Monday, 23 December 2013

Things travel and stay-home parenthood have in common

Travel and parenthood tend to be placed on opposite ends of some sort of fun/responsibility spectrum, where one end is how you spend the footloose and fancy free part of your life before the grown-up and responsible phase kicks in. Travel is supposed to be the thing you get out of your system, before you start caring about interest rates and decile rankings. The closest I have gotten to real travel recently is looking at other people's pictures on Facebook.

I have been thinking today, though, about how there is a lot that stay-home parenthood and travelling actually have in common.  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands as a stay home mum, and perhaps I am grasping at straws in a deluded fashion, but here are ten things they have in common:

1. Sleep deprivation.  Jet lag wakes you at odd hours, and we had many an early morning to catch a bus, plane or train. So, it's just like now with a toddler.and a newborn!

2. Sleeping in odd uncomfortable places. An airport floor while waiting for an early flight. A toddler's bed when they can't sleep on a stormy night. The discomfort of an Indian slat bed. The discomfort of the aforementioned toddler deciding my pillow is just the place for his feet when the storm does lull him to sleep. Exactly the same!

3. Being hassled. When travelling, I was often hassled to buy a person's wares, or to give them money, or to ride in their taxi/auto rickshaw/tuk tuk. Now I'm hassled to put on Peppa Pig and provide a never ending supply of Tiny Teddies.

4. You have some amazing moments... Seeing the Taj Mahal in sundown. Having both my children snuggle up to me while I read them a book. Riding camels by the Pyramids of Giza. Amotai's delighted expression when he sees me again after I've been out, and Lily's smile of recognition. Both travel and parenthood are full of little moments that I wish I could put in my pocket and keep forever. 

A lovely moment: playing with my 2 lovely children
5.  ... And there are hard days too.  The day I accidentally dyed the washing blue. The looooong trip between Mexico and Guatemala in a bus with what felt like 3cm of leg room and the horrendous train in Bulgaria. Spending hours changing nappies. Spending hours in passport queues and smelly bus stations. But, in both cases, the amazing moments make the rough ones worthwhile.

6. The people you meet. Other backpackers, other mums. People in hostels, on buses and at historic sites, other parents at music groups, at the creche door and at other kid activities.In both cases there is always plenty to talk about at first.  While travelling it's: where are you going? Where have you been? And in the case of other Kiwis - don't you miss Burger Rings? Do you know so-and-so's aunt's cousin? Me too! I sat beside him in 5th form science! And in parenthood small talk is about age gaps between children, milestones, what creche/kindy/playgroups are good, what other activities are you enrolled in. Composted nappies vs reusable nappies rather than Rome vs Paris.

In both cases you meet some fabulous people and have excellent conversations, and build up great support networks. In lots of other cases, though, I am struck with how the instant conversations can mask the fact that you actually have very little in common with some of the people you meet, a difference that isn't highlighted until the conversation strays from travel or your precious offspring. 

Another lovely moment: Marrakesh at sun down.
Although you don't want to see all the photos we
took of this as there were plenty!
7. The photos. In both cases, it's easy to take hundreds and hundreds of the same things from different angles. In both cases, they'll also bore other people silly if you try and show them more than a dozen at a time.

8. Expect the unexpected. Having to cancel plans due to an outbreak of hand foot and mouth. A train or bus delay throwing out all your schemes. In both travel and stay home parenthood you really have to be flexible.

9. Conversations about toilet related things. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate on how much stay home parents talk about this. I haven't talked so much about poo-related things since Tane and I developed our rating scale of public toilets during our 2007 trip after me trying to describe a particularly bad one in Laos.

10. Time flies too quickly. While travelling, it seems to last forever, but in no time you're a stay home mum to two children, looking at your photos and thinking about how young you look in them. It's the same with parenthood. Amotai and Lily are growing so fast, already I look at photos of them a few months ago and marvel at their changes. Especially when I put Lily in clothes Amotai wore, clothes that wouldn't even fit over his head now. In both cases, I wish I had some sort of machine to perfectly capture all of the little moments, and to allow me to better remember them.

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