When my divorce became final in December 2021, I thought I had considered almost every scenario I’d encounter as a single mom – all the weird little “alone” things that I used to share with my partner that I would be solely responsible for, now that we aren’t together.
But, even after all the soccer practices I had to get Arthur to, doctor’s appointments I had to work my schedule around and parent nights I attended alone; nothing could have prepared me for the ultimate stress of a solo-parent and preschooler European vacation.
When I began planning the vacation, I knew immediately that we would need to travel to a familiar place where we had friends to connect with. For me, it was a no-brainer. My son had never met his godmother in Spain (due to the pandemic) and, well, who better to visit for our trip than a second mother figure who loved us enough to put up with whatever craziness a stressed mom and small boy could throw her way?
When we arrived in Barcelona, I was jet-lagged, Arthur was cranky, irritable, oscillating between sleeping, drowsing and having a tantrum. I was in a similar situation, but also carrying a 36-pound child, all our bags and wheeling a suitcase. Of course, when we arrived at the hotel, our room was not ready, so we waited in the lobby for five hours like prisoners in a holding cell, travel-worn and miserable because I simply could not bring myself to walk around the city carrying a child when I was that exhausted.
After we checked into our room, we slept – I allowed myself the indulgence of a bed I didn’t have to make myself and no alarm to worry about. Hours later, Arthur’s godmother showed up at our hotel in the Eixample, birthday gifts in hand and two open arms for holding my son and me. We were feeling a little more rested, a little more like ourselves.
I wish I could write that after our rough first day, everything went swimmingly; but, alas, it most definitely did not. I spent many evenings carrying a sleeping boy through the metro, crying because I did not remember the right train to take and he was so heavy I thought there was no way I could walk with him all the way back to the hotel. I spent a lot of time drinking wine at tables in the Passeig de Gracia or the Gothic Quarter, trying to convince Arthur that pan con tomate was pizza, and looking at happy couples sharing a bottle of something bubbly or something smooth and deep, blood red. They were talking and smiling at one another, enjoying their conversation and their vacation and all I could wonder was “what in the world has happened to my life?”
There were a lot of early nights because “one of us” preferred playing Hot Wheels to going out and exploring Barcelona. It’s a wonder my arms didn’t fall off from all the kid-hauling, and there was one singular restaurant in Barcelona that had macaroni and cheese – so, I had to Uber Eats an order to the hotel for Arthur every night or face a hunger strike.
But, there were also days on the beach and in the water with my closest friend, my son’s godmother, talking and sunbathing and paddling around while we took turns playing with a sweet little boy. There were drives up in the mountains and walks through different areas of the city and watching a child’s eyes light up as he took in the strange newness of a foreign place.
It was stressful – some days I was almost broken by it – expensive and difficult. But it was also beautiful, wonderful and completely worth it. Travel is the gift I most wanted to give Arthur before he was even born and this summer, I realized that it’s something I’m strong enough to give him all by myself.