Sending the children to a “sleeping away from home” camp for the first time is a rite of passage for both the kids and parents. Not only do parents have to find the right camp that their kids are going to adore, but it also needs to be affordable and hopefully not fully booked three seconds after the booking system goes live in January.
Once you have secured a place at camp, you’ll have the packing lists to puzzle over. There are always at least three items on the list that appear to serve no purpose, and one of them will be impossible to find in any local store so you’ll have to drive miles to track one down or pay a fortune for delivery to buy it online.
Having packed your child’s luggage, reassured yourself they know how to call you if they need you. Finally having waved them off to their cabin, you will suddenly find yourself with nothing to do for them and, if you are lucky, a bit of time on your hands.
What you do with this time depends, of course, on how much of it you have, what other demands you have, and how much energy you can muster, but we have a few suggestions.
20 Remember Those Things Called Friends?
You may be tempted to spend your time catching up on all of the things that need doing at home because now you can get them done without the kids under your feet.
Resist this urge.
If those chores have waited this long, they can wait a bit longer, instead do something for yourself, like invite some friend over. There was a time when you had your own friends who would all pile round someone's house, hang out, chat, drink, eat take-out, and generally just be yourselves. Now you are more likely to invite the parents of your kid's friends in for a quick chat.
Ask someone you haven’t seen for a while to come round and catch up.
19 Go Out For A Grown-Up Meal
No babysitter to organize. No reason to watch the clock, rushing through your food and wishing the waiter would hurry up because you have to get back for the babysitter. No reason to have to choose a place to eat where there is a kids menu that has all of the “right” items on it so all three of the kids will find something to eat.
What are you waiting for? Go and eat out in a proper grown-up place without crayons or kids menus, and stay as long as you like.
18 Catch A Late Movie
Did you know they still make movies that do not involve animated animals, superheroes, or Disney Princesses? Shocking I know. It has probably been forever since you went to the cinema unaccompanied, and without having to go to the earliest showing possible.
Admittedly you might be so exhausted you just want to sit on the sofa and watch a movie at home, but just think of how great it is to experience a film, when it is released, on the big screen, and with snacks, you don’t have to share.
17 Enjoy a Staycation
It’s easy to forget how many interesting and exciting things to do there are, right on your doorstep. It might even be that you haven’t forgotten, it’s just that the local social and entertainment scene has moved on since you were last able to let loose without the kids in tow.
Before camp begins, spend a couple of evenings checking out local things to do, without using the search terms “Children,” “Family Friendly,” or “Before 7 pm.”
Make a list of what you find and spend a couple of days getting reacquainted with the world, yourself, and each other.
16 Have A Romantic Mini-Break Away
If getting the kids into and ready for camp hasn’t left you completely penniless, you might want to have a mini-break. You don’t have to go far. Just enjoy the sheer luxury of sleeping in a bed that you don’t have to make in the morning, having breakfast prepared for you, and not having to worry about anything other than relaxing, or enjoying some high energy adventure, depending on your preferences.
Even a night in a local hotel can be a revitalizing break from focussing on everyone else in your life.
15 Have A Romantic Mini-Break At Home
You might be broke, or you might be like me, and just the thought of organizing and going on a two-night trip is enough to make you break out in a stress-induced rash, in which case, going away is going to be the exact opposite of relaxing.
If this is the case, make sure the bed sheets are fresh and clean, stock up on some low prep or no prep food, and designate two days as your “getaway.” Turn off the Wi-Fi, don’t talk about the kids or work if you can help it and rediscover the joy you found in each other before the kids came along.
14 Do The Things 'You' Like
It can be the little things you miss when you have kids at home. You know the kind of things I mean, reading a book for an hour without being interrupted, drinking a cup of tea or coffee while it is still hot, going to the washroom without kids banging on the door demanding to be let in.
You may have forgotten, it's been such a long time, but many of the simple pleasures can actually be appreciated together. I know, crazy right? Not only is it possible to read an entire chapter on your own but you can enjoy a hot drink while you are sitting reading, and for the next level multitaskers, you can also eat chocolate. Imagine, not one thing you miss, but three at once, there really is a heaven.
13 Have A Girls' Or Guys' Night Out
Not everyone is in the same boat and it might be you already get plenty of “quality time,” oh how I hate that phrase, with your significant other, and you’d rather have the chance to party without them.
When the kids go away, it is a fantastic opportunity for you both to go your own way and reconnect with your friends. There is none of that “Oh no, I’m out having a good time, and they are home alone looking after the children” guilt to contend with. Either one or both of you can roll in whatever time you like, and nobody has to worry about being a bit drunk when they get home, waking up the kids in the night and earning “The Look,” from their partner.
12 Decorate All By Yourself
I know, at the beginning of this I said no chores, and if decorating is something you hate, feel free to skip this one and move on quickly to the next. However, if you do enjoy splashing a bit of paint about, there is no better time than when the kids are away.
If you have ever tried to paint anything in the house with kids around, I do not need to explain all of the reasons why it is stressful. If you haven’t, imagine paint on every surface except the one it is supposed to be on, constant interruptions so the paint dries mid-wall and your eight-year-old complaining all night that they can’t sleep because they don’t like the smell.
11 Shop ‘Til You Drop
We’re not just talking a trip to Costco here you know. When you have been a mom for several years, you plan all shopping around what you can do in the brief periods of the day without kids or how much you can achieve with the kids in tow, i.e., next to nothing.
