The Zombie Apocalypse or Just a Family Dealing with Jet-lag?

A girlfriend of mine has just landed in China. It’s about to become her new home. Over the past week, through the miracle that is Facebook, I’ve kept up with her packing the house, saying final goodbyes and then boarding the plane with her three children. Tonight’s update is that they’ve arrived and are out to dinner. They’ve been awake for what feels like days and are trying to push through until they reach something that resembles bedtime. One by one, they are falling face first in to their dinner plates.

I winced as I read about the jet-lag. It came with a series of flashbacks, all providing a familiar feeling of being slightly seasick with dry skin and burning hot eyeballs. Jet-lag and I have a very tempestuous relationship. We know each other well but we don’t get on.

Yes, it’s true, we’ve spent a lot of time together over the past twelve years, but we’ve never really understood one other. In fact, after having children and enduring the combination of both their jetlag and mine, I think it’s fair to say it’s been a highly dysfunctional relationship.

I don’t know about you, but I really think it’s time someone came up with a cure. Or at least better advice than keep hydrated and lay off the booze. I mean, really, anyone traveling with children knows that booze is just as important as packing your passport.Jetlag is like an unwanted gift. The obnoxious, loud, party gift that was handed to your child as you left the indoor play centre after four hours of party games, injuries and cold chicken nuggets.  It’s the icing on the cake after a LONG journey.At a particular stage of the trip you may begin to ask yourself if it was worth it. Maybe the question will come as you’re walking with a permanently hunched over stoop, being led by your toddler up and down the airplane aisles.  As you walk past the smiling bald man for the 81st time, he is no longer smiling, and is avoiding making eye contact, its becoming a little awkward for both of you. You’ve made multiple trips to the claustrophobic bathroom to wipe bottoms, none of which are your own.  Have you tried wiping your bottom with a baby and a toddler on your lap?At some stage, it will occur to you, that once all of this is over, you will more than likely receive the gift of Jet-lag.

Each little traveler, at the end of a long haul flight (or series of flights), has provided us with the joy of waking up at 2 a.m. ready to begin their day. Sometimes, on special occasions, all four travellers have given it a whirl at the same time. Yes, that was us you saw walking down Richmond Road towards the petrol station at 3 a.m., we’re not a family of crack addicts or stoners, just newly arrived Australians. Although we do display similar types of behaviour by kissing boxes of Tim Tams and Chicken Crimpies like long lost friends.

Anyone traveling with children knows that when you finally do crawl in to bed after a flight, it’s highly possible it wont be for long. You see, while you were disembarking, going through customs, loading the bags and grabbing the car, that heavy weight on your shoulder, the one that has made one of your arms longer than the other, that was your child sleeping, or shall I say re-energizing.

When your bright eyed, wide awake child jumps on the bed at 1a.m. and asks for a bowl of cornflakes, you’ll realize their timing is in a bit of a mess. Later, at breakfast, when they demand spaghetti and a bedtime story, it will hit you that this is about to be the longest day of your entire life, because you know the rules, you have to stay awake. If you don’t, this is about to become jet-lag groundhog day.

Don’t worry about your body clock being upside down though, your face will be sure to match. Your skin will have little tracks of both the bloodshot and wrinkled variety. Your hair will remain matted and perhaps a little itchy from the friends it has made that were living in the airline cushion. Bloated? Don’t worry, it should disappear in week when you get over the constipation. Whatever you do though, don’t try and work out what that stuff is under your fingernails.

If I had any tips, it would be these. It’s time to shower, using every type of shampoo and soap you have available. It’s amazing how much better the world is when you smell good. Pretend you’ve had ten hours sleep, turn the music up, call a friend, just stay away from heavy machinery, like the car, or the blender…trust me. Your biggest achievement for the day may just be that you remembered to keep putting one foot in front the other.Oh, and sugar, lots of sugar, perhaps you should open those Tim Tams?

Do you have a jet-lag story? Or perhaps a tip?

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  1. Jade Moat says

    I feel you! The first time I ever experienced Jetlag, I thought I was in a living hell. Five years of long haul travel later, I realize that yes, it is a living hell and no, it never gets any easier.

    The only thing I can suggest is to try Melatonin tablets – they help stabilize your natural circadian rhythm or something like that!

  2. What kills me is that my husband always manages to sleep on the plane, and is therefore refreshed when he lands at least.  I, on the other hand, cannot ever sleep on planes, no matter how hard I try (on the flight from the US to Seoul, I even brought a sleep mask and sound-canceling headphones.  The only thing that came of that was smudged mascara and sweaty ears.)  Fortunately for me, both our boys are now teenagers, which means they are on rather vampire-like schedules all the time anyway, so the change wasn’t as significant for them as it was for me.  It was really rather pleasant for that first week or so when they were waking up at 7am each day.  One of the few times in my life when I actually appreciated jet lag!

