Separate Vacations

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When I was young, my family only went away on vacation twice. Once to Boston to visit my grandaunt and once to Orlando to visit Disney World. My parents got into a huge fight in Orlando. With those two exceptions and a road trip to Canada, I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in New York City and its five boroughs.

My parents did not travel much when they were together. My father only left the comfort of the city to go for job training in Oklahoma. As far as I can remember, my mother only went away by herself once. My parents divorced shortly after. The rumor was that she was having an affair and that she went away with the man she was leaving my father for. There were a lot of rumors after my parents divorce. To this day, I have not asked her why she left my father. My mother and I have a hard enough time relating to each other without dredging up the past.

As an adult, coworkers and friends laugh at my reluctance to leave the city and travel. However, I have to admit that once I am in a new city I enjoy my stay. It is refreshing to “get away” even if it is for work. And while I join my coworkers and friends in joking about my reluctance to leave, I do agree that my wife and I and our children need to travel. I definitely want to make the trip to Disney World and I definitely want to visit friends who live all over the US.

However, I have never thought of vacationing without my family. I travel alone for work and always end up wishing my wife and kids were with me, especially when I see something I know they will enjoy. I get lonely despite the local attractions and distractions. So I was shocked and somewhat hurt when my wife informed me that she and the kids were going on vacation for two weeks without me.

I have to say I was also a little angry. Why would she do that? Especially after we had spent a good part of the summer planning to go away together for our first family vacation!

Then a long time friend suggested that maybe she just wanted to get away from me. It’s not as bad as it sounds (at least I’m not taking it that way). Some times people need vacation from each other. What is that old adage? “Distance makes the heart grow fonder?”

I came across an article about “separate vacations” by Ruth Peters, a psychologist specializing in children and family dynamics and it seems a Today show regular. There is also an interview clip on her site on the topic. I am not familiar with her expertise on the subject but what she said/wrote made sense:

In terms of taking occasional separate vacations, the bottom line is this – good relationships cost. Financially and emotionally. The expenditure for love is some sacrifice and compromise…

She preceded the above by saying that “a committed monogamous relationship shouldn’t mean giving up who you are or your independent activities.”

My friend’s suggestion and Peters article/interview help put things into perspective and I realized that my wife going away with the kids this time is no different then when she takes them to visit her sister in New Jersey. She and the kids usually stay a week. The only differences are I really wanted to be there for our children’s first airplane ride and I have family and friends I would have liked to visit where my wife and kids are vacationing. But there will be other airplane rides and just because she has gone there once without me, doesn’t mean we can go back as a family.

I have begun doing what I usually do when my wife goes away with the kids. I have made dinner plans with friends I haven’t seen in a while, I have looked up bands and shows I would like to catch, and I have psyched myself up for catching up or starting things I either haven’t done in a while or been meaning to do.

As Peters states: “Separate vacations should be an addition to your life – not an escape.”

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