Packing up and hitting a beach somewhere along the Gulf seems to be an annual event for most middle- and upper-class families in our area, at least according to my Facebook feed. This year, we decided to join the fray, meeting my in-laws from Virginia at Perdido Key for a five-day beach-front condo stay.
Several years ago, when we only had one child, we made the much longer drive to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, a beach my husband visited often during his childhood. (I was a Pacific coast girl, as my mom’s parents lived in Orange County, Calif.) The Outer Banks trip–also with the in-laws–was good but didn’t seem feasible for us this summer. A four-hour drive is much more doable, although basically, we shifted the long driving to my husband’s aging parents!
On both legs of our drive, we stopped in D’Iberville, Miss., at a small trampoline park called Mullet Hop. I only knew mullet as a business-in-front, party-in-back hair style, but I learned it’s also a type of fish. Our girls were able to get some wiggles out, and I got an hour to sit with WiFi and do a little writing work. The WiFi in our condo left a lot to be desired, so my extremely online life was slowed to a crawl. Probably a good thing from a psychological standpoint, but aggravating because I wanted to get a little work done while I was there. I was in the middle of some tense church work and on deadline for the magazine.
With all the preparation work and packing–I only forgot my three-year-old’s potty seat, our stadium seat backs that are so comfortable to sit on in the sand, and cool towels, I was exhausted before we even left. I needed a break, but it didn’t end up feeling like one.
I kept thinking about how a mom on vacation is just doing the same work with a different view–surely not an original thought, but I couldn’t find it exactly as that quote. (Although I did find this funny parody from The Onion.) My “vacation” included grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry and tidying. My mother-in-law graciously did all the dishes and meal clean up, although my husband usually does that job at our house. I think he got the better deal there!
My husband and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary with a meal out on our own, so that was a treat. We also walked along the beach at sunset and watched sand crabs scurrying. Live-in child care is something I could get used to, although we still had to put the kids to bed when we got back thanks to out-of-practice grandparents and smarter-than-average children who like to push bedtime to the limits even when they’re exhausted from a day of swimming.
I loved being in close proximity to the water–the view alone was worth the travel and extra work of sandy toys, excessive towel laundry and cooking in an unfamiliar, less well-equipped kitchen. We had lovely, although hot and humid weather. Constant access to a pool was a delight for my girls, and they probably would have been just as happy with a hotel with a pool here at home. When we finally got home, I had even more work to do than when we left, with blown deadlines and backed up laundry.
I don’t know if we’ll continue with the annual tradition, although we may try another condo with better WiFi in a year or two. I love the beach, but small doses are ideal when kids are in tow. Do you have any tips for Gulf Coast vacationing? How do you handle balancing your typical mom chores with true vacation?