at Trafalgar. We enjoyed the collections (free entrance!), then slowly heading to the National Theater at Southbank for Macbeth. Poppy got us ticket for the play for 15 pounds each and we got upgraded to great seats worth 50 pounds each. We had lunch and prosecco at the theater before the play. In the evening we headed to Camden, bought some souvenirs and sat for rounds of beers at a traditional pub the Oxford Arms at Camden Town. Of course, then we're hungry. We settled on Indian dinner this time, and headed back to King's Cross and eat at the Indian Lounge. To wrap up our trip, we had rounds of drinks at the Water Rats before heading back to sleep, because the next day we've got a very early flight :)