Summer time is coming soon and plans are being made for all kinds of vacations. If it's just the two of you it can be another honeymoon. But when making plans involves including your kids (from a previous marriage -- his kids from a previous marriage, maybe the kids you've had together) it's a little more complicated than packing a suitcase, throwing in a couple of sleeping bags and heading for the nearest camp-site. As one of our friends always says "When the two of us go away, it's a real break. When we take the kids, it's a TRIP!"
When we wrote Love For Grown-Ups, a relationship guide for women who married or re-married after the age of thirty-five, we interviewed women from all over the country and based our book on their experiences -- how they handled new situations, what worked and sometimes what didn't work in their new lives. We discovered how they met, dealt with ex-wives and ex-husbands, decided which home to live in, how to handle careers and career changes, and the realities of having kids -- his, hers and will there be "ours"?
We hadn't really given any thought to vacations until we were well into the interview process and discovered that vacations can either be something really "joyous" or something that causes lots of resentment. Planning a vacation when you're a new family can be challenging. We aren't therapists, but here are some of the things we found out that we hope can help.
Is this going to be a "family vacation"? That means the two of you plus his kids and your kids. All of you going away together can only work if you travel to a location where there is "something for everyone" to do.
A resort with a pool can often do the trick -- teenagers can sunbathe and the younger ones can play in the pool and if there are tennis courts or a beach you're golden! Children who are close in age often have similar likes and dislikes. One of the women we interviewed who always had her step-children come stay at her country home found out from her baby-sitter that when the adults weren't around her step-children ignored her kids and wouldn't play with them. This was upsetting but was a wake-up call for the parents. They had to figure out what was going wrong when they weren't around and what steps they should take to assure that neither set of kids behaved badly to the others.
We also found that children who had visitation with their father every other weekend often resented sharing him with their step-mother's children who already spent more time with him than they did. Planning a couple of separate activities for each set of kids might help. If you are going to include both sets of children, and they're teenagers, consult with them when you're planning your vacation. If a camping trip works for you and your husband or a trip to Disney World fits into your budget then offer that. You and your husband should decide first what works time wise and $-wise. Don't make it a "whatever you'd like to do" offer. You might end up with kids wanting a very expensive African Safari!
If traveling with the kids is too great an expense, plan a 'staycation" including lots of the special things you can do at home−amusement park one day, the beach another, miniature golf, a special movie day and a back-up plan if it rains!
We also found that some new families created their own traditions. A boat owner we talked with said that every summer they spent one week only sailing with his kids and her kids- five kids under the age of eleven- which they all loved. This woman admitted that every morning she would get into their dinghy and spend an hour following the boat along -- she said she needed a bit of a break, but it was worth the effort because they all looked forward to the trip and it became their "anchor" in creating a family relationship.
If both sets of kids are different ages and have totally different interests it's hard to make a together time work. If possible, do something with your kids for a few days and then do something with your husband's kids for a few days. (Just make sure that your former spouses are able to take the kids -- you don't want any last minute changes. Vacations should be fun, not stressful.)
As for you and your husband, you both need time together without family responsibilities. If you're a working mom, or a full-time mom, time alone with your spouse is very, very important. We like to think of those times as "honeymoon renewals."
Pat's husband Mark suggested getting away as a couple twice a year for anywhere between two and four days. Pat has dubbed these their 'dream date' weekends and they are sacrosanct and never fall off their 'to do list'. It's important to get away from daily responsibilities and recharge the relationship! Ann & Irv spend time at the beach by themselves for a week and then ask his kids and grandkids to join them for a week. It works, everyone's happy. Tish and her husband John do "get away" weekends even if it's in the motel down the street!
When you marry or re-marry a little "later in life" there are lots of obvious things to consider, but vacations are an integral part of family life and need to be planned and agreed upon in order to help create a happy and successful life together.
Do you ever get a chance for a "second honeymoon" or do take a family vacation?
Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of "Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life", a relationship guide based on interviews with women who married over the age of 35. The book tells you how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who all got married later in life. They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.