Traveling with fibromyalgia can be tricky, and traveling with your kids has its moments, too. But traveling without your kids? That took more planning than any other trip I’ve had before. I learned a lot that first time I traveled without them, both what to do and NOT do. So here are my tips for traveling without kids.It's not easy traveling with #fibromyalgia, but traveling without your #kids is tricky too. Here are some tips for #traveling while the kids stay home. #parenting #fibroparenting #beingfibromom Click To Tweet
This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, May 2020. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
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Traveling Without Your Kids
When I was preparing to attend Fibromyalgia Advocacy Day in Washington, DC in September 2019, it occurred to me I’ve never been on a trip without my kids. And not only was I doing it for the first time, but I was also doing it as a single parent. I was worried about several things, but the biggest worry was my kids being overwhelming for my mom.
I was worried my kids would be so overwhelming that my mom would go running for the hills never to return. I love my mom. I need my mom. I can’t have her overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of each day, so I thought about all the ways to ensure the best experience possible. Here are tips to prepare for a trip away from home without your kiddos.
Write down all the rules.
This was a big one for our family. My kids know exactly how to sweet talk my mom – their MeMa – into just about anything they aren’t allowed to do/have/eat/say. Each time my kids return from time with her, I discover all the things they’ve done, had, eaten, and said that they shouldn’t. I usually let smaller things go such as having a soda or staying up a little past their bedtime. However, with me being gone for nearly a week, these little things would add up and my mom would have an unruly mess on her hands.
After asking a friend for suggestions, she suggested the kids, my mom, and me sitting together to discuss the general rules of the house so everyone would know what they are. I thought this was a great idea, so the day before I flew to DC, we all sat around the table after dinner and discussed these rules.
My oldest daughter got her art supplies to create a visual poster listing the dos and don’ts of our home. We went around the circle allowing each person a turn to contribute a rule for the board. Once we were done, we hung the poster to a common area where everyone could easily see it.
Not only were we creating a visual for everyone to see, but this way my mom knew without a doubt what was acceptable and what was not. My mom was also asking questions about what was allowed and not as she thought of them. This eliminates (or drastically reduces, at the very minimum) any chances of the kids pulling the timeless classic “mom says we can” trick.
Talk about worries your kids have
As I said, I’ve never been out of the area without my kids. It was a new experience for all of us and I had my worries with the logistics of it. Come to find out, my kids had their own worries as well. They knew my mom would be staying with them while I was away, but they had other worries, too.
In the nights leading up to my departure, my kids would talk to me about my upcoming trip as I tucked them into bed each night. They would ask general questions such as where I would be staying, how many nights I’d be gone, and what I would be doing. We would chat about it for a few minutes and, eventually, they would voice a worry they had.
Some of their concerns were typical kid worries such as being allowed the occasional special treat, bedtimes and playing with friends in the afternoons. However, some of the other concerns were deeper ones. They asked what would happen if I had to stay longer than planned or if they became sick while I was gone. My youngest one wanted to know what to do if she had a bad dream at night. These are natural worries most kids would have while their parents are away. However, I didn’t think of these issues until they voiced them to me.
The first thing I did was tell them they had understandable concerns, and I had the same concerns when my mom traveled when I was younger. Next, we discussed what would happen should any of these scenarios happened. Having a plan B and even C gave them control of the situation should it arise. Lastly, I reassured them all would be well while I was gone and I was only a phone call away.
This didn’t magically dissolve their worries, but it gave them ways to handle it and gave them more reassurance during my absence. Each time I tucked them in, they would either tell me a new worry they had or confirm what they would if one of their worries became reality. I also told my mom what the kids worried about so she would have an idea of their concerns while I was gone just in case the kids discussed it with her.
Creating a menu with the kids
The best way I can manage my symptoms is through foods. Added sugars, processed foods, dairy, and gluten increase my pain levels and aggravate other fibro symptoms. My fibro diet consists of mostly vegetables, fruits, protein, and healthy fats. To keep it easy, this way of eating extends to my kids with the addition of some simple carbs and occasional dairy. I do allow them to have treats every now and again, but for the most part, sweets are cut from our daily eating.
For these reasons, creating a menu goes hand-in-hand with the rules section. Because my kids can be slick with unknowing adults when it comes to food, we discussed the dos and don’ts of food just as we did with the rules – as a family with my mom present and written down posted right next to the rules.
While discussing what my kids were allowed and not allowed to eat, we created a menu. Creating a menu ensured my mom had everything ahead of time to eliminate any trips to the grocery store. She already had enough on her hands and I didn’t want to add the extra step of food shopping.
A menu also simplified the evening routine by already knowing what was for dinner. It even allowed the kids to have a voice in what to eat and how they could help prepare dinner. The older kids could help with the stove and oven while the younger kids prepared any vegetables and/or fruits. My mom could oversee it and ensure kitchen safety.
Batch cooking and freezer meals
As the rules section can go with the menu making, the menu making can go along with the batch cooking and freezer meals. (I’m really enjoying the flow of this so far!)
There have been many times where I’m too exhausted to get out of bed let alone stand at the stove to make a meal for my kiddos. This is when batch cooking and freezer meals are the best for their ease and convenience on the days I need it the most. Now, these meals have the added benefit of being an easy go-to meal when I’m out of town!
Whenever I have a meal that’s easy to duplicate and freeze, I make a double batch of it (on the days I’m feeling well) and freeze the second batch. This applies to a variety of foods from soups to cookies and everything in between. For the exception of dairy products and water-enriched foods such as zucchini, most foods are freezable.
The morning of the day you want to eat the meal (or the night prior), simply place the frozen food in the fridge, pop it into a baking dish (or pot on the stove) and cook. For baked goods, simply remove from the freezer and place it in the fridge or on the counter. Once thawed, enjoy!
Keeping these already frozen meals in mind, we were able to decide which meals the kids wanted during the week. Every other day, my mom could remove a frozen baked good from the freezer and the kids could have that as snacks and/or desserts.
Secret stash of goodies
I love giving my kids special treats. Treats could be a sweet goodie, a little toy, or a movie/game. Anything that shows them I’m thinking of them. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I got little surprises for them and hid them in my closet. I got them a movie they had been wanting, a pack of glass bottled root beer (their favorite), and a few other little gadgets. There were enough treats for each day I was gone.
To encourage my kids to be on good behavior and not scare off their grandmother, I told them they would receive one special goodie each day as long as they were helpers with their chores and dinner and minimized their arguing. My mom would give them one treat after dinner had been cleared away each day I was gone.
They loved their surprises! When I would call to check in with them each evening, they were excited to tell me about their treats and how much they loved it. This not only enticed them to display good behavior but distracted them from my absence. It was a win-win!
When I returned from my trip, my mom was still around, thankfully! My kids hadn’t chased her off and she hadn’t pulled out all of her hair. She said the rules, menu, and other preparations were a great help. There were a few areas of improvement which we discussed, but overall it was a success. This was great to hear because there are more advocacy days ahead and this makes me more confident in leaving the kids in her care!