Separate Vacations Can Be Just the Right Thing for Your Family
Moms and dads should always vacation together and share hobbies, right? Let’s change the question. How boring would we be if we only loved the exact same things, only wanted to do them with each other, and always felt we needed to share every activity? Separate mini-vacations can provide parents with the opportunities to pursue their own favorite things to do. They should not be replacements for time together or requirement to survive life at home. Instead, they should be additions to your family life that make your marriage and your family more fulfilling.
Why Taking Care of Yourself is Not Selfish
Marriage requires work, commitment, compromise, and trust that allows for both partners to have individual space. In 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, by John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, readers are introduced to a married couple who are like so many parents – they have become so child-centered that their own needs have been pushed aside and their entire family is suffering for it. The Gottmans remind parents that problems can develop when well-intentioned parents actually end up using their kids as excuses for neglecting their own relationship needs.
Their research has also shown that children who have parents who place priority on their own marriage and respond to their partners’ needs give their children the examples of healthy relationships that their children need in order to eventually have their own healthy relationships. There is less family tension and children are less likely to develop depression or become withdrawn.
The Gottmans encouraged this couple to take time for their own marriage and their individual adult needs. As part of this the husband planned a separate vacation doing an activity with a friend. While this required the wife to be responsible for the children and household duties during this time, it was also a way for her to acknowledge her husband’s needs and express her love for him by wanting him to do something for himself.
How to Make Separate Vacations Work
Make certain each partner feels that the decision is fair. The vacations don’t have to be for the same length of time or even cost the same amount of money. The most important thing is that each partner feels that he or she has an equal opportunity for his or her own activities and interests. For my husband this means looking forward to his hunting and golfing each year. He doesn’t really understand why I don’t take my own “girl vacations” and has told me several times that he wishes I would each year. However, for me the best vacations are my short strolls through the nursery inhaling the scents of the flowers, the afternoons spent Christmas shopping for exactly the right gift for my children, or an evening out with girlfriends for coffee and pie. I truly treasure these moments and savor my time spent doing what I choose, and feel like I can take more of these very mini-vacations throughout the year because they can happen more easily.
While one parent takes a short vacation, the other can provide care for the kids, saving babysitting costs and general concerns about childcare. When the vacationing parent comes home, it is good for him or her to give the other parent a break, acknowledging the extra time and energy that was spent parenting solo for that period of time. It is also important that there is still time, energy, and funding for joint vacations or time away together as a married couple to refresh and renew that committment.
Twice a year my husband takes his own mini-vacations, one for the elusive deer he hunts on his childhood farm, the other for a steak eating, golf club swinging guy adventure hosted by his uncle. These give him the opportunities to spend time with family and friends and continue traditions that were started years ago, some before I ever met him. These individual vacations also give him the time to recharge his batteries (his own descriptive cliché) and are activities that he truly enjoys. I’m not a hunter (unless it is for a bargain at the mall), and my golf swing is scarier than my tennis swing. I know that supporting him in his own interests is a gift I can give to him and to our children, without sacrificing my own needs. Marriage is really a two-way street, and it is OK to send your spouse down the road alone once in a while.