A recent survey by holiday company Neilson has shown that half (49%) of UK parents feel guilty about wanting to do their own thing without the kids on their family break. But whilst it may go against every parental instinct to prioritise your ‘me-time’ on holiday, it is actually a really important psychological process for both parents and children to experience. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Kilbey, tells DAD.info why it’s a good for parents to allow themselves space to pursue their own interests on holiday…
1. It’s important to allow others to meet your children’s needs
Firstly, there’s a modern approach to being a parent which is often described as ‘helicopter parenting’ and this can give way to a model of parenting where the focus of the family is only around the youngest members, with family decisions governed by their needs first. One of the advantages of taking time out from your parenting responsibilities (and using a kids club, grandparent or other childcare arrangement instead) is that children experience what it’s like to not have their needs always met by you, and instead they are healthily challenged to use their own resources and develop their own skills to meet their needs.
By spending time away from your children on holiday, you’re allowing them the space they need to develop their autonomy and become more resilient. By taking a step back, you are helping gently condition your children to challenges they’ll face for the rest of their lives. They become self-sufficient and self-reliant and these are vital skills for a child to develop for later life.
2. You can develop your own interests
A full-time parenting role typically lasts 16 – 20 years. The current human life expectancy is 80, which leaves a massive amount of time in your life when your children aren’t your most pressing priority. As such, it’s crucial to develop your own interests and pursuits to make the entirety of your life as fulfilling as possible.
Passions may take a backseat during your parenting years, but they shouldn’t be ignored and it’s healthy to maintain them in order to keep as sense of self, and show your children that passions make life richer. Parents need to find space to carry on nurturing their passions, and a holiday provides a perfect time for that, especially if it’s the only break you’re getting from your day to day working life.
3. It will give you and your partner time to reconnect
Neilson’s survey also showed that mothers were slightly more likely to feel some level of guilt (59%) compared to fathers (41%). Dr. Kilbey attributes this to the fact that “mothers tend to struggle to give themselves permission to self-care, worrying about social values and judgements.” Two mummy bloggers, Harriet and Donna, share the moments they realised the benefits of ‘me-time’ on their family holidays:
Harriet Shearsmith, mother to two boys and baby girl and writer of parenting blog Toby & Roo admits that, “I am a purveyor of Mum Guilt. I can’t help it. One of the places I think my Mum Guilt flared up the most was when we went along to Disney World last year with my mum. We were lucky enough that every few nights my mum would take the kids back to the hotel for the evening and let my partner and I go on rides, eat out and just spend some quality time together. Despite feeling insanely guilty about not being with my kids 24/7, having the option to enjoy a part of my holiday without the children meant that my husband and I could reconnect in a way that we hadn’t in years which has brought us closer together.”
Donna Wishart, mother of two and creator of the What The Red Head Said parenting blog also revealed, “My husband and I looked at other people going on holiday, using kids clubs, and we wondered ‘Why you would go on holiday just to be away from your children?’ It made no sense to us. But then we took the children abroad for the first time and there was a really good kids club included in the package. We had our reservations, but we told ourselves we didn’t have to use if after one day the children – or my partner and I – didn’t like it. The children were booked in from 9am until midday each day of our holiday. We dropped them off on that first day and they didn’t even look back! In fact, it was my husband and I who felt a little lost being away from them, as we hadn’t had an overseas holiday ourselves for six years. The time apart from the kids gave us things to talk about as a family when we re-grouped, and I read more books than I have in years – and even went kayaking. My husband got PADI qualified in his free time, so he can now dive anywhere in the world!”
Find out more about Neilson’s holidays and kid’s clubs at neilson.co.uk