Portrait of a Traveling Mother

I’m a hot mess kind of traveling mom, but I’m learning to embrace it. It’s sort of like when I was 13 and completely embarrassed to be seen in a swimsuit — swimming required a swimsuit, and I adored swimming, so at some point I just put on a damn swimsuit, avoided every mirror around, and jumped in.

There are two ideals of the traveling mother to which I aspire. One is the sophisticated European Tour Mom, with her fashionable flats, her matching sweater and slacks, her blow-out and her leather handbag. The other is Adventure Mom, usually seen white-water rafting or summiting peaks, with her brand-name tank and her four-way stretch shorts and the climbing harness tucked among diapers in her backpack. Needless to say, both women wear just the lightest touch of make-up (they don’t need much) and always look effortlessly put together. Neither of them ever have jam hands on the front of their shirt from their toddler’s breakfast. They can both travel light with just one or two outfits, confident that all their clothes will still fit every morning when they wake up. Needless to say, I fall far short of either of these icons of traveling womanhood.

Both of these women have children who wear matching clothes, preferably pre-planned by their fashionable mother. These moms would never tolerate my boys’ daily uniform: sports jerseys and whatever mismatched basketball shorts they can rustle up from the bottom of the laundry basket.

Me? I’m an over-packer, but that’s because I never know what will fit. I can’t be the only woman who feels like her pants size changes daily. Also, how can any mother travel with just three shirts? If you want me to look reasonably clean, I go through at least two a day!

Motherhood is mostly about survival, from the moment they hand you that crying, helpless bundle. Survival of both the child and the mother. I’ve (mostly) mastered this at home, so we have stepped it up a notch and are now mastering survival on the road. I’m the Survival Traveling Mom. My hair is a mess, but I try to shower daily. Clothes are chosen for comfort and ease of washing. I work really hard at getting my kids to act like good humans, have reasonable manners, and not piss off everybody we encounter in our travels. I do not worry about what they wear. I check every few days to see if they’ve bathed.

I’ll always be jealous of those picture-perfect moms and their matching family outfits, but I gave up my dreams of non-frizzy hair long ago. I’m okay with being the Survival Travel Mom, as long as it means I get to travel. I will never get the gorgeous beachy sunset family portrait that I dream of, but I do get to see amazing places and go on adventures with my four favorite people in the world. I’ll take it.