At the end of the last trip with just Evelyn, I remember saying it would be madness to do it with two.
And when we told people about this trip, while most people thought it was a brilliant opportunity, they also thought it was crazy.
I preferred to look on the brighter side. There’d be two of us looking after them, we’d have loads of free time and things to do to keep Evelyn amused. Yes there may be the odd hard day, but how much harder could it be than softplay with a grumpy toddler and a whingy newborn on a rainy day?
I was naive. Evelyn was a “good baby” (I hate that phrase). She slept through from fairly early on, slept for entire three hour car journeys, and apart from a few teething incidents, was fairly easy to deal with travelwise.
Turns out Stan hates the car. He’s getting a bit better, slowly, but get his feeds or naps a bit wrong and he’ll scream for entire journeys. If we’re really unlucky, him screaming sets Evelyn off too and I end up sat between the two of them desperately trying to shut up the screaming in stereo while Simon concentrates on towing the caravan. This was not part of the plan.
Stan is also not a very good sleeper. Well, his sleep isn’t that bad, but he’s very windy and wakes himself up repeatedly either farting or thrashing about. Co-sleeping was the answer for a while, but then he started getting reflux symptoms too.
So now I’ve given up dairy to see if that helps with his digestive issues. No cheese, no ice cream, no cake. Tea tastes terrible with oat milk. There isn’t nearly as wide a “free from” range abroad as there is at home, and not speaking the language makes eating out difficult (is that schnitzel fried in butter?). Thank god (or the EU) for clear allergy labelling of packaged products. But still, meal planning is more stressful, and eating in general certainly isn’t as fun.
Then there’s the heat. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know we’ve been braving the European heatwave for over 2 weeks. Trying to keep two kids out of the sun is stressful as it is, but when the caravan is still 35 degrees at 8pm you can wave goodbye to bedtimes, and the tiny shred of adult time you had in the evening to decompress.
And add in the fact we’re all living on top of each other ALL THE TIME. Our entire home right now is smaller than most living rooms, and when we’re not all in that, we’re generally all in the car (and we know how well that’s going). Most of the time I even have a toddler with me when I have a shower as most campsites don’t have family bathrooms. In the month we’ve been away, the only “me” time I’ve had is two runs, and doing the laundry. That’s not intended to be a whinge against Simon, we’re either busy, or have our hands full of kids, he has no more free time than me.
So why have I invited you to this pity party?
It’s easy to follow peoples’ adventures on social media and see the good side, the airbrushed photos and #blessed. But that’s rarely the truth. And trying to “enjoy” every minute only puts more pressure on an already pretty intense situation. I had certainly fallen in to the trap of wanting to prove the “I told you so”s wrong.
After three weeks, the combination of broken sleep, torturous car journeys, restricted diet, intense heat and claustrophobia got to me. I snapped. I’ve got a history of anxiety that I thought I’d left behind, but I recognised the alarm bells. I seriously questioned packing it all in and going home. But we were still having fun and I was still enjoying it (most of the time). I just needed to get off the knife edge I found myself clinging onto every day. I needed to shut up the shitty committee that kept my mind whirring even when Stan did finally sleep. I needed to not dread every car trip and toddler tantrum.
So I got help. I asked the campsite for a GP and got an appointment mere hours later (go German efficiency). I explained in English to the near fluent German doctor what was happening. And I asked to go back on my anti anxiety medication. With my EHIC card, the whole thing only cost 5e for my prescription.
And I’m starting to feel better. Less agitated. Less tearful. More in control. Calmer.
We’ve also made a pact to do less. It’s hard to say “no” when you’re travelling so far and have so many great opportunities. To step back and do nothing. To “miss out”. But less time in the car, and more time hanging out is doing us all good. There’s less tantrums all round, and more opportunities to carve out bits of me time.
We might not see quite as much as we planned, but at least we’ll make it to the end of the trip.