At the beginning of February, I left my kids for twelve days. I jetted off to Australia, with my sister, to see my brother. We hadn’t been together for four-and-a-half years and he’s never met my son, Rocky, who is now four. In fact, the last time I saw my brother, I was pregnant with my little boy. At the end of that visit to the UK, we said our goodbyes, I did lots of ugly-crying and off he went. Then the pandemic hit. Travelling to or from Australia become impossible and four years flew by, minus the flying.
My intrepid parents, who are both 79, spent all of January in Thailand – “it’s hot, we love the food and it’s cheaper to be warm in Asia” was their reasoning. After four weeks in Thailand, they would go to Sydney – which is why my sister and I decided to join them and make it a week down under as a family of five. The Goldsmiths – all together.
My plane took off from London Heathrow on 1st February and landed back in the UK on the 12th – home on the 13th – which meant 12 nights away from home and 12 nights away from my babies! I say babies, my children are 12, 10 and four.
I absolutely jumped at the chance to go to Oz – sunshine, adventure and a chance to forget the endless piles of washing for a bit. When I put the idea to my husband, he responded with a resounding “Go Lucy!”, and due to his job being 90% home-based, I guess we had the ideal setup for it to work.
Tickets booked, bags packed (god that was weird) and I left my house when the children were at school and headed off to London Heathrow to board the plane to Sydney.
As mentioned before, I had twelve nights away from my family, and in that time I documented what I had learned about life, and these are the twelve things that stood out for me – in no particular order.
- Time away from family is vital. I used to think that a night out would refresh me and make me feel good. I was wrong. A night away is not self-care. Proper time away from your children absolutely is self-care and although it is very hard to achieve, I massively recommend it. Stepping away made me feel like a person again, a woman, a human-being – like Lucy! Before I went, my life was taxi, chef, cleaner, cook, waitress, wife, family PA, business owner and general dogsbody and it had become too much. Nobody can do all of that for months on end, without a break.
- I love reading. I told myself for years that I don’t have enough time to read and that I can’t concentrate on books, but that is simply not true. Whilst I was away, I read pages and pages and lovely every single word. Now I am back I am reading each night before bed. Some nights I only manage 3 pages before my eyes feel gritty and want to close, but I am keeping it up and making it part of my life once again.
- I am not just Mum. I have always tried to be the parent that has my own life too, but over the last few years I definitely lost it. The pandemic didn’t help, but fundamentally, I think I had lost my way a bit due to the huge amount of pressure and work being a parent of three generates. It is safe to say that before I took off, I was feeling pretty flat. Have you seen Groundhog Day? Yep. That.
- I am able to do nothing. Once on the plane (first leg London Heathrow to Hong Kong) I had an underlying feeling that I needed to do something. For about eleven of the 12-hours I couldn’t calm my mind. I kept picking up my phone, wandering around the plane, trying to watch a film and making mental list of things I, or the kids, needed to do. It was unshakeable for the most part. But, just before our descent into Hong Kong, I relaxed. I felt my shoulders drop, my attachment to my kids and home-life lifted and the idea of my normal life was literally 6000 miles (9500 kilometers) away. I realised that I am able to do nothing and that it is okay.
- I adore adventuring. Before Dan and I married in 2010, we spent 10-months travelling around the world. We spent proper time exploring around Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and America – we were footloose and fancy-free. Prior to that I had lots of holidays and weekends away (hello salary just for me!) and had travelled with various jobs over the years. Travel has never scared me, and I have since learned that it makes me happy. Really happy. I honestly think I lost my adventurous side because of the pandemic and partly because moving three children around the country/world is expensive. However, I have realised that the need to travel is ingrained in me and that I don’t have to wait for everyone to be ready – I can go on my own!
