Vacation is a great backdrop for people watching, seeing families of all kinds endeavoring to relax and have fun in a strange, unfamiliar environment. Here are five caricatures of moms you might meet — or moms you might BE — on vacation, from the ones who hover over their kids to the ones who might not even know where their kids are at any given moment.
Read on to see if you recognize yourself or your friends in any of these — and be gentle with yourself if you do. There are positives and negatives to nearly every kind of mom you’ll meet in the wild.
Her motto: “Yes to everything!”
How to spot her in the wild: Indulgent Mom is the reason you always have to exit through the gift shop. She’s in there with her brood buying up every T-shirt and tchotchke known to humankind. Dessert before dinner? Why not dessert FOR dinner? This mom is on a mission to make her child’s vacation memorable, darn it, and her credit card is going to make it happen.
The good and the bad: The pitfalls of being overindulgent are well known — if you overdo it, you risk ending up with bratty kids who never hear the word “no.” But saying “yes” a little more often, especially while on vacation, can summon up a little of that magic that goes missing in our daily lives. Be the Yes Mom once in a while if you can.
Her motto: “Let’s consult the itinerary!”
How to spot her in the wild: She’s the one with the printed out lists, a day bag packed for every eventuality, reservations made months in advance and memorized street maps, train schedules and attraction times. Of course she’s read all the guidebooks. And, just in case you wondered: don’t even think about sleeping in.
The good and the bad: Her excellent research and planning skills mean that her family stands to maximize their vacation dollar and sightsee with ease; but if she lacks the flexibility to change up her plans and go with the flow, Ultra Organized Mom might miss out on some of the great parts of vacation that happen spontaneously.
Her motto: “Which way to the onsite nursery?”
How to spot her in the wild: Rarely seen in the presence of her children, this is perhaps the most rested mom you’ll see on vacation. You’ll drool a little at the sight of her elegant, stain-free evening gown, sipping a pina colada poolside (at the adult pool!), relaxing at the day spa or enjoying a kid-free dinner with her partner at a restaurant where the menu doesn’t include apple sauce and macaroni and cheese.
The good and the bad: There’s no shame in using onsite daycare services, and Outsourcing Mom knows that vacation doesn’t mean prioritizing the children’s needs at her expense. She’s utilizing all available childcare — or bringing along a nanny — and making sure the vacation is one she can enjoy, too. If she outsources too much, though, she stands to miss those special vacation bonding experiences. Like everything, it’s a balancing act.
Her motto: “WAIT FOR MOMMY!!!”
How to spot her in the wild: Helicopter Mom isn’t seen without her precious babies for one second, be it at the ocean (“WATCH OUT FOR THAT WAVE!” “DON’T PICK UP THAT SHARP SHELL!”) or the theme park (“HOLD MOMMY’S HAND!” “OMG, IT’S BEEN FIVE MINUTES SINCE MOMMY APPLIED SUNSCREEN!”)
The good and the bad: It’s our nature as a mother to be our child’s protector, cheerleader and companion, but being a parent is also about letting go a little — and vacation can be a great laboratory for doing that. If your kid’s up for riding her first ride alone, let her. If he meets a new friend at the campground, why not let them play in the mud unsupervised for a few minutes? You might be surprised at how good it feels to let go, even just a little bit.
Her motto: “This is supposed to be a vacation?!”
How to spot her in the wild: She’s just over it. One of her kids threw up on the plane; another wandered off and she had to ask security for help; a stranger said something rude about her parenting skills; her kids are a nonstop fountain of, “MOMMMMMM, CAN I HAVE THAT?” “WHYYYYY?” No one is getting ANY sleep. And, quite frankly, she’s ready to turn this car around right now.
The good and the bad: Stressed Mom is all of us at one point or another — it’s pretty much inevitable — and there’s really nothing good about being her. The best thing to do is recognize when we’ve reached our limit, regroup and figure out how to make things easier. Maybe it means letting go of the itinerary; maybe it means finding a babysitter. It might even mean a glass of Chardonnay on the floor of the hotel bathroom while your toddler sleeps as you watch Netflix (been there). Stressed Mom deserves a vacation just like everyone else; don’t give up.
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Traveling Before Kids vs. Traveling After Kids
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