When I decided in October that I wanted to go away as a family this winter and my husband said he couldn't join us because of work, I let out a guilty sigh of relief. I thought, I'll get to take the kids away and still be able to make all the mundane, little decisions just like when we're at home and he's at work.
See, when we're on a family vacation, my husband thinks he's helping by inserting himself into the parenting role where he doesn't belong. I'm really not a total control freak, but I don't want to argue or really even be questioned about the basic day-to-day stuff that I normally manage really well; so well, in fact, that I don't have to think about it, that is until my husband interrupts and ask me to consider another way of doing things.
The funny thing is we agree on all the important stuff, but the small stuff becomes important when that's all there is, like on a vacation. It's the little, brainless stuff like, Do they need a jacket?or How many snacks can they eat? or What time is bedtime really -- we're on vacation, who cares, right? My kids have waited hours while we duke out how many coats they need to wear before going out at night. No wonder they look excited when I tell them the vacation is over.
But honestly, how do I survive, day in and day out, without his input? That's sarcastic and I hate sarcasm, but it spills out when I'm being told how to do what I already do so well. I would feel worse about this, like it's just all me, except I have the advantage in my role as a family therapist of listening to others who have this same conflict -- the clashing of parenting styles when it's vacation time.
Typically, day-to-day parenting decisions are made by a primary caretaker parent (in our family, that's me) while the other parent is not involved in the minutia of daily life, and thankfully so. The exception is the family vacation, when both parents are fully available for every decision that needs to be made. Ugh. It can be painful and tedious. It's easy for wires to get crossed and toes to feel stepped on when parents are not used to operating together to make minute-to-minute decisions.
My clients' stories of their family vacations reassure me that others have a similar experience. The sentiment I often hear goes something, like this "What? Just because they -- the non-primary parent -- is on the scene for a one week, they think they can second-guess my decision-making and parenting style?"
When I listen as an objective outsider and not a crazed wife who wants to duck tape her husband's mouth shut, I recognize that in fact, that's not what's really happening when the "other" parent intervenes. Rather, they are attempting to be helpful when they are finally available to offer their opinion or step in and relieve the primary parent.
But what if I don't want to be relieved? Hence, I booked the trip and I'll have my first solo parenting vacation. And he doesn't have it too bad either; my husband will get to stay home alone for a week -- that's not vacation, it's heaven on earth.
Anyway, next week will be here soon enough and I'll get a chance to try this little experiment out. So, here we go on vacation, just me and the two boys. I guess if there's conflict and fighting, I can only blame myself; that is the downside to this plan. On the other hand, I could always call and ask his opinion right when a conflict is brewing. I'm sure there is a way to spread the blame.