Next week, I’m going to Iceland. My friend Rachel and I have bought ourselves budget flights, accommodation in a wooden cabin at the foot of a volcano and a lot of thermal underwear.
We plan to spend four days sitting up to our necks in hot geyser water, munching on chunks of smoked puffin while watching the Northern Lights.
My trip has been met with bewilderment by many. “Iceland? In the winter?” they ask. Yes. It is infinitely cheaper.
The inevitable second question: “But what about your daughter?”
Yes, reader, I am one of those terrible mothers who occasionally goes away without her child.
My daughter will be left at home, safely in the care of her father – a capable, responsible man who has changed almost as many nappies as I have since she was born almost two years ago – and her grandparents.
I have to admit, this is not the first time I have committed this heinous crime. Around this time last year, when my offspring was just under a year old, I spent a long weekend in Berlin with some friends.
When I returned, my little girl met me at Edinburgh airport with my husband, stretched out her tiny arms and gave me a big hug.
Of course I missed her. But while I am very happy being a mother, I am also me. And being me has always included indulging in as many travel adventures as possible. While I have inevitably had to cut back on those since she came along, I see little harm in an occasional break.
It turns out that I am in august company. The Duchess of Cambridge last week jetted off to the Maldives on holiday with William, leaving their young son, Prince George, at home.
The national response was immediate outrage.
“What kind of bond has she got with this child?” asked one woman, commenting on a newspaper report about the trip. “Poor child must be so confused as to why mummy has just disappeared,” added another.
“She”. “Her”. Not one mention of Prince William here. No-one is worried that the future king’s regular absences from the family home – probably often far longer than a mere week’s holiday – will affect his relationship with his son. Of course not. The person who has done wrong here is “Mummy”.
In my own case, I have to point out that my daughter’s father has also taken trips which have required him to leave her side for more than one night.
Since her birth, he has attended the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in London; he has been on golf trips and stag weekends. He is also away overnight for work occasionally, while my job rarely takes me further than Glasgow. Not once, however, has he been asked: “But what about your daughter?”
I booked my first break to Berlin when, in the midst of the sleepless nights and incessant feeding of a newborn, a friend suggested we plan a trip to look forward to. When the time came, eight months later, I almost didn’t go – terrified that my little girl would be unhappy without me. Petrified that she’d never forgive me for abandoning her for a few nights.
It turned out that she was fine. I was fine. My husband was fine.
My baby survived a few days without Mummy in the same way that she had already – on more than one occasion by that age – happily survived a few days without Daddy.
Of course, now she can talk, I’m sure there will be at least one cry of “I want Mummy!” while I’m away. But I’m sure, especially with the modern-day conveniences of regular phone and Skype calls, that she, again, will be fine and won’t resent me too much on my return.
As for Kate and William, they haven’t exactly abandoned the prince to the ministrations of a stern Victorian nanny. Although both his parents were away, their son was in the care of his maternal grandparents – people he has reportedly spent a lot of time with. I hope the couple enjoyed their holiday – and that Prince George enjoyed his. Now it’s time for them to turn their attentions to a much greater challenge: that of taking a small baby on a 24-hour flight to Australia for his first overseas tour next month. I don’t envy them that one little bit.