I have a confession to make.
The day before I was due to fly overseas for a six-day holiday on a beautiful, adults-only island in Fiji, I cried.
I felt SO guilty.
I know some mothers who would think I was absolutely crazy. “What, a holiday in Fiji and you’re worried? I’d be off in a heartbeat, no hard feelings!”
But the truth was, as amazing as it sounded, in the days leading up to it I was secretly miserable, and anxious. I knew the two big kids would be fine, but I wondered how my almost-four-year-old daughter would cope without me. In hindsight, maybe I was more worried about how I would cope without her. I found it hard to detach from my youngest, who loved me being close by.
As I left, I desperately tried to hide the tears behind my fogged-up sunglasses.
When I finally reached the city and made my way to the airport bus, I tried to keep myself present and in the moment. But my mind kept wandering back to the fact that I was getting further and further away from my children.
The time at the airport flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to board my flight.
Funnily enough, the moment the plane engine roared and built up enough speed to take off, I finally started to get really excited about my holiday. I still felt emotional, but an uncontrollable smile spread across my face.
I love to travel.
I love flying.
But best of all, in just 4 or 5 hours, the hustle and bustle of Melbourne would be far behind me and I would be feeling the gloriously warm sun of a tropical paradise.
I had taken the midnight red-eye special (I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my daughter before I left), so I figured I should try to get some sleep during the flight. I did my best to snooze and remember falling in and out of sleep the whole time. When I arrive, I’ll surely fall flat on my eyelids, I thought.
Then the plane landed in Fiji. I was home….
It was my fourth visit, and arriving in this beautiful South Pacific island country gave me so much comfort – such a deeply warm, familiar feeling. I knew I would love spending time with the Fijian people in their beautiful country. They are such hospitable, kind, and joyful people – amongst the happiest on the planet.
As I exited the luggage collection area, I was relieved to discover the shuttle bus waiting for me outside, and ready to take me to Port Denarau. A transfer boat would take me to my destination: the dreamy Lomani Island Resort in the Mamanuca group of islands, less than an hour away.
I enjoyed the peaceful boat ride with one other family and a couple of men. Watching the ocean was hypnotic, so much so I started getting the nods, falling asleep only to jerk my head back up. Just days before, a cyclone had passed through Fiji, so it was quieter than I had ever seen it. Ha, more room in paradise just for me, I thought.
Finally, I was there! Arriving on the island tugged on some heartstrings. The boat pulled in at the dock of the Plantation Island Resort, a family resort on the island. It was the very first place my family visited when we spent last year traveling the world. It was a very special place, loaded with memories of all three kids having the time of their lives. I promised myself not to spend any time there and headed straight for Lomani.
‘Lomani’ means love in Fijian, so the resort was totally up my alley! Especially considering it has only 24 rooms – perfect for an escape.
Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly with the traditional Fijian welcome song, a delicious welcome drink, a view of glistening sand and sea, and ahhh … time to relax. It wasn’t long before I was shown to my room, which was almost at the very end of the resort – perfect! Blissfully quiet.
My jaw dropped as I set foot in my beautiful, beachfront bure. So much space – 65 square meters – and all for me! It was bigger and more luxurious than I ever imagined. Double glass sliding doors gave me a direct view onto Malolo LaiLai bay – right on my doorstep. Surely I was in heaven. If anything could take my mind off being away from the kids, this was it.
The bathroom – complete with an indoor and outdoor shower – added to the wow factor. I promised myself just as many outdoor as indoor showers during the week. Some of my favorite memories of Fiji feature outdoor showers under the stars.
The bathroom was decked out with my favorite Pure Fiji products. I’d fly to Fiji just for an excuse to stock up on them, especially the mango and white Tigerlily scented moisturizer. Yum.
The very friendly and helpful Lomani staff headed off and I was left alone. What would I do next?
Swim, walk on the beach, sleep, sit in a chair by the beach, get a drink by the pool? So many choices, and for once, I was totally in charge of my own itinerary.
No planning around tired toddlers and bored teens. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
I decided to rest in my room until lunch, which wasn’t far off. I tried to tell myself I would sleep, but I couldn’t, there was too much to look at, too much to take in.
My very first lunch … and this was the view:
I know, pretty tough going. Sorry, not sorry!
