Is it wrong to go on holiday - without the children?

Ellen's going on holiday - without her children

Ellen's going on holiday - without her children - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s 2.4 Children

Ellen's going on holiday - without her children

Ellen's going on holiday - without her children - Credit: Archant

How are you spending your summer holiday this year? Abroad? At home? By the sea? In the countryside?

I’m spending mine without my children.

Yes, that’s right. I’ve booked a break for two to a tropical paradise and I’m not taking either of the kids.

Instead my husband and I – who will be celebrating 10 years together – are dumping them both on my parents before we jet off hand in hand to enjoy the sun.

Shocking isn’t it? I’m quite shocked at myself.

And yet I was remarkably easily persuaded.

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It was the husband’s idea you see.

It had been a wretched weekend. You know the kind.

It started with an ear-splitting temper tantrum at 5.30am on a Saturday morning – something to do with losing Iron Man’s head - and ended with an almighty argument at 9pm on Sunday night – something to do with the contents of Monday’s lunchbox.

The next day my husband came home with his arms full of travel brochures.

“I thought we had ruled out a holiday this year,” I said.

“Yes but we could get a better deal if we went once the kids returned to school,” he said grinning.

“We’ve been through all that,” I sighed. “Yes the school holiday price hike is a joke but we can’t take them out of class.”

“Ah but we won’t,” he said smugly.

He had already spoken to my parents, who had agreed to have our daughter and son for a week and he had earmarked a destination where temperatures rarely dip below 30C.

He waved a picture of white sand, clear blue waters and palm trees under my nose.

And I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even hesitate.

A recent survey of parents reveals that my desire to get away from it all is neither cruel nor abnormal: the majority wish they could have more time away from their children.

Having said that, the research also revealed that eight out of 10 people couldn’t, with a clear conscience, book an entire holiday sans enfants.

And I do get this, I really do.

I still remember the first time I did it you see.

My daughter was just 18 months when my husband and I took a week-long trip to New York.

I cried on the plane all the way there, blubbing into my glass of champagne.

Then I was inconsolable for the first two nights, ringing home repeatedly to sing nursery rhymes down the line.

I made up for the fact that I felt like a terrible mother by spending the rest of the holiday buying her a wardrobe of expensive clothes and a suitcase full of toys from FAO Schwarz.

When we returned to collect her I wept again to find she had grown taller, had learnt new words and seemed very happy to be in the arms of my mother, completely unfazed by the fact that we had abandoned her.

Since then I have got braver.

We tend to only have small breaks away - a weekend here, a few days there - but with each trip I have learnt to love, and long for, more time away from my children.

Because it is a break you see. A complete break.

And that’s the thing with holidaying with children. It’s not a holiday at all.

Of course it is fun – we had a wonderful week in Barcelona with our kids last year - but going away with children means doing all the same stuff in a different sink.

The drudgery of parenthood simply cannot be left behind.

And there is no time for relaxing and unwinding.

You’ve got to make sure your kids are fed supper by 5pm, you have biscuits and wet-wipes in your beach bag, that you top up the suncream of all four members of the family while juggling a lilo, hats and several buckets and spades.

You can’t read a book in case your daughter drowns in the sea, you have to make sure your son doesn’t pee on the poolside or drip ice-cream on the towels, your husband will invariably disappear to use the hotel gym at every inconvenient moment and each meal will be accompanied with profuse apologies to the waiter for the mess under the table.

On top of that your bed will be caked in sand, your clothes streaked in suncream and you won’t get a chance to blow-dry your hair, enjoy a glass of sangria, savour an evening meal or a moonlit stroll on the beach because someone will need feeding, entertaining, bathing or putting to bed.

So imagine it. Go on.

Waking up naturally, reading, talking without interruption, drinking a bottle of wine at lunchtime, enjoying a leisurely siesta before walking around on the sun-warmed cobbles of a beachside town without the hindrance of a double buggy.

There’s a reason why studies suggest parents who leave the children and jet off for a week or two have stronger, happier marriages.

They get that chance to rediscover the people they were when they first fell in love – long before the pitter patter of tiny feet.

But what about the guilt?

Yes, I have to admit it’s there.

And it will be there, at the back of my mind with every cocktail sipped, every footstep in the sand and every bubble of laughter.

It’s a problem all mothers have – the inability to do anything for themselves without feeling downright selfish.

But I am hoping that it will be worth it.

After all I know our kids will enjoy time with their grandparents, that they will be safe, happy, loved, look after each other.

And above all we will return feeling refreshed and relaxed, better, calmer parents – at least until we need another child-free break anyway.

Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.