Daniel Down advises how to take time off with baby in tow, where new parents can recuperate and little minds have a chance to feel wild. Yes, you should take your baby camping with you.
To some, the thought of taking time off with a baby is fraught with trepidation, a logistical nonsense of car hire firms and baby seats, travel cots, oversized luggage, and tubs of white powder that would raise eyebrows and rifle muzzles in Bali.
But at Sierra Escape, a safari-style lodging near Mudgee, in the middle of a thunderstorm so severe that the owner calls the next day to see if it’s still standing and, presumably, if we’re still alive, I’ve discovered the perfect formula: glamping.
We haven’t been actual camping with a baby yet, and even though go-hard-or-go-home types may scoff at the ‘glam’ addition to the most primal form of holiday, I’m an advocate. The thought of being squashed into a two-man tent with someone who hasn’t yet acquired even the most basic forms of decency, like bowel control, really puts me off the idea. No, a little space is required… and a roll-top bath… and nice toiletries…
“Why not just go to a hotel then?” you ask. The answer is simple: other people. Who wants to deal with a sudden irrational outburst in front of fellow guests? The solitude of a remote and beautiful spot in the bush with the means to enjoy it in comfort is the perfect middle ground between your old tent and a hotel room; you won’t mind if your baby pierces the night with a cry when all you’re disturbing are a few wombats.
Indeed, there are enough things to worry about as new parents; subtracting the human race from the equation gives fledgling mums and dads time to take stock and free up brain power to worry about other things: like each other.
I stoke the logs in the wood burner in the corner of our canvas home as the storm rolls in overhead. From the king-size bed, my wide-eyed daughter and I watch forks of light stab the surrounding hills, thunder breaking like waves. It’s the first time she’s heard it.
And there’s another, more existential reason to take baby bush, especially if they happen to be female. Parenting educator and author, Steve Biddulph, argues in his latest book 10 Things A Girl Most Needs that it’s essential for young women to be afforded the opportunity to ‘go wild’, even from a very early age. To circumvent rising levels of anxiety and mental health problems in girls, parents have to stop stressing young people.
“Your daughter, whatever age she is, is a wild creature,” he said in a recent interview with the ABC. “She needs to have the rhythms, the peace and the richness of wildness in her life, so especially before school age she feels at home in the world; and she feels capable and strong and doesn’t have to be neat or pretty or successful or well behaved; primarily she has a sense of being free and of being part of the natural world. It’s about being able to be messy; it’s generally okay if little boys climb trees and fall in the mud, but we’ve regressed [when it comes to girls].”
It’s something I’m aware of as my daughter takes in the gum trees and listens to birds while strapped to my chest as we walk deep into Wollemi National Park, a stop on our way home. From atop a rise of granite we look out across an endless wilderness, just a few hours’ drive from Sydney. I let her bare feet feel the rough, warm rock.
If you have a new arrival, you may feel restricted in the way you travel; you probably can’t even remember the last time you went out for dinner. But being a new parent means you can take a different tack, afford your baby new sensory experiences that could benefit them immeasurably later in life, and let tired minds rest and appreciate it all.