I left my three kids at home to take a trip with my mum, and I'm so glad I did

Suzi and her mum having tea and scones on the terrace at Brighton Pavillion.
Suzi and her mum having tea and scones on the terrace at Brighton Pavillion. Photo: Suzi Catchpole

There's nothing quite like the death of a close loved one to jolt one's sense of mortality, and this was true for me when I lost my father last year.

There came a time where I decided to use my newfound sense of mortality more positively and as I examined my life I realised how little one-on-one time I had spent with my mother in the last 14 years, which is when I had my first child. When another two children followed, the kids of course took over my life, and my mum also threw herself wholeheartedly into her role as a grandparent.

For the last few decades we'd idly discussed doing a trip to the UK just us two, visiting villages our ancestors were from - a small family history tour really, along with visits to my relatives. It was always a far off thing that we'd do 'in the future.'

Earlier this year I realised that mum was now in her seventies and the time had to be now. Half my family live in the UK as my dad was from England. I hadn't seen my cousins for 17 years, nor met most of their children. 

Mum was most definitely up for it so I did some wheeling and dealing with my partner, made arrangements with work and booked our tickets for two-and-a-half weeks away.

I was more than a little nervous in the lead up, despite being fortunate to have the resources and partner support to do it.

There were three children to write schedules for, shopping to order, schools, teachers and after-care to inform and all kinds of other behind-the-scenes organisation so my husband could do it all, as well as his full time job.

Would my partner cope solo with three kids, their activities and working? Would mum and I get along after all this time of our interactions being mostly about the kids? I was about to find out.

We flew into London, hired a car and drove south to Brighton where we delighted in the magnificent Brighton Pavillion and it was there, sitting on a beautiful terrace sharing a pot of tea with mum, I realised we were about to have a most wonderful trip.

Advertisement

We drove for another week, visited villages that looked like they were straight of a storybook where our ancestors lived and died. Thatched roofs, impossibly beautiful cottages, ancient ruins, and 14th century chapels.

xxxxx
Just one of the wonders we saw - the Millhouse at Alresford. It has a river running underneath it. Photo: Suzi Catchpole

We delighted at the Roman Baths in Bath, and cried tears of joy upon seeing Jane Austen's home at Chawton, in the very rooms where Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were created.

Mum and I talked endlessly, laughed, oohed and ahhed at the sumptuous beauty of England, argued only a little (usually over driving and navigation), and walked until our feet were numb.

We reconnected with my dad's family, rediscovering just how well we still get on, laughed with their delightful children, mourned our lost loved ones and took a girls trip with my cousins to London.

I came home absolutely amazed by the success of the trip and realised we should have done it years ago. But we did it, and it's wasn't too late. 

Can I be bold and suggest that if you can, you do it too? It doesn't have to be an expensive overseas trip. It might be a weekend away a few hours' drive away.

Take some time out from being a carer, being a partner, and spend some time with your parent, or parents if you have them both in your life.

Even if you see them regularly, getting away from the usual pressures and exploring with them as a fully grown adult gives them and you new and enriching life experiences together.

I hope my mum and I will get to do something again in another few years, but even if we don't, I will hold this trip dear to my heart for the rest of my life. And I know she will too.