When my children were young, I wanted to give them every opportunity in life, so I took them not just to the standard music, gymnastics and dance classes, but also to playgroup, swimming, art, Mandarin, French and Waldorf classes, where hippie parents and their kids frolicked, sang and played with pinecones. I cooked healthy meals with fruit for dessert. I did laundry, supervised homework, cleaned the house, visited the playground year-round and planned special trips to amusement parks, zoos and sporting events. My brood lived the kid dream, and because of that, I neglected my husband and myself.
Things would come to a head when we travelled. As soon as we arrived at a resort, I would say, “Here, take your children,” shove them towards their father and run. Our kids were my work, and I needed a break. Unfortunately, my husband also needed a break from a demanding job that paid actual money. He was as uninterested as me in caring for our children on holiday.
We muddled through those years, and now when we travel with our teenage children, it’s a different experience altogether. They carry their own bags! They dress themselves! When they see a body of water, they don’t fling themselves into it with wild abandon!
During the pandemic, stuck in a house with my family, I felt suffocated. It occurred to me that I’d never taken a relaxing holiday by myself.
In December, at her request, I sat down with my eldest for 16 days while she filled out her university applications. When she submitted the last one, I told my husband that my last threads of sanity had slipped away. “I need to get away from all of you,” I told him. “No offence.”
“I’m around for most of February,” he said. “Just pick somewhere and go.”
I didn’t need further encouragement. I had dreams before becoming a mother, and it was time to realise them. I had always wanted to go to a spa, meditate, do yoga and take nature hikes. I hadn’t been to the USA in years, and I picked California because it was as far as I could get from Lagos.
On the day of my departure, my husband took me to the airport. I’d been feeling nauseous, so he stopped in Ikeja to buy some chicken pepper soup to revive me: “A cure all,” he claimed.
By the time my flight took off, I was wretched. I vomited in the aeroplane bathroom then was struck with paranoia that I was pregnant. I’m going to be 50 in a few years, and I have no business gestating a baby. When diarrhoea hit on my next leg, I wept in relief. It wasn’t morning sickness, after all. It was a stomach bug.
And that, in a nutshell, was the entirety of my trip to California. I never made it to the spa for the indulgent self-care I had planned. Instead, I collapsed in a bed at an airport hotel, where I stayed for a week, clutching my belly and running to the toilet.
Still, it was magical. I got to sleep when I wanted and woke up when I felt like it. I held the remote control and watched tons of home design and cooking shows. One day, I bought a packet of adult diapers—the chance I’d poop in my pants was high—and went to the mall to buy my son a gift. I even enjoyed wearing a diaper. They’re so comfy. It’s like your bum is getting a loving hug.
I came back home 6kg lighter and as refreshed as I can remember ever being. I thought I could outsource my relaxation to a spa, and they would help me find myself. But all I needed was time alone.
I’m back in Lagos now and keeping that serenity inside me. I’m a new woman. That’s the beauty of travel. When you seek a destination, you never know what you may find. In my case, you might not even know what destination you seek until you slip on an adult diaper and arrive.
Mona Zutshi Opubor is an Indian-American and Nigerian writer. She holds an MSt in Literature and Arts from the University of Oxford, an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University and a BA in English Literature from Columbia University.
Read more at www.monazutshiopubor.com
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