Single Mama, Return Trip

Single Mama, Return Trip

I feel really passionate about these yearly mini-adventures. I think it is because it has become a tradition that empowers, educates and excites both myself and my son. I am not pretending that I am the first woman to venture off travelling with my child, I am sure there are braver, bolder, wilder women that have been doing this for decades. But for me, the first holiday I booked with another mother and her child felt like a shift. A small but perceivable shift, towards something I liked the feel of.

I’ve been lucky (and mad) enough to have travelled with my child alone before for work – both nationally and internationally – but before this point, I had never planned a holiday this way. I think partly this was because I assumed ‘family holidays’ had to look a certain way (with two parents, mostly with one parent having a penis) and because I didn’t equate travelling alone with small children with the word holiday.

When we started this tradition, I was in a relationship with my son’s father and we were all living in the family home together. The relationship was already on its downward spiral to breakdown so the prospect of going away on holiday as a family was very slim. To be honest, the prospect had always been slim. I remember being asked to one of my good friend’s weddings in California when my son was 2 years old and despite desperately wanting to go because my partner had no funds (or interest) in going I ruled it out. I let my friend down gently explaining that we as a family couldn’t come as it was too expensive and it would be too difficult and expensive for me to come alone. This was, in some respect, true. Plus, I didn’t see how much fun I could have running around after a toddler while my childless friends all sipped prosecco. I saw the wedding pictures on Facebook and had a surge of love for her and a pang of regret for myself. Could I have made it happen? And why didn’t I even consider it?

Like many people, I love travelling. I had never been abroad as a child and my first time on a plane was aged eighteen (ironically on 9/11 – yes the 9/11 – but it didn’t deter me). Don’t get me wrong, not travelling abroad did me no harm whatsoever and is great for my carbon footprint, but still, I had always hoped my own children may have the opportunity to experience the world a little more. As an adult, I like seeing new places and experiencing new cultures and landscapes and didn’t want that to end with parenthood. Actually, changing the scenery once in a while and trying new things can be as good as a rest. But it became increasingly clear that this was not going to be a part of our family life. The dream of holidaying as a family was fading. I didn’t want to go away on holiday with a small child alone (although now I probably would) and felt that without a partner involved, a ‘family holiday’ was not possible or fun. If Daddy wasn’t on it then that was that.

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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.

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This blog post was first published on the Dope Black Mum's Blog page on 24/02/2020
 

Endy Mckay

01.06.2020

Motherhood