Parents go duty free

You may feel a bit guilty, but even the best mums and dads need a holiday from their children.

Adults: 2. Children: 0." I felt incredibly guilty even typing that into the easyJet booking website. But all the parenting literature says you must take time out from children. As the mother of Sonny, four, and Buddy, two, it's hard to carve out time and attention for myself (let alone my love life) so, with a little bit of lip tremble I hit the proceed button.

Here we were going on our very belated honeymoon, the main attraction of which was four nights of sleep – oh, and a bit of history and culture during the day. Barcelona, the centre of European chic, we'd heard, seemed like a good choice – and not too far away in case of emergency.

While Simon was busy checking passports, my mind was racing in a way I had never before experienced when travelling. Ticking off a million lists: is there enough apple juice in the fridge? Spaghetti hoops in the cupboard? Where did I leave the spare pyjamas? Before I could get on with the serious business of a carefree holiday, I was getting giddy trying to go over every minute detail of their lives.

Peering forlornly through the cab rear window, watching two little hands waving, two questioning faces disappearing into the distance, we guiltily turned and looked at each other.

I made three phone calls home before we even got to the M1.

At the airport, the first strange thing was that it didn't take 15 minutes to get out of the car, as is the case with the kids. The flight was delayed by two hours, but we had several over-priced cappuccinos and just revelled in how stress-free all this was sans enfants.

Parents of bored and screaming children were frantically trying to find ways to amuse them, the last resort being sweets. I made a mental note that if we went here with Sonny and Buddy, we would go through to the departure lounge as soon as we checked in: that's where they've hidden the Toddlers Heaven Play Area, with Tweenies videos and all.

Our own play area was Barcelona. We loved this intoxicating city at first sight. Every way you turn down the cobbled streets and alleyways you came across more delights.

On our first morning we saw a couple with a little girl about Buddy's age. I felt a twinge of guilt as I saw her ambling along, stopping to pick up every stone and twig, with her parents trying to gently coax her along.

We passed by, smiling knowingly, marvelled at the cathedral, browsed in some antique shops, bought an ice cream and a few trinkets for our kids (by the way, don't get bogged down with buying guilt presents) and decided to retrace our steps. And there they were again – they'd only managed to amble 50 metres further. This was a holiday we were really going to enjoy.

We stayed in the central Hotel Rialto (mid-priced, and perfect) and packed in all the tourist must-do's: soaking up Gaudi's architecture, the Picassos and all the spirit this fantastic city has to offer. We walked our feet off, had the best meals and endless cups of coffee in tree-lined squares.

In a few years we'll bring Sonny and Buddy here; Barcelona has wonderful history and visionary architecture plus a seaside – St Ives, San Francisco and Marbella rolled into one. Strolling down Las Ramblas, we threw euros to Cleopatra, Marge Simpson and Charlie Chaplin – Barcelona is famous for mime artists and human statues.

We also enjoyed an alfresco boogie-woogie band complete with an upright piano on wheels. Crossing the bridge at Port Vell into Port Olympic, past the trendy harbour and shopping centre, we reached the five-mile stretch of golden sand, stopping every few metres for jugs of sangria at bars right on the beach which, by night, are lit by huge plastic palm trees. It was like our first date again.

There were many times we wished our bodies didn't have a finite capacity for fresh fish and spectacular tapas; if only we could just keep eating and drinking. In fact, if only we could just keep on keeping on – Barcelona is truly the city that never sleeps. Thousands of people party the night away at waterfront clubs to rival Ibiza; barbecues burn around beach parties at 2am; one night we saw a naked man reading (I swear!) The Independent by a beach-side lamp.

But what of the kids back home? We'd decided not to phone. Children have a different sense of time and probably wouldn't realise that we'd been away (they don't really miss you as much as you'd hope). But we'd emailed, faxed and left phone numbers. In our new-found relaxed state in the gorgeousness of Barcelona, we even found time to discuss parenting issues and made some fairly momentous decisions about family life. Somehow I don't think we'd have had those conversations back home in the middle of teatime hell. It's important to be a couple again – recharge your batteries, catch up on sleep (and sex), let the bigger picture come back into focus; it can get forgotten in the mayhem of lost socks and tantrums.

We came back refreshed and rejuvenated. It was even a bit of a thrill to change a nappy again. For the kids, it was like we'd never been away. No open arms greeting us on our return, just: "Mummy, where's my Bob the Builder?" Extended families have got it right: let granny, granddad or auntie take over and give yourself a break. Even the clingiest toddler needs to form other relationships and, quite frankly, even the most besotted parents need some time to just be adults.

Janey Lee Grace is a presenter on BBC Radio 2

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?