Top: Paramount Ranch - the cowboy set which made me wish I was with the kids; bottom - the Getty Centre - which made glad to be on my own

FEATURE Just because you love 'em doesn't mean you can't leave 'em - at least for a little while

Mum on the Run

The other mums warned me.

“On the first day, you will miss the children. On the second day, you will miss the children and your husband. By the time you are flying home on the aeroplane, you will be a nervous wreck because you just can’t wait to get home.”

But here I was, stay-at-home mother of three, boarding a Virgin Atlantic plane to Los Angeles, ostensibly to attend a dear friend’s wedding, but with five days surplus to requirements. For the first time since I got married, on holiday on my own.

Did I miss hubby and the kids while I was away? Let’s say I didn’t spend much time pining for them. Did this make me a bad mother? I hope not. Every stay at home mum (or dad for that matter) comes to the stage where she needs time alone. I was rather pathetically looking forward to the 12-hour flight with books to read, movies to watch and only my long neglected thoughts for company. Besides, the neighbours were raring to help, the three year old had an enviable social calendar, the ten year old and the seven year old couldn’t wait to go skateboarding with Dad, and Dad himself knew the priorities (i.e. don’t forget who’s in charge).

By the time I was relaxing in my aisle seat with a chicken-flavoured pretzel in one hand and the inflight video controls in the other, I had compiled an agenda that ranged from doing Hollywood to breakfasting on American pancakes.

Among others, these were on my wish list: a mall crawl in the land that invented shopping malls; a studio tour (you had the pick of Warner Brothers, NBC, and Universal Studios); a tour of the Getty Centre, LA’s contribution to modern architecture; some ogling of hard and soft bodies at a Babewatch-style beach; anything to do with cowboys to satisfy a fascination that goes back to a childhood of politically incorrect imaginary warmongering . No Disneyland California Adventure. No Universal Studios.

I promised myself to keep things simple. No need to stick to the list. Keep an open mind about destinations. No deadlines. No rushing around. I do enough of that in the supermarket. I briefly thought of the kids when I visited the delightful Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park. But watching families with small children zoom through the exhibition while I read each and every notice and label with care made me feel very smug indeed.

The Autry Museum inspired an impromptu drive into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains to Paramount Ranch (admission free), a 450-acre movie set bought by Paramount Pictures in 1927 as a location for such movies as The Cisco Kid. I arrived at the end of the day, it was off-season and the place was deserted. I strolled between saloons, a hotel and even a bank ripe for robbery as a big red sun hovered above the mountains nearby. With a little bit of background music, I was ready to walk into the sunset.

In the privacy of my hotel room, I relished the simplest of luxuries postponed by motherhood. Such as managing a good half hour of aerobics without a toddler climbing on my back. Morning ablutions took a full hour more than my usual five minutes, with none of the usual interruptions: mid-shower telephone calls, small children wanting the potty, and shouting with a mouth full of toothpaste at brothers bent on mutual GBH.

I am fully aware that it was escape rather than destination that thrilled me about this holiday. But not being anyone’s mum for five days? Now that’s a real break.

Back to the top