Now you are sans kiddos you can go to any store you like, maybe even seven or eight or more in one trip. You don’t have to stop for anyone to go for a pee, hurry in and out of items in the changing room with a cling-on stuck to your calf or eat what the kids want in the food court. The mall is your oyster. Enjoy it while you can.
10 Let It Hang Out
You don’t have to be particularly inhibited to end up having to wrap yourself in PJs and a robe before adventuring out of the bedroom and into the bathroom in the middle of the night. Your one year old catching a brief accidental glimpse of your knickers as you dash past their door on the way to the toilet at 2 am isn’t really a big deal. When your kids are tweens or teens, it can be a bit more uncomfortable for both sides.
Now they are all out of the house, enjoy your freedom. Get home from work, whip off your shirt and veg on the sofa in your underwear if you want to.
9 Eat What You Want
Planning meals for the coming week is a dreaded exercise in our house. Husband and I sit down with a sheet of paper and list possible meals and then arrange them according to what kid is home when, who eats what, and what leftovers we can use for lunches.
This always involves discussions of “can’t have that because child “A” won’t eat melted cheese” or “I’d like to cook something easy that night but easy cook night will have o be Tuesday because we’ve got Girl Guides and Cadets.”
Celebrate getting rid of the fussy little beggars for a few days and eat all of the meals you want, when you want them.
8 Cook And Enjoy It
There is a vast difference between making an evening meal for the family and cooking. Cooking involves taking your time over things, enjoying what you are doing, and soaking up the whole experience of creating something from the base ingredients.
Making anything to eat with kids in the house involves rushing into the kitchen and trying to throw together something vaguely edible while various children wander in and out, interrupting you with urgent questions about their toes and eating the ingredients before you can use them.
With your little house of horrors empty of the tiny monsters that usually populate it, you can enjoy creating in the kitchen again.
7 Have A Tasting Night
The plan for this entry was to outline how, with the children out of the house and no need for you to stay 100% responsible, you could go down to the liquor store and buy a variety of wines, beers, or liquors and have yourself a tasting evening at home. The suggestion was going to include having carefully pair foods to enjoy with the drinks but then that all seemed to become too much work.
Instead, grab a couple of bottles of something you like and a bag of chips. Settle yourself down on the sofa for the evening, put your feet up and enjoy.
6 Take A Bath
Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to take long, luxurious baths. This girl would buy all kinds of fancy scented bath products to keep her skin soft and supple, to fill the tub with foamy bubbles, and make the room smell nice. The girl would spend a few hours in the bath, refilling with warm water and got out only when she was done.
Then the girl hand babies. Now the girl was unable to take a bath without having to empty it of 1001 toys first. When she had done that she would discover the fancy bubble bath had all gone and she had to use the kid's bubble gum bubble bath. Once in the tub, the kids would join her after three minutes, and one of them would invariably pee poop or puke in the water.
Be the pre-baby girl while the kids are away.
5 Do Absolutely Nothing
It is easy to get caught up in finding things to do while the kids are at camp. You can see yourself scheduling activities and trying to squeeze enjoyment out of every last second they are away.
Instead, consider doing nothing. This isn’t a waste of time; it can be an activity in itself. Turn everything off, sit outside or by the window and just enjoy the peace and quiet of a still, child free house.
Even when they are asleep you are alert and on duty. Take this opportunity to recognize you are not on duty right now, and you do not have to be primed and ready to deal with anything.
4 Eat The Treats
There is an intrinsic dilemma to motherhood. You can either a) buy treats for the kids and not have any for yourself. b) buy treats that you would like too and have to face the disappointment when you go to get one and discover the little locusts have eaten them all already c) buy treats you like and hide them, taking them out when you think it is safe and trying to furtively eat them without being caught and end up feeling guilty and not enjoying them or d) the same as c but you end up getting caught and having to reluctantly share your treat with the kids, ruining the whole experience in the process.
The kids are away - take the opportunity to eat all the treats you want.
3 Actually Sleep In
Once your kids are old enough to go and sleep away at camp, they have hopefully grown out of the worst o the sleep problems phase, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t always a nap or a lay-in that could be had and reveled in.
Make the whole process an occasion. Buy yourself some new bed linens and have them fresh on the bed, take a long soak in the bath, pamper yourself and then slide in between those inviting covers.
Best of all, turn off, or turn around the clock and go to sleep when you’re ready to and get up when you feel like it.
2 Regress To Your Teen Years
Take advantage of this break from adulting to go totally crazy and regress. Maybe not as far back as your childhood, that might be a bit too far, or a bit weird. Unless of course, that’s a thing both you and your other half enjoy, in which case, go for it, enjoy yourselves while you can.
What I was thinking of was more of a “back to teenage or college days” type of regression. Leave the laundry wonder around the house naked or in any nasty old t-shirt, eat cereal straight from the box and sit up all night playing video games and eating pizza.
1 Have All Of The Fun Times You Want
We saved the best for last. We were all thinking it, as soon as we have the house to ourselves we can have all of the noisy, all night, in every room of the house, swinging from the light fun times that we want.
If you feel adventurous, go online a few weeks ahead of time and get yourself some toys or games. Alternatively, you might want just to be able to have a quicky on the sofa without having to keep one ear on alert for little footsteps on the stairs.
Either way, make the most of it. They’ll be back home and you’ll be back to quiet furtive fumbles before you know it.