Remember the good old days when going away for a weekend meant finishing work early, driving off, windows wound down, feet resting on the dashboard, smiles on the face of you and your partner talk of what fancy restaurant you’re going to stop at on the way? Oh, and then the plans of sleeping in, lazy brunches and visiting some local wineries, before gorging yourself on wine and local cheese until late in the evening? Well, forget it all, because a weekend a way with a one-year-old is as close as you get to the complete opposite of that relaxing, self-centred weekend.

Before heading off

First up is the packing. Remember that medium-sized suitcase you used to use for the two of you when you went away? For a week. Yup, that ought to do you for two days if you make a few cuts. Oh, and let’s not forget all the “just in case” items you need to pack. Sure, baby hasn’t vomited since they were a few months old, but you just know that if you don’t pack five changes of clothes it will be the one weekend where they do! Oh, and put those high heels back in the wardrobe. You won’t be needing anything nice where you’re headed this weekend. In fact, the hairdryer can stay too. Shampoo optional.

OK, so the heading off early from work still applies. But this time, it doesn’t mean setting off early. Oh no, because before you set off you need to pick up the child from childcare, prepare their dinner for the car ride, and double-check your luggage to make sure all four pacifiers are packed in four different bags so there is always one handy.

Related: How to survive a flight with baby

The car trip

Baby will sleep in the car, right? Surely, setting off with enough time to give baby dinner on the way will mean she will nod off at her usual time, just as we hit the freeway? Perhaps if the freeway wasn’t transformed into the dance of the red fairies, perhaps if baby didn’t decide that throwing banana all around the car was fun – days later we are still finding it stuck to car surfaces – perhaps if the stars aligned while you stood on one leg, picked your nose and farted. No, no, no, that 2.5 hour trip is transformed into more than three hours, and you’re singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star the whole way there. Oh, and that charming child-friendly restaurant you decided to stop at on the way? Yeah, they’re not taking walk-ins!

Day one

Surprising, baby slept through until 5.30am. Yes, she woke an hour earlier than usual, but that’s OK. It means an early breakfast is an option. Oh, wait, you’re in the country, nobody serves brunch at 7.30am. Yup, you have to stretch out your sleepy child an extra hour so you can enjoy some overpriced baked beans while missy sooks and throws sultanas at you. It’s not all bad though, the rest of the day is sunshiny and fabulous. Oh, and you stopped off for a cheeky half-dozen of your favourite pinot noir, which you and hubby enjoy in the evening over some cheese.

Related: How to handle hotel rooms with baby 

The night

Or should I say the morning? Or maybe the night and the morning. More accurately, 11pm, midnight, 1am and 2am. Oh, and that wine you drank before is feeling really good about now. Why won’t she sleep? Who knows? Is it because the night is cold? Is it the port-a-cot, that she happily slept in two weeks ago at Gran’s house? Is it teeth? It must be teeth. It’s always teeth. Whatever it is, this kid isn’t going to sleep.

Day two

Yay! Sleep in! 7.30am! Oh, wait, she has only slept five hours. Oh, hello little miss grumpy! You quickly realise that your plans of cooking a lazy roast and heading back in the evening so baby can sleep in the car is the stupidest idea you ever had. Your head pounds as a result of lack of sleep and too much wine. You feel like you might cry at the smallest thing. You realise that aborting the trip at 2pm is going to be a spectacular idea so baby can sleep in her own bed all evening. You look longingly at the bottle of wine on the bench. It’s 8am.

The car trip, take two

Finally, a positive to come from the early-morning partying. Missy sleeps most of the way home, this time it’s only 30 minutes of The Wheels on the Bus.

Coming home

Realise on the way home that the cupboards are bare, so must trawl around the supermarket for half an hour, with missy deciding that today the trolley isn’t fun. No, today mum must carry her around the supermarket. This is all followed by a spectacular tantrum at the audacity of her parents putting her in the car once more for the five-minute journey home. Once home, miss is in her element. She crashes out at 6.15pm, which gives mum and dad about three hours in which to make dinners for her for the week because – joy of joys – they didn’t think ahead about what miss would eat for the week.

Exhaustion

Monday morning, post 36 hours away, and I don’t think I ever felt so tired. I think back with longing when I would walk into work after a weekend away, tanned, happy, people commenting on how relaxed I look. In this instance I looked a wreck, very little sleep again, bags under my eyes and an inability to focus. The one ray of hope I have is a work trip away this week – complete with one small suitcase, neatly packed, but weighed down by a bucket-load of guilt at leaving my child. I’m sure I’ll get over it once I sink into that king-sized bed – alone.

Next: The reality of returning to work after baby

You might also like: My first work trip as a mum

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