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The most obvious statement of the century is that having kids changes everything. Yes, everything. That doesn’t mean everything changes for the worse, but it all changes. Naturally, this includes, but is not limited to the world of travel.
I remember when my daughter was about four weeks old. We had already been to hell and back with her due to a NICU stay, a life flight, and many straight days (and mostly nights) of constant
crying screaming. It wasn’t the happy rose-colored-glasses view of having a baby that we had naively dreamed of. However, I was determined to try to start venturing out of the house with her and retain some of my pre-baby life and sanity. Because darn it I wasn’t going to be one of those people who totally changed 180 degrees after their baby was born. Ah, how little I knew then!
Anyway, my mission of the day was to get an outfit to wear to the annual Carnival celebration in Austin. I had gone for several years straight, and it was something we really enjoyed doing with friends. The costumes, the music, the dancing, the drinks, we loved all of it. We had arranged for my parents to come to Austin and stay with C while we went to the celebration downtown with friends. As we had done for years, I met up with a girlfriend to shop for an outfit with sequins, feathers, high heels etc. As a brand new mom venturing out for one of the first times alone with a challenging baby, it literally took hours to get out of the door.
I tried to time the nap correctly, the feedings correctly, packed a 50 lb bag of supplies for her and me “just in case”, and eventually made it out the door. We started our shopping at a costume shop that also sold some products geared toward adults, and consequently it was an 18 and up establishment. This is something I never paid attention to before, but it would become a big issue for this outing. As I went into the store, Little C was asleep in a Moby wrap snuggled close to me. I was proud of myself for making it there, and excited to do a “normal” activity with a friend.
However, my visions of regaining part of my pre-baby life were dashed when after a minute or two a store employee came up to me and said that since they sold some 18+ products, no one under 18 was allowed in the store. That included my quiet, sleeping four week old baby. I was tired, I was embarrassed, I was disappointed, I was overwhelmed, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to a few tears quietly streaming down my face as I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. Within a minute or two my friend realized I was gone, and found me sitting in my car. She kindly pretended to not notice my red face and stray tears, and stayed in the car with C while I took a turn shopping, but it wasn’t the same.
Little C and I had been kicked out of a 18 and up joint at just four weeks old, and I was clearly gunning for the “Mother of the Year” award. I look back and laugh at it now, but at the time it was a big wake-up call that life was not the same, and no matter how hard you try, there are some things you did before having kids that you can’t do after having kids. The sting of the various lessons from that day still sit with me.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I was at a conference in Colorado Springs. We traveled with our daughter, and several other bloggers that attended also brought their children along. One of those bloggers was Michael from Michael W Travels. He and his wife brought their adorable 16 month old, Lucas. Part of the planned activities for the weekend included a “+1” program for the spouses to attend a spa morning at the nearby Broadmoor Hotel while the bloggers were all in sessions at the conference. My husband participated by virtue of us having a local child care service arranged for C, but most of the other families in attendance didn’t leave their kiddos with the child care service either because they didn’t know about it, or didn’t feel comfortable leaving their kiddo with someone they didn’t know (which is totally understandable).
You can read the full story on Michael’s site here, but the short version is that Micheal’s wife, Kim, had arranged for Delta Points’ wife to watch Lucas while she got her massage. Delta Points’ wife would get her massage first while Kim and Lucas hung out in the spa waiting area, and then they would switch places. They all checked into the spa, got the tour, had the spa staff interact with the baby etc. They were doing great waiting while the first round of massages was going on, and Lucas was reportedly on his best behavior. Then the spa manager crossed paths with the baby and momma and told them, “The Broadmoor’s rule was that nobody under 16 years of age was allowed to be in the spa area.” She told them that they were a “5 Star resort and they couldn’t have any children in the spa at all.”
I wasn’t there, but I can imagine if I were in her shoes I would have felt several of the same emotions I experienced when we got the boot from the costume shop several years ago. I totally get why a spa wouldn’t want young children in the waiting area. Many young children aren’t calm, and a spa is supposed to be a very peaceful environment. However, it sounds like the delivery of the message wasn’t fantastic, and it probably would have been much better for all involved if this was something they were informed of at check-in when staff first saw Lucas. Or perhaps the spa staff could have worked with them to come up with an alternate solution that included pointing out other parts of the hotel where they might be comfortable waiting, and relaying that message to Delta Points’ wife when her session ended so she could meet-up with them and take over child care duties for an hour or so.
In the end, Lucas’ mommy didn’t get her massage that day, and probably was left with a bad taste in her mouth. Could she have checked with the spa ahead of time to learn their rules? Of course, but she had arranged alternate care, and sometimes we all miss a step in the process. Now that my daughter is older we do make use of kid’s clubs at hotels with some regularity so that she can play with kids her own age, and we can take part in some adult offerings within the hotel. However, that doesn’t work when your kid is still really young, so you have to be even more creative with your planning activities on your trips.
In case you are curious as to how our own Carnival night ended up several years ago…I did eventually get a costume that didn’t look too ridiculous five weeks post-baby, and we met up with friends to attend the event. We had a few drinks in a nearby hotel room while getting ready. Then right before we left, I had the enviable task of pumping in the hotel room (in costume) while all of my friends (and their husbands) waited. That was quite entertaining for all involved. After that we made it to the event, and I was so excited to be there that I fell asleep in the corner, on a bench, within 15 minutes of arrival. All of the work to get there and I virtually passed out instantaneously (and it wasn’t from the two cocktails). It was a good effort, but totally unrealistic given our new reality as parents. We committed to going before C was born, and before we knew first-hand how different our lives had become. Even looking at the photo below I realize how silly the attempt was, but I know our hearts were in the right place.
We would have had much more fun just staying home enjoying a glass of wine and getting a few extra hours of sleep while my visiting parents took over part of the night shift with Little C. We just hadn’t learned that yet. Both at home and when traveling, there are some things you can’t do with kids, and there are some things you have to do really differently and with much more advanced planning. My advice is to really think through the logistics of how a particular activity will work with a young kid. In the case of a spa, you probably want to arrange care with someone who is outside of the spa area. In the case of a late night party a month after your child is born, you may want to pass all together…or plan on passing out in the corner as I did. For the record, we still haven’t been back to Carnival since.
What were some surprise changes you experienced after your kiddo came along? Were there things you no longer could do when traveling (or even at home)?