I’m a single mom and I went on a 10-day road trip with two preschoolers and it was terrible. Terribly awesome!


Two weeks ago I posted about my impending road trip with my kids. I had a hunch that despite the naysayers we would have a great time. Guess what? I was right.


This is what I learned:

1. People rise to expectations. Even little people. Ignoring the meltdown my daughter had at each of the three family members’ homes we stayed at, my 3- and 5-year-olds were remarkably well behaved. Lots of explanations, including that everything was new, and my brilliant, curious children were engaged — even on the road (they’re city kids, so they aren’t in cars that often). Also, I took a true vacation, did not do any work and felt truly relaxed. The herd follows the leader. Finally – I expected that we would have a great time. And we did.

2. If I spoil my kids every now and again, they will not grow up to be Veruca Salt. When we arrived at my mom’s Milwaukee condo after a few days with my brother and sister-in-law in Chicago, we were greeted with the scent of oatmeal raisin cookies wafting from the oven. I initially put my foot down, as dinner was near and Helena and Lucas had just pigged out on my SIL’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Then I reconsidered. “They’re on vacation – give them a cookie!” I told my mom. (Translation: “I want a cookie!”). Other goodies: consistently ignoring our 8 p.m. bedtime. An ice cream stop at McDonald’s, which was all my idea because my children don’t know what McDonald’s is and frankly, they were not impressed. And for a bedtime tret before conking out on the final stretch home: A giant bag of gummy bears. Even though they didn’t eat dinner.

3. I love sleeping near my kids. Last year I put my foot down about kids in my bed. Aside from morning snuggles and the occasional illness, everyone is to sleep in their own sack. On the road, we  shared a room – hotels, guest rooms. The kids love cuddling into “special beds” made of sheets and quilts folded into mini sleeping bags on the floor. I love having them close and hearing their tiny snores all night — just like when they were co-sleeping infants.

4. The more time I spend with my kids, the more time I want to spend with my kids. In our daily routine of shuffling everyone here and there and fighting against the clock, I find it easy to count the minutes until I have alone time. When there is no alone time in sight, it was easier to live in the minute. As I write this on Sunday afternoon — a time when I normally enjoy the freedom that comes with shared custody — I miss my monkeys.

Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

6 thoughts on “I’m a single mom and I went on a 10-day road trip with two preschoolers and it was terrible. Terribly awesome!

  1. Yay! I knew you would have a good time! We had a super-secret staycation where I took the entire week off last week and spent entire days with Lexi and we had the best time — watching the first Despicable Me so we could go to the theater to watch 2 … and we saw a half-dozen other movies, ate way too much junk food, read books, went shopping and other fun discoveries. I have to say #4 is sooo true … already planning another week-long break right before school starts.

    Next year, Austin??

  2. Thanks, Honoree! Maybe TX is on our list next!

    The good times continue. I feel like we really connected and are relating so much more even after the trip. Sigh.

    1. I can definitely see a difference when I spend quality time with my daughter and when it’s been a little too long since we’ve seen a movie or gotten manis and pedis. She seems much more content when we have regular times when it’s just us laughing and being together. When I’m more work focused for longer periods of time, she acts up and I’ve connected her behavior to the amount of quality time we are spending together. Sigh indeed.

  3. I have a 3 and 6 year old, and we will be embarking on our own road trip at Easter. My husband died in January so this is a little scary to do alone. Thank you for the post!

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