- Eating dinner in 6-mins is stupid. Let me explain. For years I have been shoving food in at a rate of knots and barely enjoying a single thing I eat. Since childbirth, I have programmed myself to eat quickly before a kid kicks-off at the table and I have been known to stuff in something delicious when they are not looking, usually facing a kitchen cupboard or hiding in the utility room. Just me?! So whenever I eat, at home or out, I eat far too quickly. Not any more! In Australia we ate some delicious food; BBQ king-sized prawns, Sydney rock oysters, Belles Spicy Chicken Sandwich (sensational), meat pies, red mullet, kumatos (the sweetest tomatoes ever – google it), yum cha at Palace Chinese, stunning salads and not forgetting cheezels! (see pic), and this slow, enjoyable, back to normal way of eating taught me (reminded me) to enjoy food again.
I love wearing a bikini. I am 47, I have given birth three times, breastfed three babies and my body isn’t what it once was, but why the hell did I question wearing a bikini? So many women give up on bikinis and opt for a hold-me-in type one-piece after having kids. I do understand why, and have had those feelings myself over the years, but I actually don’t give two hoots anymore and Australia taught me to remember what an amazing thing my body is, and to enjoy feeling the sun on my skin, with lashings of factor-50 on I must add. Okay, the warmth bit isn’t so easy in the UK – I am currently wearing jeans, a jumper, a long cardi, thick socks and sheepskin slippers and not one inch of my skin can be seen – but, my friends, I will be getting my bikini back on when we hit the dizzy heights of 20-degrees C in the summer.
- My children can survive without me. To be completely honest, part of me wanted my children to fall apart without me. They didn’t. No-one did – not my husband, any of my three kids, the cat or the dog. Every one of them was totally fine. My middle child texted a few times saying “I love you Mum and I miss you” and reading it made me feel wanted, but the truth is she didn’t need me. I hope that the things I have shared with them over the years has helped them to feel independent and I do believe that going away teaches children to be resourceful. And now, when my daughter shouts “muuuuuuummmmm where are my sockkkkkks!” – I can boldly respond with “what did you do when I was away darling?” – it pretty much always works.
- My family are f*cking amazing. Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. The daily grind of parenting is gruelling at times and stepping away (6000 miles!) gives a hugely important perspective on who is doing what, how people are getting on and what needs to change. It also made me appreciate my wonderful brother and his fab wife in Australia, my brilliant jet-setting parents, my caring and hilarious sister and my solid and loving husband. Oh, and I realised my kids are actually pretty f*cking special and endlessly beautiful.
- My children just wanted a gift! The first thing my little boy said to me was “have you got me a flying present?”. No more words needed.
- Australians are welcoming and they make brilliant coffee. The flat-whites in Australia are the best I have ever tasted. OK it is a long way to go for a shot of caffeine, but I fully recommend that if you go to Oz, you try one. I also feel very comfortable and relevant in Australia. All of the staff (and yes I said ALL) were welcoming, chatty and the majority that I faced went out of their way to be helpful. Australians really do say “g’day” and “no worries” and most ask you “how’s your day going?” with meaning. I mentioned I felt relevant, and by that I mean I felt like I fitted in, wasn’t too old or too young – in fact I do think that there is a much more mature way of life down under, if that makes sense. Maybe it is the heat, but people don’t seem quite as crass as in the UK. Gosh is that me slagging the UK off? – in some ways, yes.
- Time goes by very quickly. I was quietly dreading being away from my children for twelve days, but the trip went by in a flash and I’ve been back for nearly three weeks. The sun, flat-whites, wearing two pairs of glasses (cringe) and oysters are now a wonderful memory.
If you get a chance to go away without your kids and to leave them with your partner, your friend, a family member, anyone! – DO IT. Packing a bag for one is a total delight and I remembered everything I needed which is stark contrast to my usual packing for four and forgetting to pack any knickers for myself – true story. A few years ago, I forgot to pack my entire make-up bag and had to stop at a supermarket and by a whole load of rubbish to use – and as a make-up artist, I found that hard.
So the moral of the story is something like this; take time out, rejuvenate, live a little, wear two pairs of glasses, eat oysters and strong cheese flavoured snacks, pack knick-knocks and wear a bloody bikini! Life is short and whilst leaving your kids for a little while might feel hard, it is a tiny piece of the life-pie, and you’ve got to remember that you need to have fun, too.
Lucy aka Geriatric Mum