Greetings from my family’s third annual Midwestern road trip!
You can read about trips in years past here:
For the record, every year my kids and I go on this trip (they are now 5 and 7). We have a small Subaru Impreza hatchback, don’t bring a tablet, and spend our many hours on the road listening to audio books (Stuart Little is a tradition– great travel story!), podcasts, singing along with the radio and talking. Oh, and being silent. I didn’t realize that I am an anomaly in this regard until the Wall Street Journal last year interviewed me about my renegade no-iPad road trip practice.
I realize most people think I am a renegade, and by renegade, they really mean a total moron, for traveling alone for so many hours with children. I’m no moron, and I’m also no hero. All this feigned “admiration” and quizzing/judging only speaks to the general over-parenting/coddling trend that complicates parenting and stresses out adults and children alike. I mean, read Little House on the Prairie. The Engels and their gaggle of girls were on the road for MONTHS. WITHOUT AN iPAD. And while I suspect that Mary and Laura probably took turns beating the crap out of each other with a plastic hairbrush for 15 minutes just like my kids did last night, everyone lived to have bestselling memoirs and a prime-time spin-off created in their likeliness about how normal they all were.
The other point: Everyone assumes that single motherhood is so prohibitively impossible that a meager American rite of passage (the great road trip) is beyond their ability.
To which I say: Eff that.
This trip, just five days in, reminds me how much I love traveling with my kids. How they are really on their best behavior when on the road. With so much to entertain and engage them, with so much of my undivided attention and with a break from our usual (often grueling) routine, they are a delight, hairbrush pummeling aside. In other words, people are full of crap. They tell you that you are crazy for traveling alone with your kids because they don’t think they can do it. Don’t let others define what you are capable of. You’re raising children alone for crying out loud. You’ve been through a hell of a lot worse than grumpy children whining for McDonalds while a sign reading ‘Next rest stop 40 miles’ whizzes by. Let’s put things in perspective. Personally, touring around the beautiful upper United States in summer with two of my favorite people is a hell of a lot easier than being cooped up in a Queens apartment with those same people. But that is just me.
This year we started off in the Catskills with my single mom BFF Morghan and her parents rented a lake house and invited us. Despite the perpetual rain, the kids had a great time fishing, beating the crap out of each other and playing board games while Morghan and I caught up on work news, men news and drinking. The kids are like cousins, having grown up knowing each other while their single moms, who are like sisters, got their acts together, and it was a great sendoff for the rest of our voyage. Thanks guys!
Five hours later: Niagra Falls, bitches! Inside scoop: Stay on the Canadian side, which is about 5,000x nicer, cleaner and prettier than the New York side. We did the whole scene in about 18 hours: takeout eaten on a picnic blanket at Victoria Park, taking in the falls, a dip in the hotel pool, an hour of Canadian Broadcast kids’ TV, bed. Then breakfast at the hotel, a Hornblower falls boat tour, lunch at Canadian fav Tim Hortons and on the road again. Single mom insider tip: Make sure you get your ex to sign a travel consent form, or else the very cute, ripped, blond Canadian border agent will grill you and make you wish you had. Take it from me.
Last night we landed in Charlevoix, Michigan where we are staying for nine days in a giant, 5-bedroom historic house. For free, thanks to my new obsession, HomeExchange.com, which connects travelers who want to swap homes. For free. So the lovely couple whose house we are trying not to destroy is staying in my New York City apartment and (presumably) feeding our cat and watering the plants. More on this arrangement later.
Later next week we will head to Chicago, Milwaukee and Northern Illinois to spend time with friends and family, before heading home. I’ll document more of our shenanigans
here, and you can follow my photos on Facebook here.
How about you? What are your plans for this summer? What have you done recently as a single mom that others said was crazy/impossible/stupid? Share in the comments!
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.