When I was in Las Vegas last year, I walked past a bar selling Mexican beers from an ice filled vat and thought ‘hmmm I’ll get me one or two of those for later.’
I bought two bottles and then the barman poured them into plastic cups because of US laws, leaving me standing on a sidewalk at 11 am with my baby in the pram and a beer in either hand.
I mused over how, back home I would be deemed a degenerate, unfit mother amongst the armchair warrior community, even though said beers barely made up a pint and would leave me below the legal drinking limit, but luckily in Vegas, no one cared.
I like booze, but I can have one drink and not follow it on with ten more and transmogrify into some unhinged lunatic, swinging from a pole in a strip club at 4am with my skirt hitched around my head like a bandana and a child hanging off me.
Nonetheless, with holiday season around the corner, it made me ponder – when you’re away with your kids, how much should you drink?
“It’s a no brainer,” my wise friend surmised. “Don’t be Oliver Reid. Luckily I’m too old to paint the town in every which way so I have one or two during the day,” she added. “My husband went off with a few mates last year and indulged, but my mother was there, so the kids were looked after,” she said.
Some people bring babysitters, others rotate on nights out, while sometimes granny and grandad come along. I have friends who go to Ibiza and and one goes clubbing one night, another goes on the other. It can all work as long as there is a responsible, sober person looking after the kids at all times.
What won’t happen is that stressed out parents turn into pioneers as soon as they hit a Costa. Travelling with kids can send you to the brink of reason and the trick is not to end up in a padded cell. Booze can help this.
As a single parent to a two-year-old, I’ve seen my own sanity in free fall- like when the pram didn’t arrive on the other side, and there’s a poorly timed nappy incident and my daughter is spinning around on the floor spitting fire as the contents of my bags roll past me…That kind of thing.
Having a drink after all this tumult is pure bliss. That lovely moment you order a Long Island Iced Tea from your sun lounger while your toddler sleeps beside you in the shade makes it all worthwhile.
One or two is fine, Gerry Hickey, a Dublin based psychotherapist advised me, but more than that can get tricky for lots of people. “Forty per cent of people’s personalities are affected negatively when they drink to varying degrees,” he said. “Besides changing your mood, you also feel the effects of alcohol in your nervous system for up to four days,” he added. Thats four long days of the fear, while chasing kids around pools and running up and down the beach after them.
“Its also important to remember that you’re setting an example to your children. If you’re drinking and drunk in front of them, you won’t have a case to argue with when they need to be lectured down the line,” he said.
Booze is such a powerful drug and makes people feel relaxed and good, but if your child is getting agitated and wants to go back to the hotel and you’re holding them up, your drinking is interfering with the entire holiday.
When you’re a parent, there are no ‘holidays.’ You’re not getting a relaxing break from work. This is work. You’re on, 24 hours a day. Its exhausting.
But going away is also wonderful. I’ve had some amazing times with my daughter meeting new people and playing in the sand or snow, running across the airport terminal, trainspotting and dipping her feet into the sea for the first time. Even though I travel alone with her and it is harder work, it’s also more liberating to not be tied down at all. I can choose, when, how, where I can go.
Also I don’t get drunk. After chatting to Mr Hickey, I put together a list of don’ts for parents. They’re pretty straight forward, but could be helpful nonetheless; So never ever drink and drive- not even one- especially abroad, drink lots of water, don’t forget to eat and never forget that you are on a family holiday. It’s about the kids, not you. Your raver days are over. Sadly.
Also don’t be like the infamous Tapas Nine, which included Kate and Gerry McCann, who ate and drank at a tapas bar close to the Ocean Club in Praia de Luz in May 2007, where Madeleine McCann was abducted. They paid the ultimate price for leaving the kids unattended. For ever more they will be judged by middle class people around the world- and treated like criminals for socialising, while they should have been minding their children.
If they did one positive thing though, they taught parents, that it’s not the 1980s, you can’t leave kids alone, even for one second.
If you go away with friends, make sure there are no bad drunks or people who can’t handle even a small amount of alcohol in the mix, it can be very tedious, mind the local portions, mind the free after-dinner shots in Mediterranean countries and mind people with cameras. They seem to be everywhere waiting to pounce, put activities online and judge you.
If however you’re thinking of travelling with an indulged millennial- ignore the above, and leave them at home. They’ll be on Snapchat anyway and won’t notice your absence or any of the wonderful things they’re missing. Then take thee to a pub and enjoy your freedom. Have one on me.