Handling Stress When Packing for Kids

Hi everyone.  Here’s a little blog I wrote tonight on getting ready for a family trip for those like me in need of “panic attack help.”

Handling Stress When Packing for KidsPin for later!

It’s snowing outside and I’m getting ready to take a plane tomorrow with the three boys.  For the past six months, we’ve been planning a trip out to see my Aunt Simone and Uncle Will in Colorado.  They’ve got a ranch with dogs and horses and I’ve been dreaming of visiting them for some time now.  My sister Kiki has taken her kids and it all sounds so magical.  Plus, I love Simone.  She’s my mother’s best friend since they were eight and I’ve known her my whole life.  She’s nurturing and warm.  I feel like I need to see her right now.  She’s one of those people that brings warmth into your belly.

packing tipsI know that we’re so lucky to be taking this trip.  My parents are coming to stay with the girls and for that I’m lucky too.  They’re here already helping out.  As of this morning, I was pretty much all set, the boys’ ski stuff was packed up… I just had my clothes and some bits and pieces.

So what explains the suffering I went through trying to pack up and get everything sorted for here and there?  I feel so guilty saying that word suffering given how lucky I am, but I was so overwhelmed and feeling helpless.

All my talk on CloudMom about getting organized, having a plan, deciding on steps to get somewhere and I couldn’t get myself from A to Z or even to G.  I froze. I kept going back and forth in the apartment: break up fight, put a pair of socks into suitcase, give Marielle her bottle, then find an extra pair of mittens and throw those in, then show my mom one of the holiday cards that came.

And then the over-packing began.  Five sweaters when I swore I’d bring two.  A few extra books for the kids “in case they get bored.” Extra sets of cream and body wash.  Now the bags are bulging and I still don’t have any underwear in there and my husband who’s all done is taking a nap.

UGH!  I’m now freaking out.  I wake Marc up: “Honey, I just really don’t know what to bring.  I feel like I’m over-packing.”  Marc says to just make a list.  Oh, that’s right a list… I have a list already, where’s that list I wrote last night… it’s in one of the 20 yellow notepads where I make scribbles about blog drafts and groceries and endless “to do’s.”  My list, oh yes, I find it.  I take a look, but it’s missing some stuff and that makes me even more stressed.

Marc needs some shaving cream so we leave the kids with my parents and head outside.  “I’m dragging,” I say, “I can’t get everything packed up, and I feel like I can’t stay awake.”  Marc suggests that we get a coffee.

So we go to Starbucks and he buys me this cute cookie (which was pretty good actually, the frosting was made of milk and white chocolate).  I eat off the chocolate hat first.

snowman cookieBy this point, I’m feeling so BAD about myself and so STRESSED OUT that the tears start rolling down my face and Marc is looking at me saying, “You wanted this trip, I’m happy to stay at home.”  He looks confused.

Deep breaths, I eat the cookie; I feel so LAME!  I have a website offering practical tips for moms and here I am crying over a cookie because I can’t pack a few suitcases…then it gets worse, with those horrible thoughts coming in, what if something happens to Marc, the girls, I remind myself to tell my mom not to give Marielle the popcorn sitting in the kitchen, not safe…

Couple sips of coffee… we head back home in the cold air… it’s starting to snow… that crisp feeling on my face.

FINALLY I forget about feeling guilty and lame, about what’s ahead, about feeling like CRAP about myself, and I start. Underwear — it’s mostly dirty but I throw in what I can, tank tops… I’m in business… make-up, I go through it and even clean out my bag, taking out the loose eye-shadow that’s fallen onto the bottom.  Little by little I putter and putter and I start to feel better, I’m on my way, I feel more organized.

Looking back on my state of mind as this all happened, I feel like I don’t want any mom to go through the stress, anxiety and utter anguish I went through today while packing for a trip with kids, so is there anything I can glean from this episode?

Here goes, and to anyone who read this much and made it this long, I love you because you are one patient soul.  A few travel packing tips in answer to the question I’m asking myself tonight: how do you alleviate stress when packing for travel with the kids?

1) Start early. I waited too long.  If you are headed on a big trip with your kiddies, please please please do not do what I did and wait until several hours before bedtime to do major packing.  Start as much as several weeks early with your vacation packing list and early packing.

2) Make a complete list. I did not make a good list and and wasn’t crossing off items one by one. I did a little of this and a little of that.  That’s a recipe for over-packing, which is, in turn, a recipe for stress.  And remember, you need a packing list for the kids and you need one for mom as well.

3) Be kind to yourself. I think I was too hard on myself.  Yes, I’m lucky to be alive, yes I’m lucky to be taking a trip, yes I’m lucky to have my chickens, but getting on a plane with three zany little guys is stressful, and leaving your babies behind is heart-breaking, and worrying is normal, so maybe I don’t have to BERATE myself for having some anxiety and freezing and not being like little Mrs. Efficiency all the time.

Anyway, I’m still exhausted from the whole thing and headed off to bed, a bit on the late side.  I hope this helps someone out there.  At the very least, realize the next time you are packing for the kids and you feel like you could have a panic attack that you are not alone, no, no, no, you are just like this mom over here.  And I got there somehow and so will you.  Deep breath and write up that packing list!!!

If you have travel packing tips to share, PLEASE PLEASE share below as I am always in need of more help.

And happy holidays and happy travels…