I pull a warm fluffy blanket over the baby and zip the other two into their soft sleeping bags. The zip goes right up to each of their chins, so just their little heads poke out of the top.
“It’s time to go to sleep now,” I whisper.
“We love camping Mum.” mumbles my son just as he’s drifting off.
“Yes, I love it too. Camping’s the best,” I lie.
I kiss each of their warm foreheads, grab the car keys from my husband’s shorts, unzip the flap, jump into the car and speed (at 8 km/h) out of that dusty campsite.
A 10-minute drive with the windows down and a warm breeze flowing over my smug little face and I’m home. I get inside, have a warm bubble bath, then snuggle into my soft sheets and watch TV in bed.
I fall asleep for nine blissful, uninterrupted hours until I hear the cackle of the kookaburras outside my bedroom window.
You see, I hate camping
I hate everything about it. Camping for me is a slow form of torture. A long and drawn-out test of my patience.
But, because the borders are closed and flights are grounded, I’ve found myself wandering the aisles of Kmart searching the half-empty shelves for small gas stove and BBQ tongs.
COVID has forced me and many other eye-rolling mums into doing things we wouldn’t usually do. Home-schooling, craft, writing positive messages on the road in chalk … and camping.
In order to keep my sanity and avoid becoming a bulging-eyed, sleep-deprived, psycho mum – my husband and I have come to an agreement, a sort of ‘COVID camping compromise’.
It goes something like this:
We only camp within a 15 km radius of where we live. Thus, allowing me the pleasure of sneaking off to the comfort of my own bed each night. (Genius, I know!)
I’m back at the site before my children have woken up. Just in time to cremate the toast and shout ‘CAR!’ every two minutes for the next 12 hours.
I haven’t always hated camping. My aversion towards it only started after having children. Before them, camping felt like an adventure, a journey of self-discovery amongst tall trees, sand dunes, and bearded nomads.
I was quite happy to piss in the woods and eat beans from a tin can back then. But since the brats came along, I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to camping than tent pegs and burnt snags.
Camping with children is a whole new ball game
The arguments start before we’ve even left home. There are fights over the colour of fishing nets (No! I want the pink one) and teddies (Can Tiger and Rabby come mum?) and then tears after the baby gets poked in the eye with a skewer.
After a cuddle and a band-aid, I try to pack the Esky with the kids running around at my feet, while they’re making a mess everywhere and hunting for snacks like a pack of hungry pugs, being no help whatsoever.
“Can’t you guys just stick a movie on or something?” I shout.
Somehow, by the time Elsa unfreezes Arendellle, my husband and I have managed to fit quilts, food, clothes, balls, scooters, skateboards, buckets, spades, surfboards, boogie boards and a tent into our car. We then stuff pillows and children into any available crevice and eventually, hit the road.
When we pull onto the site I’m already totally exhausted, then we have to face unpacking everything we’ve just packed, and put the bloody tent up.
It just keeps getting better
The ground is hard and sloping, we disagree on position, poles and angles. My husband’s ‘I know how to do this better than you’ camping tone annoys me so much that we’re not talking as we inflate the squashy blue mattresses.
Two hours later, everything is set up. The sun is setting over the ocean and all of the children are missing. They’ve all disappeared into newfound friends’ tents after heading off to look at the squashed possum.
I spend my evening wandering around in the dark calling their names.
For me, camping not only means arguments, but it also means worrying.
There are so many death traps and endless potential hazards. I can’t relax when the children are lost in the shadows with kids I don’t know and places I haven’t been. So instead of kicking back and soaking up mother nature, I’m running around like a lunatic checking that my children haven’t stepped onto the smouldering embers of a campfire, burnt their fingers on a sparkler or been accosted by a weirdo in the toilets.
My anxiety is just as bad in daylight hours when I have to join in the activities too. Beach cricket. Frisbee. Swimming in cold water amongst stingrays, sharks and other antipodean killing beasts. No thanks.
I even hate to make friends and end up hanging out at the water’s edge with a man called Steve who has no teeth and a large fish hanging from his right hand (Steve’s the man, not the fish!)
Combine all this together and it’s a no brainer that I don’t relax. Camping is not a holiday for me, it’s like a prison sentence. Hard labour, in fact.
Going to jail and being shouted at by an angry warden whilst crying into a bowl of cold porridge is actually more appealing to me than camping. Truth.
But, because I’m a mum I get on with it
I do it for the kids … like I do everything for the kids. I get my pinky finger caught in a fold-out table, I drink tea out of a metal cup and I sit on a recently used warm toilet seat, all for them.
Then, when my dirt-covered cherubs are tired out from all that whizzing around on scooters and have collapsed on their air beds, I’ve cleaned up the campsite after tripping over the same guide rope 40 times or more, I go.
I go home and sleep.
Instead of going back to nature, I go back to Netflix and everything is as it should be … them, freezing their arses off in a damp tent and me at home surrounded by silence.
Camping, for mums who hate roughing it but love their kids
Unfortunately, for mums like me that hate roughing it, these odious trips are only going to become more frequent. This pandemic is forcing us out of our comfort zones and on to camping sites.
So, my advice is this – in order to avoid divorce or alcoholism, do what they want 90 percent of the time and then run for the hills. (or the spa).
Get the space you need to regroup and then return to the mayhem. My COVID-19 compromise is how I make it through, if I keep my sanity, then at least my family have a chance of keeping theirs too.
And when the pandemic is over? Well, I’ve made a promise to my darling, feral children…
I will never go camping again.
What to read next
- I desperately want to go camping this summer. Preferrably in a hotel. With a pool. And a spa.
- Family Travel: How to Travel With Kids And Stay Sane
- 17 Easy Camping Recipes the Whole Family Will Love
Victoria lives on The Sunshine Coast with three noisy children, a very patient husband and a confused dog. She has been writing about her zig-zaggy journey to sobriety and motherhood for 2 years. When she isn’t at her computer, you can find her crying alone in the shower or hiding from her children at a local cafe with a peppermint tea and a large slice of chocolate brownie.