When I discovered I was pregnant with my first child at 30 years old, one of my first thoughts was, “OMG, what about OVOFest?” Just a few weeks before in that February of 2014, I had snagged tickets to Drake’s annual performance in his hometown of Toronto during which he shows love for his hometown by performing a collection of both his past and present hits as well as surprising the audience with performances by other artists such as TLC, Mase, Big Sean and J. Cole to name a few. So after I did the math, it was official: I would be rocking an early third trimester belly under my Drake t-shirt as I sat in the Molson Amphitheater belting out “0 to 100”. It was also the first time my daughter would be traveling outside the country even if she was only a fetus. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to explore the world with my mini-me in tow because I wanted to inspire those same feelings of wanderlust in her that I had every time I booked a flight to a new city. Almost three years later I still feel the same way, but admittedly I sometimes find myself looking at my deodorant-eating, tantrum throwing, potty-refusing toddler and wondering do I really want to deal with this crap on what’s supposed to be “vacation”?
Apparently “kids’ clubs” are the answer to dealing with the parenting conflict that comes with wanting your child to see the world in a way where you can also relax and see it too without someone shouting, “Mommy!” in your ear the entire time. Hotel kids’ clubs as they are commonly called are basically programs offered through hotels and/or cruises that are meant to keep children supervised and occupied while their parents go their separate way to have fun. According to Travel + Leisure, most programs are offered to kids ages 3-10 and cost on average $60-$90 a day. Having been of a few cruises in the past years, I’ve been doing some light research on planning a trip for my daughter when she’s old enough to travel without a supply of Pull-Up’s. When I first heard of this “kids’ club” concept, my initial thought was, “OK, so parents travel a million miles away from home to leave their kids in the care of complete strangers so they don’t have to be bothered with parenting on a family vacation?” Besides my irrational fears of my child being smuggled across international borders by housekeeping staff and sold into child slavery, I also wondered if sending my daughter to a tropical babysitting service defeated that whole “making memories as a family” thing. To be frank, I just didn’t get it and author Laine White doesn’t either.
White shares her thoughts in hotel kids’ clubs in a Your Tango Post entitled, “Yes, I Judge Parents Who Dump Kids At Hotel ‘Kids Clubs’ During Family Vacations”. White recalls going on multiple vacations with her son and making memories of floating in the ocean on their backs creating stories about the clouds or spending a day at the water park. On one particular trip when she spots camps counselors leading a group of kids they have apparently spent the entire day with, she instantly begins to throw shade on their parents who are probably off somewhere getting a tan, child-free:
“There were so many kids in the hotel kid club; I couldn’t count them all. I wondered what their parents were doing: A quiet lunch? Massage? Parasailing? Afternoon delight? Getting drunk??”
“Whatever they were doing, I decided they sucked immediately.”
Of course a few parenting bloggers took offense to White’s judgment, pointing out that all parents who take advantage of kids’ clubs aren’t doing so because they’re lazy. Randi Mazella, an expert for SheKnows, writes that kids’ clubs allow her the break she needs to be a better parent:
“The idea isn’t to “dump” kids and not spend any time with them whatsoever. Instead, isn’t it possible that parents may be looking for a way to achieve balance on vacation and meet the needs of all family members?”
“The few hours my husband and I spent away from our kids on vacation benefited all of us. I felt recharged, and that feeling continued beyond the vacation when we got back home.”
But like White, I just can’t seem to fathom the point of taking your kids on vacation to NOT spend time with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good girls’ trip or a weekend getaway with my husband now and then. Whether hubby and I want to eat chicken wings and take shots butt naked in a suite at The Venetian in Vegas or my bestie wants to beach comb for cute lifeguards in the Bahamas, my time is just that: mine. And I do it with the comfort of knowing my kid is somewhere with family members I know and trust. But when it comes to some of the bigger adventures in life, my child will be packing her passport along with mine because I want her to explore the wonders of the world with me, not with a Carnival Cruise staff member. It’s amazing seeing the same row of bushes on our block through her childhood innocence and imagination, so I can only imagine what watching Beluga whales from the Cook Inlet would be like for us as a family.
White also notes that her family, like many, operate on a whirlwind schedule of work, daycare, after-school activities at home and a vacation is meant for the family as a whole to unplug and enjoy each other’s company:
“Weekdays are a blur of unknotting, unforgiving baseball cleat shoestrings, finding lost library books due now, frozen (but organic) pizza for dinner and homework, and sometimes back to work for me. There’s never any time to play a board game, watch a show or just relax together. Vacation is about unplugging and relaxing, so that’s what we did.”
A recent trip to the shore was a time for our little family to ALL have a break: A break from alarm clocks, a break from having to get dressed and washed to go to Grandma’s house, a break from customers, a break from bosses, etc.. Because what parents fail to realize is sometimes even kids need a break from the routine and structure of daily life just like us. It’s like my BFF’s ten-year-old son says when he finds himself in summer camp a few days after the last day of school, “I always have to do something!” As my child grow’s older I have to remind myself that sometimes my kid will want to spend the day in pajamas, snacking on Oreos, watching Spongebob with her hair all over the place. I don’t want to go on vacation for her to have to wake up and spend time with strangers and an agenda of activities. Because there’s beauty in doing absolutely nothing sometimes.
White also points out something that I remind myself of every day: There will come a day where my child won’t be utterly obsessed with me and I’ll be replaced by a 2020-something Beyonce’ who becomes grown woman goals for not just Blue Ivy, but my daughter as well. White reminds parents:
“Parents: Before you know it, your child is going to be a teenager who no longer thinks you’re the coolest person they ever met.”
Sometimes parents just need a break and I get that. You may want to see the Mayan Ruins while your kid wants to swim with turtles, and a kids’ club in a resort may be the chance to do that for a day. And let’s be honest: Sometimes the kids need a break from you too. But I know one day I will miss building sand castles and feeding my toddler fried oreos. Now that I’m a parent, I don’t feel as weird geeking out because I secretly enjoy feeding the giraffes at the zoo more than my kid or running to see Finding Dory on opening night. Being a parent in many ways allows me to be a kid again and some of the most fun I’ve had on vacays would’ve never happened if my kid wasn’t right beside me.
Have you ever used a kid’s club to get a break from parenting while on vacation with your family?
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.