This may come as a shock to you, but Gabe and I did not marry because we wanted to create a stepfamily. Our children are a wildly important part of our lives. My mom and stepmom identity is an important part of who I am, as is my identity as a wife, daughter, coach and writer, but my parent identity is not the whole of who I am.
However, sometimes in the swirl of our day-to-day life, it feels like I am only a nose-wiper and meal-maker. The tasks are endless, and in blended family life the pressure is high and the expectations unrealistic. It can be exhausting. It can be hard to remember why we chose this life.
One of our secrets to survival as a couple is our annual adults-only vacation.
An adults-only vacation relaxes and recharges, individually and as a couple.
On our couples only vacations, I bring stacks of books and read in total silence. I have time to exercise and I get plenty of sleep. I don’t check email or search for a child’s lost knee pads. I take care of myself.
Gabe spends time on the golf course and reads by the pool. His cell phone, omnipresent at home, often spends the day charging alone in the room. He works crossword puzzles.
On vacation, we binge watch shows everyone else watched two years ago. We order appetizers and dessert. There are no bills to pay, lawns to mow, meals to make. We take long, hot baths, and go to bed early.
An adults-only vacation improves our partnership
Freed from the day-to-day demands of our six-kid household, we can think about the important decisions that we’ll face in the coming years. We talk about how to pay for college and how what needs to be done before our teenagers start driving.
Because we’re addressing topics well in advance, and away from the pressures of exes and children, we have time to fully discuss our perspective. We can disagree initially and work through each side before having to decide.
Conversations that might be strained at home, woven among the overflowing laundry baskets and the always-full dishwasher, take on a different tone and pace. Surrounded by blue water and clear skies, and newly reconnected to each other, we are in our happy place. Hard conversations become easier. I remember we are a team, and want the same outcomes, even if our initial approach differs.
An adults-only vacation strengthens the foundation of our family
Like all parents in a blended family, I didn’t marry my husband and enjoy years of pre-kid bonding. Our marital memories have been made over homework at the kitchen table and after we’ve tucked the last sweetie in at bedtime.
Our child-free time is limited, and our as a result, sometimes our relationship suffers.
Vacationing alone reminds us of who we are without our entourage, and that our story belongs to us first. We naturally reminisce about other trips we’ve taken, and remember the romantic start of our life together. We make memories, planning our backyard chicken coop and exploring dark corners in new restaurants. I dream with Gabe about our long-awaited after-the-kids-go honeymoon period and hold his hand.
Our annual vacation is an investment in in ourselves and our family, and we make it a priority.
We make our getaways a priority. Financially, we budget for our trip and save accordingly. We decide when we’re going early, usually as work with our coparenting partners on other annual scheduling topics. We take the time to be fully away from work and only with each other.
Our adults-only vacation recharges our batteries and strengthens our resolve, individually and as a couple. We return to our children and routine refreshed and reminded of why we began this adventure. Secure in my partnership with Gabe, I am better equipped to handle the daily challenges of blended family life.
Want to start planning your adults-only escape right now?
It’s easier than you think! Here are 5 tips to plan your own adults-only getaway:
- Schedule for when the kids will be busy and occupied with their other parent. We typically take our trip during one set of children’s annual week-long vacation with their other parent, and trade with the other. Takes a bit of scheduling finagling, but we make it work!
- Reduce the opportunity for drama. We don’t talk about the trip with the children except to let them know we’ll be out of town. That way, we avoid nervousness about mom or dad being far away. In a high conflict situation communicate only what you’re required to disclose to the other parent or children.
- Explore budget-friendly options. Sites like Travelzoo, Expedia and Travelocity often publish terrific travel deals (we love Travelzoo’s Top 20 Weekly Round Up). Be creative! Consider a privately-owned residence (VRBO or AirBnB) or national park. Outdoorsy? Consider camping!
- Minimize planning. Pack light and fast. Book a hotel and rely on the staff there to help you navigate the town. If your budget allows, consider an all-inclusive property. Don’t make preparing for this vacation a part-time job.
- Still feels impossible? Consider a staycation, with time away from work, dinner date nights, theater matinees and local spa days. Remember you’re on vacation: no DIY projects or kid stuff allowed!
Looking for how we survive on family vacations? Check here.