I just returned from Club Med Bali with my three kids. We had a lovely time, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, with just one notable exception:
I was the only single parent in the village. Literally.
It was a big decision for me to go overseas with my kids. I travelled to Thailand last year with my parents in tow, so that the ratio of adults to kids was one on one. But this time, it was one on three. And that's a lot to manage, even at a resort with tons of kids' activities and a mini-club for the seven-year-old.
Still, I did get plenty of relaxation. And I travelled with another family, long term friends of mine, so that I had company for much of the time.
But there was no escaping the constant reminders of my status, the glaring, unforgettable fact that I was the only person in the resort who did not come complete with partner. My kids' father wasn't there. We were a single parent family.
Normally I don't think much about my situation. I work, I look after my kids, I see my parents, I socialise. I've gone on dates in the past and no doubt I will again but right now I am pretty content with my lot. But being on holidays surrounded by happy families was surprisingly confronting. Suddenly, I didn't feel content. Suddenly, I felt like an aberration. Suddenly, I felt ashamed of who I was.
I tried not to let it affect me. I am very comfortable with the friends who travelled with me, and I felt happy in their presence. But when they were elsewhere, or having family time, or chatting to other couples, I felt quite conspicuously alone. The only one alone by the pool. The only family without a dad in the restaurant. The only mother cheering for her child in the Mini-Club concert without a partner there to share the joy.
The lowlight came the day of the Kids vs Parents talent quest. My seven-year-old got up and danced quite beautifully, her special brand of hip-hop meets interpretive dance. So riotous was the applause that the MC asked me, her mum, to get on stage and dance with her. It would have been churlish to refuse, and my daughter would have been crushed. So I got onstage and danced.
It would have been hilarious if I had had a partner or friend or family member laughing in the audience. But I didn't. It was just me. And so I felt like a pathetic middle aged woman dancing onstage whilst a bunch of slightly bored strangers watched me with pity. It was a long three minutes.
There were other moments on the holiday that were tough. When I lost two children at once and didn't know how to split myself in half to find them. When one of my kids was miserable and I didn't have anyone else to share the burden. When I was woken up every single morning at 6.30am because I was sharing a room with my daughter.
But there were many wonderful moments and I feel blessed to have gone. Still, I think it's probably my last trip to Club Med for a while. A family resort is not necessarily the easiest place for a single parent. I suspect a regular beach holiday or a travel adventure would be more appropriate next time.
Unless Club Med introduces a Single Parents' Month. In that case, my kids and I would be on a plane in a flash.