‘It only took 15 years for us to have a night away from the kids’

Uninterrupted meals and conversations felt unfamiliar – and then it all came back to me

Once upon a time, a father of a beautiful, bouncing, non-sleeping four-month-old baby girl thought his exhausted wife, who had been struggling with postnatal depression, could do with a break and change of surroundings. And so, he decided to surprise her by booking a weekend away to Paris and organised for his parents to take care of their fabulous, much adored, non-sleeping baby so that his wife would have nothing to worry about.

And so it came to pass that he told his wife of the surprise he’d planned. She presumed he’d taken temporary leave of his senses – possibly brought on by sleep-deprived delirium – and informed him in no uncertain terms, that she would be going nowhere without her beloved baby, and that was the end of the conversation.

Sadly, for reasons known only unto him, and perhaps fuelled by the certainty that this was a good idea, the thoughtful dad hadn’t taken out travel insurance and so unless his wife was to agree to the trip, not only was the trip to be lost, but the money also. But like I said, that conversation was closed.

Twenty years on, and at the risk of sounding unappreciative, I still wonder what possessed him. I was not one to separate easily from my babies, particularly at such a young age, but sure he grew to appreciate that over the course of six more additions to the family. Then again, the opportunities to separate from them went from few and far between, to non-existent as the numbers grew and potential baby-sitters typically ran screaming at the very prospect.


Military planning

Somewhere between child three and child four, we accepted our fate and it took, more or less, the bare 15 years to have a night away on our own again. Fifteen years and military planning, including roping in several relatives, our older children and abandoning the weekend’s sports.

The younger children weren’t overly keen on the idea. It was all very unfamiliar. Yes there had been occasions where one or other of us had been away over the years, but not both at once, and they weren’t convinced it was a good plan.

The dog wasn’t enamoured by the notion either and staged a sit-down protest on top of our bags as we tried to leave. But we managed to move her whopping 3½ kilo frame to the safety of her basket.

But mostly there was just wonderment at the freedom, the lights and the stalls, from a couple who couldn't love Christmas more

The bigger kids, meanwhile, could see the advantage in having a little space from their parents. That advantage came predominantly in the shape of PS5 access.

And as we headed to Galway, just the two of us, the difference in the journey was audible. Not alone down to the absence of rowing children who had breathed, looked or farted at each other, but because the default tune on Spotify was not Dustin the Turkey’s Christmas Tree. An all-year round favourite of my children’s, because turkeys are not just for Christmas.

Unfamiliar feeling

Instead I blared the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West, because things, including the mammy van, were going that way. And we chatted, interrupted only by my compulsion to sing along to the tunes I rarely get to play. It was bliss – for me anyway.

When we arrived at the Galmont hotel in Galway another unfamiliar feeling descended. We unloaded the car, without having to roar instruction at random children, (all usually owned by us), that we were in a car park and to stay close. We checked in at reception without having to herd smallies and overenthusiastic superheroes from beneath the feet of unsuspecting guests. And we arrived to a room where we didn’t have to bagsie a bed.

As we strolled through the thronged Christmas markets, soaking up the seasonal atmosphere – and the festive punch – there were, admittedly, moments of panic, when I forgot that we hadn’t any children with us to escape and hide within the crowds and so looked around anxiously, before remembering they were back in Dublin safely tucked up with their consoles. But mostly there was just wonderment at the freedom, the lights and the stalls, from a couple who couldn’t love Christmas more.

Distant memory

Uninterrupted meals and conversations had been a distant memory, but just like Celine Dion, it was all coming back to me now. I could get used to this, I figured. The years had passed, but sleep deprivation had remained – caused less by waking children and more by revenge bedtime procrastination, you know, because of work, life, kids and the millions of demands of it all.

The break was just what was needed.

And I’m even open to the idea again – if he can manage to convince anyone to take care of the kids.