Is it feasible taking up family camping without Dad? My friend and I gave it a shot with positive results for Mums and kids alike.
Many families have parents who both work. Syncronising time-off can be difficult, with Mum and Dad working in tandem to manage the care of their children. Getting a block of time to all go camping can seem out of the question. Does this mean everyone should stay at home for the holiday break? We took on the challenge of a camping adventure with just the Mums and kids.
Family camping without Dad
Who will drive and set-up camp?
I, like many females, cringe at the thought of reversing a trailer, camper or caravan. I know there are many capable women out there, but I just don’t have the spatial processing skills to negotiate that tree, water outlet and unattended child tearing about on their scooter. It also makes me nervous when people start to gather to view the unfolding spectacle, often with beer in hand, like its sporting entertainment.
So does this mean camping is off the cards, even before the tent is dusted off? Not necessarily.
Perhaps you can book a site within an hour or so of your home, and ask hubby very nicely if he could flex his maleness and possibly set up shop.
For this purpose hubby took off separately with our van, and I borrowed a car so that he had the means to get home again (not a problem for two-car families). The kids and I timed it so that we swanned up when all was done. Is this a page out of a princess’s diary? Maybe. Although, the approach was incredibly stress-reducing. Hubby was ecstatic to do away with my misguided directions for reversing, with more than one old bloke happy to guide him into the camping spot. He was also able to methodically unpack without any interruptions from kids wanting their bikes, balls etc. A cooked meal awaiting hubby’s arrival home ensured there were no simmering feelings of exploitation.
Being an hour away means that Dad is within arm’s reach if he has the capacity to take a day-trip.
Who will do the camp BBQ?
In my friend’s mind, the biggest challenge of Dad-free camping was going to be cooking BBQ’s to feed her brood of four kids. Being in charge of the BBQ tongs was something she had never contemplated in her 10+ years of marriage. Whilst I had single-handedly manned the school sausage sizzle on multiple occasions, I hadn’t actually ever been responsible for getting it on and cooking at the right temperature.
So does this mean the kids a denied their snaggas? Not at all.
Between us we worked out how to turn the gas on and ignite the burners, without inflicting third-degree burns. Friend remembered a cooking demonstration where to avoid the grime of BBQ’s past, you simply lay down a sheet of baking paper to which you add your oil and food. I loved this idea having seen a seagull hop-scotch across the grill earlier in the day. I also know that hubby would have herrrumpffed, and never in a million years embraced this non-conventional BBQ method.
In the scheme of things, getting a BBQ going is a pretty small achievement. However, there was something really lovely about it. It wasn’t necessarily about flipping a gender stereotype, it was about enjoying the company of another Mum whilst preparing dinner together. Sure, we could do this back at home, but I’m not sure anyone would feel at ease turning sausages on another women’s frypan.
Who will do the problem-solving?
Without Dad around you will not only cook BBQ’s but also become proficient in knots and Allen keys. But you will be amazed at how your children pick up the slack. Let them help man-the-fort and take responsibility for keeping camp. Without the rush of everyday life at home, little ones can be tasked with rinsing dishes under the tap, or packing their hat and towel to take to the beach. Big kids can be given the freedom of riding to the park shop (or local deli if they have sufficient road sense) to pick up the daily milk and bread. Kids relish being able to make a tangible contribution, and will delight in recounting their adventures along the way.
For instance, when we discovered that there were no lemons to squeeze on our freshly made pancakes, we set our big kids off on a challenge to find this ‘essential’ ingredient. I was pretty certain they would come back empty handed, but sure enough, they found a lemon tree in the front yard of an old beach shack. They were absolutely thrilled to come home with the goods, and were busting to show us the trail they had followed.
My friend, with Italian heritage, said her Dad would be incredibly proud at the children’s self-sufficiency. These days most kids have a limited concept of ‘paddock to plate’. Getting them to ‘harvest’ what they need for a meal can be an enlightening process. Even learning what is over-ripe and under-ripe is probably a skill that many children miss out on.
Why not let your kids learn these, and many other life-skills, on a camping trip. Even if it means Dad has to stay at home this time around. And Mums, relish the chance to hang with mates around the BBQ.