As I sat in my chair looking at what was there in front of me, I was filled with so much gratitude. I took deep breaths and enjoyed the silence and stunning views. Lunch was being prepared just for me, I had nowhere else to be, and I had nearly a whole week ahead of me.
Before dinner that night, I decided to go for a walk to the family resort next door. I felt a little stronger and decided I could do it without bursting into tears. I’m so glad I did. So much had changed in the last 14 months, and I guess I had too.
As each day passed at the blissful Lomani Island Resort, I tuned even more into my own needs, and my own inner voice, and focused on what I could learn about myself. I had pre-downloaded a heap of audiobooks before I left – many Brene Brown books among them. Sometimes, with my earphones in, I would just sit in a beach chair, or walk the length of the beach, experiencing some major personal breakthroughs as I listened to the wisdom of the words being read out.
The trip was highly transformative for me, and today, when I compare the photos taken on the first day those I took on the last, I can see the difference in my body and my face. I looked happier and peaceful.
Now, just a few months later, I can definitely say my whole life has changed. I made a very big decision to care for myself (the trip was only the beginning), and I did something that others might see as being over the top. I learned some very precious lessons that will stay with me forever.
As a mother, I took a holiday on my own – completely solo, without kids. And here are the five most valuable lessons I learned:
Lesson #1: There Is So Much Growth On The Other Side Of Discomfort
I already knew this, from experience in other areas of my life, but not so much when it came to family. I allowed myself to get so caught up in not wanting to be a bad mum, and believing I had to be there for my kids. In doing that, I blocked out the idea that being a good mum also means putting yourself first.
As they tell you when you’re about to take off in a plane, put your oxygen mask on first, then you’ll be able to help others. What good are you if you’re trying to help others but are struggling to breathe? You’re just not going to do an effective job, and you could harm, or even kill yourself in the process. So allowing myself to feel discomfort around parenting and not run away from it, was a big lesson. And I was glad I did it in another country. Once I was there, I knew I just had to deal with it. And I would be much stronger for it.
Lesson #2: I Totally Deserved It – And More
My eldest child is 14 years old, so I have been a parent for a while – since I was 22 years old. While I have had young children, I never allowed myself to go away and have a good time on my own. Perhaps I was too fearful or anxious, worrying what other people would think or even what I would think of myself.
But when I took the time, just to sit on the beach, breathe in the fresh sea air, and soak in the sun’s warm rays as the sun went down… I felt so much joy. I totally deserved that. What anyone else thinks about my acts of self-love is simply expressing a mirror reflection of how they feel about giving love to themselves.
Lesson #3: My Kids Needed To See It
Just as I needed this experience, my kids needed it too. And not just because they need to learn that they can cope without their mother, which is the black and white default response we tend to hear. I think there are much more important, meaningful reasons than that.
My children had an opportunity to see their mother take the time to care for herself. I want them to know that it’s okay to do what you love – even if you have children – and enjoy a rest when you need it.
We are our kids’ biggest role models. What they see in our actions creates beliefs about what’s normal and how things are done. It’s important to me that my children learn that self-care is so very important and (should be) normal. I hope they will do the same for themselves when they grow up.
Lesson #4: I Feel Like A Much Better Mother When I Put Myself First
There is a stigma attached to putting yourself first as a parent; many believe your children should always come first. I think that belief has major flaws.
I love my children dearly. Yet, having completely separated myself from them, so far out of reach, by going on a trip like this for a week, months later I am still feeling its positive effects. I feel even more patient. I feel more present with my children, and want to be around them more than before. I just feel happier.
All because I gave something to myself. And I want them to have more of this from me, rather than less. So if that means putting me first, so be it.
Lesson #5: You Needn’t Put Your Dreams On Hold
When I was 21, my ex-husband and I planned to live and work in the UK. Then I fell pregnant, and my itchy feet had to stay put. I love to travel and seeing new places, but I believed that now I was a mother, I had to put all those dreams on hold. It was just the story I told myself when the truth is I could have been out there enjoying what the world had to offer. It took me 12 years to realize I could travel the world anyway – with or without my kids. And it was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I’m a whole new person.
If this sort of experience sounds even slightly interesting to you – then I wholeheartedly, passionately encourage you to do it. You only live one life, and time doesn’t wait for anyone. What are you waiting for?
Recommended Reading: Should Mothers Go Travelling Without Their Children?
Disclaimer: Kelly was a guest of Lomani Island Resort.