  3. If I had read this post pre our move back to the expatting lifestyle I may have flat out refused to go. Because jet-lag is nasty. Although our adjustment is probably slightly less horrendous and as the kids get older they are at least easier to fob off at 3am when they are ready to start the day. After 4-months in the US I probably should stop blaming mr4s late bedtime on jetlag and our inability to get up in time for school. 

  4. Kirsty Rice says

    I am now officially on the hunt for Melatonin tablets. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Kirsty Rice says

    Our Melbourne to Qatar flight is a 6am arrival which is pure torture at around 1 in the afternoon. I’ve learnt though, that if we can push through to 6.30 it means we become the most organized family in Doha (for about 2 weeks). The first week of school last year had us all up, dressed and fed by 7am. Alas, minute by minute, week by week we all returned to our usual habits. 

    LOVED the description of your vampire-like teenagers.


  6. Kirsty Rice says

    I think you can use Jet-lag as an excuse for at least the first year can’t you? oh….bugger.

  7. Never had the pleasure of traveling with small kids and experiencing THEIR jet lag *shudder* but my tried and true trick is that I set my watch to destination time the minute I get on the plane. Has always worked an absolute treat but what does that say about my mind that it can be fooled that easily?!

  8. my ex always sat in his own seat and left me with the kids. could you imagine how exausted I was later?
    Now it’s just me and the kids, but somehow it easier, because at least the kids are more cooperative because they are not trying to get their Dad’s attention.
    And the three o us kind o have our own ret

  9. Kirsty Rice says

    I do the same thing and it usually works out to be a great way to fill time on the plane. I always end up COMPLETELY confused and spend hours trying to work out if it’s 9 in the morning or 9 in the evening. I know, tragic!

  10. Kirsty Rice says

    Geez Bronnie, I can’t work out why he’s your ex! How you didn’t beat him over the head with a tray table is a credit to you. xx

  11. Joburg Expat says

    I love your story. You totally hit the nail on the head, but in better words than I could have! I have four kids and travelled extensively with them when they were little (as we do now but now it’s a breeze) and it’s just like you say – the big reward at the end of a loooong flight is an even loooonger night and then of course the next day. I actually enjoy living in South Africa at the moment where travel to and from Europe involves no jet lag. A huge bonus!

  12. Martha M70 says

    I second the Melatonin. On our last Australia-Canada flights my daughter and I both used it and had NO jet lag. No waking up at 3am unable to get back to sleep.

    I don’t think you can get it without a prescription in Australia. Or in Canada. It’s easily available in the USA though.

  13. I can vouch for the Tim Tams. Did you all really roam the streets at 3 am?

    I have a real bad mommy secret. When V shows signs of sleeping too early to get over jet lag, I tempt her with a lollipop. Yes, the teeth take a hit, but by the time she makes her way through half, the sugar hits her system and she’s good to go for atleast 2 hours. Obviously, I follow-up with something healthy like instant noodles (what kind of mother do you think I am?).              

  14. My tip – teach the children to smile sweetly at the Cabin Crew on entry to the plane, introduce them on a first name basis, then buckle them in, show them the magic (call) button, and tell them to press it when they need something… 

  15. DoorstoAutomatic says

    Kirsty I am the queen of Jetlag! Being long haul cabin crew everyone has their own way of dealing with it. From good old zopiclone (highly addictive sleeping tablets available over the counter or even delivered to your hotel of choice in many of our destinations) to good old fashioned coffee and cocktails. It’s amazing how late you can stay up when you’ve had a few strawberry daiquiris! (think my record is 52 hours., it was my birthday!)

  16. agirlandherpassport says

    I have melatonin in Doha Kirsty! I can share. I also know where to get it here too! Let me know if you need it. On my last trip back to the US, I went to bed early and got up early. Then only slept on the plane till 12 Qatar time and had no jet lag. No melatonin needed.

  17. Ditto Kirsty. That’s really terrible Bronnie.

  18. Stephanie says

    I remember a 10 days visit to the U.S. East coast while living in China … We hit the streets of NYC from 4am with at that time 2 toddlers sucking their bottle in their stroller. It was the best sightseeing we have ever done. By 9am we were back at our friend s place ready to have breakfast 🙂
    Going back home after holidays: the rule with jetlag was 2 kids per adult in a bed, lights off and no one was allowed to stand before 5am, regardless of the time jet lag hit us.

  19. Is your friend in Shanghai? Tell her to join to meet an awesome group of ladies who remain some of my nearest and dearest, despite now living in different hemispheres.

  20. You can get it at any pharmacy in Canada. Brilliant stuff!

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