Then one day a single mama (hero) friend of mine suggested we go away together. So, we sat down with wine one night whilst the kids played (fought) and made a tentative plan to go somewhere together. Now I should add that we are both in the arts and neither of us is rich (yet) so we knew we had to plan well and do it on a budget – after all, we were paying for two plane tickets each (fuckery). We made a list of places we would like to visit and picked Barcelona. Then we began one of the best bits - planning it. We looked up Air bnbs and flights and events and galleries and then off we went. Now of course travelling with children is never easy – there were tears and tantrums – and the children could be challenging too. ;-) I remember being delighted one night when we were out in a tapas restaurant, eating and drinking sangria and the kids fell asleep, then only to realise that we had to somehow get them back up to our Air bnb on the fifth floor. At the end of that trip there was a distinct feeling of exhaustion and empowerment. We had managed to take our two children away on an adventure completely alone. We had visualised something, planned it and executed it. One of life’s simple yet effective confidence boosting equations.
We booked Reykjavik the following year and have never looked back. One year we even went away with fellow Dope Black Mum, Natalie, and her kids.
When I finally left my partner and became an official single mother it felt even more important to continue this tradition. It felt like a mini revolution against all the feelings I had lurking under the surface about single motherhood. I was a single, black mother raising a black son on unpredictable income. – Words like disadvantaged, struggling and surviving came to mind (this was before Dope Black Mums, of course). So, to take our beautiful brown babies swimming in the hot lagoons in Iceland or cycling around Denmark felt like slapping the shit out of those stereotypes. It also felt important to show our black boys that they are world citizens and have the right to travel anywhere they like and be anyone they like. That galleries and exhibitions and festivals and restaurants and cities and nature are for them as much as anyone else. That the world is very big and yet very small. And life is slightly different everywhere and slightly the same.
We try to do activities that we would all like – parks, museums – but these are not ‘kid’s holidays’ – they are holidays for us too. The children have learnt that that sometimes means having to go to an art exhibition or vintage clothes shop – which they hate us for. We always vow never to take them away again, until the next year. A bit like childbirth.
This year I am in a wonderful relationship with a beautiful man and I did have a moment of hesitation before booking this trip. Would it be nicer (and cheaper) to go away the three of us? I do have the ‘family unit’, after all. But after a hot minute, I decided that this was a tradition I wanted to keep – whether single or not – because family comes in all shapes and sizes and extends past romantic relationships if we are lucky.
Of course, sometimes I wonder if my son really takes anything from these trips. He said his favourite moment from this week in Copenhagen was ‘buying a Lego toy’ and ‘eating churros’. Great, money well spent. Perhaps it is more for me and my pleasure than for him, who may prefer a trip to Oxygen in Croydon? But at Parents Evening whilst flicking through his books I saw a letter he had to write at the end of Year 3 to his new Year 4 teacher, telling her a bit about himself. He had written, “My name is M**** and I have been to many different places around the world – Berlin, Barbados, Reykjavik, New York, Malaga, Wales, Avignon and Barcelona – with my mum.”
If you too have the urge to travel as a single parent and you are physically and financially able – why not try it. Don’t let life’s circumstances hold you back – or the image of what a family holiday should look like. I know money can be a real barrier, especially if you have more than one child – but sometimes a few adjustments can make it possible if you are savvy - I choose travel over a Play Station or Nintendo or expensive gifts. And if all else fails and you are really brave borrow a tent and try black girl camping!
4 day/3 nights in Copenhagen cost £345 with green flights and accommodation.