It should have been the ultimate, luxurious time-out – something of a trip-of-a-lifetime for two frazzled parents.
And it wasn’t too long either: a whistlestop Dublin-Dubai trip that saw us leave on Monday afternoon and return on Friday evening.
Like many mums and dads, before our kids came along we spent a good chunk of our disposable income (back when we actually had disposable income!) on travel.
There were a couple of trips to New York; a week in Oman visiting friends; a few summertime flights to European cities or resorts, and even a far-flung jaunt to the Maldives (yes, it’s completely laughable now to think of).
Understandably enough, when our babas arrived – Giulia is now almost five, while Felix turned two last November – all that grinded to a halt.
But I admit it was something that I missed: the excitement of jetting off somewhere new; of feeling the sun on your face; of exploring a spot you’ve never been to before.
So when our son was 11 months old and our daughter was three-and-a-half, we did the unthinkable: we left them behind with my mum to enjoy four days of all-inclusive, pool-side bliss in Dubai.
I envisioned noon cocktails, reading a book a day on a sun-lounger, and sleeping for 12-hours a night. What I got instead was lashings of guilt, a tangible pining for a my kids, and a sense that’d we’d spent a load of cash on something that in the end just wasn’t all that enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong: my default status is not mummy guilty. I work full-time, often long hours too, but I make sure to make the most of mornings, evenings, and weekends. I’m confident that what I’m doing is the right choice for me and – more importantly – for my family.
But in going away without my daughter and son I realised that I was chasing a former existence that is no longer applicable to my new life as a parent; in trying to ‘have it all’ I was losing sight of the fact that what I wanted pre-children was, understandably, an awful lot less aspirational now.
Amid the madness of two smallies, of course I still spend occasional moments dreaming of a tropical beach and of lying around with nothing to do but snooze in the sunshine. But that was then. Now?
Now my sunlounger is a couch – snuggled alongside my two smalls. A stack of beach books is more likely to be another airing of Trolls. Drinking wine on a sun terrace is… well, drinking wine in my kitchen after the kids go to bed.
That now is my ultimate, luxurious getaway. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.