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It's not unusual to see a solo parent and kid taking a holiday together. Here's to the new family vacation which need not always involve hum do hamaare doall together.
Isn't sir coming?" asked the well-dressed waiter in polite tones. The scene was a poolside table at a five-star hotel in Goa. A mother and her eight-year-old son were enjoying a beautiful sunset, a super Sunday and a special bond late last year. Early this month, in Singapore, a mother and her nine-year-old daughter alternately zipped through mega malls and splurged on exotic meals at fancy restaurants where they faced no questions. "No one cared. It was a non-issue, " says the Mumbai-based mother. In both cases, the parent and child were Indians.
Solo parenting vacations are clearly the new mantra in recent years in India, especially among urban parents. Thanks to soaring divorce rates, the young, usually earning, mother no longer thinks twice before taking off on a weekend holiday or a planned vacation with her pre-schooler or 'tweenager'. The trend may not be new, but it is certainly more visible and rather frequent, say travel planners. Be it camping or trekking trips, European holidays or Disney theme parks, parent and child make it "their quality time together". Interestingly, even single dads these days don't only want greater share in custody of their children. They plan exclusive father-child vacations too, say family counsellors.
But vacationing alone with your child or children is still partly seen as an oddity in some parts of the country, especially if the solo parent is the mother. A 30-something Mumbai-based banker Radhika Sabharwal is divorced and diligent. She plans her time-off with her son well. "Last year we went off for weekends to Goa. Earlier, when Jaiveer was less than five years old, I would only go to cities like Delhi or Mumbai where family members would be around. But after he turned six, I started taking him abroad on my own, to Europe, the Disneyland just outside Paris and Belfast. At some places, I had friends who I could stay with or whose house I could use. It was a cute age and we would have a blast. Now he is slightly older and prefers the company of other children, so I try and plan holidays with other solo parents and their kids, " she says. Radhika was "more amused than offended", when the waiter in Goa wondered where her better half was. "The waiters would sometimes set a table for three. " It's not just the divorced set which is vacationing solo with their kids.
Much-married couples who have trouble synchronising their vacation plans are increasingly tooting off with their tots singly. Sabharwal's single mother holidays, she says, inspired her friends who were part of a nuclear family unit with husbands who kept "insanely busy hours at work". A housewife, whose businessman husband couldn't find time for a vacation from his new, rapidly expanding enterprise, took her 10-year-old daughter to Goa for "one fun weekend". Another young woman didn't want to waste her daughter's Diwali vacation and couldn't wait forever for her "wrapped up in work" husband. The mother, who works in the media, felt she deserved a break from her late hours too. "We went alone because I got tired of waiting for my husband to get free. While he stayed home to manage our new export surplus garments business, my daughter and I had a great time because he wasn't around to do kit kit. He is too much of a public discipline person while me and my nine-yearold are giggly and unruly, " she says.
Though single-parent vacations are on the rise, parents do sometimes wonder about what it will be like if most other vacationers are two-parent families, and also the lack of other adult company when the kids become a handful or after they fall asleep. In the US, vacation sites, blogs and message boards offer tips on single-parent holidaying. In India, these are still early days. But enterprising travel organiser Kanchuki Sarma planned a special mother-child tour plan to explore the beauty of Shillong, Cherrapunji and Kaziranga. Three Delhi moms and their kids had a blast, says Sarma.
Child psychologist and counsellor Dr Harish Shetty believes it is a must for single parents to holiday with their children. "That a single parent family is also a complete family is the core belief necessary to enjoy life, " says Shetty. "Single parents who are free from irrational thoughts about what people will think will unwind better."
Such holidays, say counsellors, help dissolve pain, kill loneliness and provide a sense of completeness. And even if you're not a single parent, going away once in a while with the kid(s) and not the spouse is not such a bad idea. "Such vacations help form a unique friendship between parent and child, " says Dr Shetty.
A new friendship is exactly what formed when a father and son decided to take a break while the mother and the other son stayed home to study for his board exams. Varun Malhotra, 13, wanted to go on a holiday, but his parents were in a fix. His brother Sameer was in standard XII. "But that was no reason for the younger one to miss out on a break, " says mother Kumud who stayed back to make Sameer's favourite midnight snacks and mid-morning meals while he studied. Varun and dad Himanshu went trekking to Kumaon. "It was the first time we did a split-family holiday, " says Varun. "And though I did miss mom and Sam, it was great to hang out with dad. " Meanwhile, Kumud and Sameer have got their 'after-exam' trip all planned out.
Himanshu, who describes himself as a 'corporate slave', enjoyed the experience immensely. "Your kids come from you but have distinct personalities of their own. Varun is stubborn and fiercely independent like his mother. When we went trekking to Simtola, he was determined to carry his own backpack all the way up and back, despite it being really loaded. I offered to share the load but he just wouldn't listen. His stubborn streak reminded me of Kumud, who I met and fell for on her first trekking expedition, " Himanshu says, grinning.
DON'T FORGET TO:
Organise or sign up for single parent tours or visit resorts abroad that offer single parent promotions Always carry a recent photo of your child and keep documents like their passport ready and handy Remember what your child is wearing in case s/he gets lost Place a name and contact number tag on a pre-schooler Keep a relative/friend informed of your whereabouts and contact numbers when on holiday
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