As you might have read in my last post about 10 reasons to cruise with kids, one of the bonuses to cruising with our girls is that they get to have both their parents around 24/7, everyday, all year round. As beautiful and wonderful as this is, it is also one of the cons of cruising with your kids. They are around 24/7, everyday, all year round.
I can only imagine how much free time Eben and I would have if the girls were not around. All those hours that he spends on projects, I would be alone, to do as I please, to do…who knows what!? But that life is not a reality for us, our reality is that we have two mini crew sharing our adventure with us, on our 41ft boat.
Free time, away from the kids, is not something that happens often. Hardly at all really. Having taken off on a sailboat means we have left all the family members that want to “steal the kids for the weekend”, and left the schools that take them for a portion of the day, and left the possibility of calling up a babysitter and having her come over for a few hours while we have a date. Yes, cruising with kids means you will be spending A LOT more time with them, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel trapped either. Here are a few tricks to keep your sanity intact, and find you some alone time to get work done, go grocery shopping, have a date night, or just sit alone and drink wine!
- Extend nap times for as long as possible. I am extremely grateful that both our girls still nap. Our girls have a pretty good schedule and we are sticking to it. Both go down at noon (not without the usual fuss) and sleep for about an hour and a half. This is my quiet time. At noon is usually when you will find me on the computer writing up blog posts. It’s my time to be productive, to do “me things”, or to nap too.
- Find family buddy boats. If you find another family boat that you enjoy, stick with them. At least this way when you go to the beach you can keep all your little terrorists together, and all the parents understands when you are unable to finish a sentence because one kid is screaming, or the other is throwing sand, or someone needs some disciplining. (or all of the above) Having family buddy boats around means other monsters for your monsters to play with, to expend their energy with. And it also means other parents to commiserate with once all the kiddos are in bed.
|The girls enjoying a beautiful sunset with our best boat buddies Windtraveler|
- Do babysitting swaps with other family boats. If everyone is willing, why not give each other the nice present of a date night. “We’ll take your kids tonight, and you take ours tomorrow”. This gives every one some lovey-dovey time with their significant other and also gives them some time to recharge and prep for another amazing day with their energetic kids.
- Recruit older boat kids to watch yours. It’s cheap labour 😉 The kids will love their sense of freedom, independence, and responsibility. And your little ones will be just as happy being entertained by their cool older buddy as they would by you. If said “babysitter” is too young to be left alone with your kids, have them just take the kids to play a few hundred feet down the beach from where you are, so you can supervision from afar, in silence.
|Eva is the best boat kid/friend/babysitter ever|
- Take friends up on their offers to babysit. Babysitters are not readily available in the sailing world, mostly due to access and knowledge of a boat; so if a friend offers, take it. If your neighbour boat is feeling homesick and wants to love your littles like they were their grandkids, let them. An afternoon of baking cupcakes on someone else’s boat = a few hours of quiet for you.
- Enrol your kids in programs. If you are going to be staying put on your boat for any significant amount of time, check to see if the area you are in has any activities you can sign your kids up for. Especially in summer time (which is also hurricane season time when a lot of boats stay in one spot) there are a lot of kids’ camps, summer camps, day trips, and activities. Search them out. When we took a short stint off the boat (in the DR) we enrolled both girls in school, and also had Arias attending Circus class (for the cutest IMO final performance check out the link). It was a great opportunity for the girls to make some more friends their age, and for us adults to have several consecutive hours to ourselves.
|Arias did several months of circus class with Kaiceitos circus in DR|
- Use your guests. Often guests will want to bring you a gift, a thank you, for your hospitality while they stayed on your boat. Why not suggest that instead of offering “something”, they could offer you the gift of time…babysitting. A couple of hours, one night when the kids are in bed, they can keep watch while you slip away for a beach bar drink with your lover.
Eben’s parents offered us the most amazing gift this year. Now that our girls are a bit older we were ready to step away from them for a few days, well, his parents flew to our boat and watched our girls for 3 weeks while Eben and I went to India to do the Rickshaw Run. It was the first ever trip of its kind for our family, to be kid free for so long. It was slightly scary as a mom but so much fun and so needed.
- Escape to your cockpit. Once your kids are tucked in and fast asleep, sneak out to your very own cockpit. Bring a bottle of wine and sit and enjoy the stars in the sky and the sound of the waves in the sea. Whether you are alone or with someone special, this is can be extremely romantic.
- Ask your spouse. Although Eben hates it when I call it babysitting, “If it’s your kids it’s not babysitting it is parenting”, ask your spouse to take the kids for a bit so that you can have some time alone. Every parent needs it and every parent should do it.
- This will not give you time alone, but remember that I have done it too. I have been there, when you are completely exhausted by your kids and your patience is at a low, and you have no where to escape to from your boat and kids, I have been here. I have done the ugly cry. And so have MANY others. This too shall pass. It won’t be like this forever. And in a few years we will all look back on it and laugh, or shake our heads. Not everyone gets the opportunity to raise their kids in such a way, so embrace it, all of it, even the ugly.
The girls are napping and I just finished a rough morning with them, dishing out 2 consequences and nearly loosing my patience. Even with all these tips above, after 5 years on the boat with our girls and maybe 20 nights out total in that time (minus India of course, and a 3 night getaway to Las Vegas!), time away from the kids is not frequent enough for me, it is starting to wear on me and how I parent, and this is why we have started discussing different options, like enrolling them in school. Keep those dialogues open with you “other” and find what works best for you both.
When you have great days embrace the fact that you have your kids by your side for all those extra hours, and hold on to that feeling for when the “less good days” happen.