Joint holidays with other members of your family: such as your parents, or siblings, always come with pros and cons. And when you’re in the midst of divorce those pros and cons are turned up to the max. With summer just around the corner, here’s how to navigate holidaying with your wider family when you’re getting divorced.
FIrst let’s look at some of the common benefits and drawbacks, and how these are affected by your divorce.
The benefits of holidaying together
When it goes well, holidaying alongside family can be a delight. A chance to make memories together, and strengthen bonds. Here are some of the main benefits of joint holidays:
With two years of pandemic under our belts, many of us have missed out on time with loved ones. Whether it’s birthdays, trips, or simply informal meet ups, so many opportunities to gather were lost. Holidaying together can be a wonderful way to restore connections, and for your children to get to know their grandparents, aunties or uncles.
If you’re a single parent, holidays can be full on! You’re in charge all of the time. And, even more than at home, you feel the pressure to make it magical for your children. Holidaying with family can be a great way to share the load. With babysitters around you can sit and read a book or go for a walk at your own pace, in peace. And if you go with another family, your children have playmates on hand, so they’re less likely to get bored.
And, of course, in this cost of living crisis, holidays can be out of reach for many, unless we get creative. You can find tips for planning ahead and saving on your holiday here. One of the most obvious ways to save on the cost of accommodation is to share it. Booking a holiday cottage for 8 and splitting it with your brother is likely to be cheaper than you booking one just for you and your children.
The drawbacks of joint holidays
One of the biggest problems in any joint holiday scenario is a clash of expectations. Maybe the other adults on holiday have different parenting styles to you. Maybe you and your children are early birds, and need to get out and about by 8am otherwise you know the whinging will start. And if you’re with a family of night owls, or your retired parents who relish their slow mornings, it can be a difficult negotiation.
Similarly, you might have different budgets. One group might be wanting to keep costs to an absolute minimum, with a focus on free entertainment and self catering. And the other is desperate to see all the attractions and try the local restaurants. Neither is right, or wrong, but it can be difficult if your wants and needs are far apart.
Old patterns emerging
If you holiday with people you grew up with: your parents, siblings, aunties or cousins, there’s a likelihood old patterns will come back into play. Perhaps your mum will slip into wanting to take care of everyone, forgetting that you have children of your own and your own way of doing things. Perhaps you and your cousins will fall back into old resentments or political disagreements.
Holidays can be particularly difficult because you tend to be together for longer than you’re used to. If you have family visiting you for a weekend, you can bite your tongue until you wave them goodbye on a Sunday afternoon. But seven days together is more of a marathon. It’s much more likely tempers will fray and disagreements boil over. Especially if you’re feeling particularly tired and anxious about your divorce.
And, of course, as the niceties wear thin, the uninvited opinions emerge. How you really should make sure Adam eats his broccoli otherwise he’ll just eat junk and have a heart attack when he’s 40. Or “We’re on holiday and of course my grandchildren can have two ice creams a day.”
And, now, you’re getting divorced, so people have all sorts of advice about that, too. Those evenings when the children are in bed, and what you really want is to stretch out with a book and a gin, enjoying the lovely view. But, instead, you have to explain yourself to your sister and hear about her colleague’s messy divorce.
What’s right for you?
So how do you decide if holidaying together is right for you this year? Well, the first thing to do is to take that question seriously. If you’ve had an offer of a joint holiday and money is tight, or you feel like you’ve not seen your relatives much, it can feel like an obvious ‘yes!’.
But, pause for a moment. Agreeing to anything is a commitment. Is this a commitment you want to make? Is it worth it for you? It might be that you have a very easy relationship with your family, and you can be confident that even if there are a couple of messy moments, a holiday together will be lovely. Or it may be a harder call to make.
Remember you don’t owe it to anyone to put yourself into a difficult situation. If, on reflection, you think that holidaying together will be too stressful, it’s fine to say no. It might be that you can organise alternatives: maybe meeting for a day trip, or even the children holidaying for a few days without you.
Set your holiday boundaries
If you do say yes, there are steps you can take in advance to increase the chances of a stress-free holiday. It can feel uncomfortable to lay down boundaries with people who’ve known you since you were tiny, but you don’t have to call them ‘boundaries’. When you agree to holiday together you can mention what’s going on in your family, such as:
- ‘Esme is getting really stressed around mealtimes at the moment, so we’ve agreed to relax what she eats, and let her leave the table if she gets anxious. I just wanted to let you know so you’re not surprised when it happens.’
- ‘The boys are entering that teenage phase and really need their lie-ins at the moment. I know your children are younger and love to get out, so don’t feel like you need to wait for us, we can catch you up at lunchtime.’
- ‘While I really appreciate your support, I feel like I need to switch off from the whole divorce thing while we’re away. Would you mind not bringing it up, unless I do? Thank you, I am so looking forward to relaxing with you!’
- ‘I know you know money’s tight at the moment, so we won’t be eating out every night – but I don’t want you to feel like you can’t! We can have a movie night back at the holiday house if you want a special meal, please don’t worry about booking somewhere just for you three.’
Boundaries benefit you all
Being clear about your needs can feel a little uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re not used to doing it. But it will save a lot of worry and resentment in the long run.
You don’t want to come back home feeling like you’ve had to compromise your values and budget because you weren’t clear. And you don’t want your relatives feeling like they did the same. So being confident enough to set your terms, in a kind, loving way, sets you all up for success.
A community you can trust
Divorce can be lonely. It feels even more lonely when your family and friends just don’t get it. If you want to vent about your self-absorbed sister-in-law, or moan about your well-meaning but clueless mum, come and join us in The Absolute Academy.
It’s a community for women who want to get their divorce done without getting overwhelmed. It’s a place to turn to when you’re confused, or lonely, or exhausted. You’ll realise you’re not losing it. You’ll see, in fact, how much you’re on it. That you’re a woman who can make smart decisions about divorce (and holidays!) and have support on hand to help her.
You get all the training and advice you need to move through your divorce without racking up unnecessary legal bills. And you get a community of women, including me, cheering you on while you do it.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com