This summer, I went on holiday with my boyfriend’s family and their friends to a villa in Mallorca. It was a lot of firsts for me, I had never been on holiday with his family, their friends, kids or stayed in a villa! It was quite a luxury holiday for me as I am a backpacker and I have a pretty basic income. My boyfriend paid for the villa as it was a lot of money, but I can honestly say it was one of the gorgeous places I’ve ever stayed.
But, was it stress-free? Not really.
In our family villa, we had six couples and 3 children aged 1, 2 and 3, so a good child to adult ratio in theory. As a child-free person, I have no dependents to worry about, apart from two pretty low-maintenance cats. We were hit massively by the French air strikes, so we got to the villa at 3am and were woken a few hours later when the kids woke up. We did quite a bit of childcare that first day which in hindsight, was a mistake as we were still exhausted and running on empty. If you have a kid, then you have the stamina to deal with them and we did not.
After a second day of broken sleep, we got up early to play with the kids and then went to a national park nearby. We saw a lovely bird and we were immediately summoned to meet the parents and bring the buggies to Alcudia so off we went. We didn’t know where they were as they tended to be slow to message so we sat in the car waiting for a while. After delivering the buggies and showing the kids the sea, we left to have lunch at a cheap tapas place and met them at a beachside restaurant.
While we were gone, the two-year-old got sand in her eye so she had been distressed but luckily another tourist had brought saline so that saved the day. Naturally, the stress remained as we joined them at the table as getting the kids out of the restaurant and back to the beach made everyone more worked up. It was all a bit too much for me as it had been a frustrating day so we went for a drive and I had a small cry as I just felt really disheartened. It is difficult to try your best and it still didn’t relieve anyone’s stress so I felt really useless.
One of the parents cried in the evening as it had been a tough day and apologised to us. Looking after children is one of the hardest jobs of all and its impossible to appreciate how hard it is without being a parent yourself, as you cannot understand. I’m terrible as I get stressed around stressed people which is not a very useful trait!
The kids all had their moments when they were swimming or playing that were really cute. The two-year-old found a praying mantis and chatted to it which was very funny. The trip settled down a bit as the week went on, but continued with the highs and lows.
Even though the first trip out on the second day was the most difficult, the second trip out of the villa as a group actually went quite well after the initial stress of getting there. On the last day, I got ill so we ended up doing less which was a shame. My boyfriend and I did get to be in the villa by ourselves and it was amazing to sit by the pool without worrying about a child falling in.
Over the week we tried to help out in any way we could with childcare, cleaning, feeding, cooking and washing-up. The chores were relentless due to the amount of people in the villa and there were times when I found it a bit overwhelming. It’s definitely like shovelling snow when its still snowing.
I felt like a learnt a lot about kids from being with them for an entire week and I became less worried about doing things with them. Obviously, you honour the parent’s wishes at all times so, in a way, you are more concerned about doing the wrong thing than you would be with your our kids.
I would say enjoy your own time as much as you can and avoid getting caught up in parental stress as much as you can. The point of being an honorary ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ is that you don’t want to see the kids you love in a negative way, just because that’s how their parent sees them that day. Kids will be kids and parents will get stressed but if you look after yourself then you’ll have the energy you need to deal with them both.