We are excited to announce the start of a new series: REAL TALK with Red Stick Moms. In this series, we are hoping to tackle some topics that are on our minds and hearts as we raise our children and navigate the everyday. This is for the day-to-day life stuff… the things we think on a lot but don’t always have the space to share about. We are hoping to get the conversation started and then open up the discussion to YOU! So read our thoughts, share your own, and join us on this crazy, uncertain, but amazing road of motherhood.
Today’s Real Talk topic is on family vacations and who you choose to spend them with. Is quality time with your little, family unit the most important? Or do you love to bring along grandparents, cousins, and friends? We all have different expectations for vacation time, so today we are chatting about what that looks like for each of us. Three of our team members are sharing today to get the discussion going.
Q. Have you vacationed with extended family and/or friends before? What did you enjoy most about it?
Kristen: Yes, we have vacationed both with family and with friends. There are pros and cons certainly, but what I enjoy most about it is knowing we’re making memories with these people. We are the sum of our experiences. When there are more folks along for the ride, the experience can be a richer one. More people to have fun. More people to share the (burden and) the joy!
Kelly: We’ve only done one trip so far with extended family, and my son was only 3 months old, so it certainly was helpful to have extra hands around to take care of him and give mommy a break for a bit. And we’ve done a road trip with just the three of us and had a blast. It was much more flexible and my husband and I bonded seeing our son experience new places. I think it’s important for my son to experience both kinds of travel as he grows up because each is a very different experience.
Joy: We have only vacationed with family since we had our sons. We haven’t vacationed with friends yet. We go to the beach with my parents once a year, sometimes twice a year. They have a time share, and they pay for most of the trip. It’s such a great experience because the boys spend time with their grandparents, and we have built-in babysitters if we want a date night.
Q. Do you feel that having extended family or friends around on a vacation can take away from the quality time you get to spend with your kids?
Kristen: No. I feel that it makes the experience richer. There are certainly times that it’s nice to have only our core family unit – but as I get older, those times are fewer. Quality time can be created on a weeknight, after work, while my husband is giving the little one a bath, and I’m playing a board game with my oldest. It doesn’t have to be a long time to be quality time. On vacation (or as often as I can), I want to surround my children with people that love them. With no first cousins, my two children are a bit of an oddity in the South. I like to think of our friends as family, too – ever widening the circle of support I hope for for my children. Reading it back, it sounds foolishly saccharine – but know if I was asked about quality time with my husband, that’s a different conversation!
Kelly: I think there is a time and place for vacations with family or friends, and vacations with our immediate family. Each one has a completely different dynamic and there’s something to be gained with each. When you’re vacationing with family there is that back-up for watching your kid(s), and maybe you get a chance to sneak out with your husband for a dinner alone or trade off on who cooks that night. But there’s also more people in on the action and sometimes it means less flexibility or alot of personalities. Everyone has a different way they like to travel, so personally, when I’m with just my family it’s a little more relaxed. It’s easy to get stuck in the hustle and bustle of everyday routine, and when you’re in a different place away from all that you get to see your immediate family in another way. Both kinds of travel can bond your family together. I just think sometimes its good to focus on your immediate family, and sometimes it’s great to include the extended family.
Joy: I don’t feel like it takes away from our quality time. We spend time all together with my parents as well. At other times we just go and spend time together the four of us. We really love spending time together on the beach and in the condo and out and about together. There is definite freedom and flexibility regarding when we are all together and when we separate.
Q. What about when the in-laws pay (or offer to pay) for a trip? Do you feel obligated to go? Do you feel that entitles them to “run the show” or “take over” in a way?
Kristen: I know that I’m blessed in the Mother-in-law department. Truly. (And we know that it’s usually the M-I-L that we’d have an issue with, right?) My in-laws usually do book and pay for the trips and we’re invited. I do sort-of feel obligated to go, but not in the inconvenient way – in the way in which I view it as another opportunity for them to make memories with my children. While they’re still very young at heart, they want to take every opportunity to make these memories and spend time with their only two grandchildren – while they can. I do feel obligated (and blessed) to go on a trip they book and pay for. I know this isn’t the way of it for everyone, but I don’t have in-laws that try to run the show or take over. They offer assistance with the children and when we’re all together, the default parenting duties go to us – in that if there’s discipline to be dispensed, they let us have first crack at it if we’re in the room. They don’t try to interfere (because it can be confusing the the children to have four different people trying to tell them which way is up) but step in when needed.
Kelly: Being offered a trip that’s paid for definitely makes you feel a least a little obligated to go. (Who turns down a free trip, right?!) Me and my husband have had this discussion before because we have tagged along and we’ve turned down the offer. Sometimes it’s just not the right time with our family’s schedule – using vacations days v.s. grandparent’s retired life is really different – or sometimes they are headed somewhere we’ve been a couple times and we’d rather save our funds/vacation days for a new place. Either way I think it’s important for you and your spouse to be on the same page and support each other if you do go on the trip (and accompanying activities) or if you turn down the generous offer.
Joy: Well, my in-laws are a unique situation. They are divorced, and we don’t do much with my father-in-law. My mother-in-law isn’t exactly in a place where she can pay for a vacation for us all. So, it’s my parents who often pay for us on vacation. I wouldn’t say we feel obligated because we genuinely enjoy spending time with them, and we have been vacationing with them since my husband and I were dating, so we have a pretty comfortable rhythm. My husband may be better at answering this one! But, overall, I am fairly confident that he, too, looks forward to our vacations with them.
Thanks so much to Kristen, Kelly, and Joy for getting the conversation started! Join in the discussion on our Facebook page, our Instagram account, or right here in the comments and let us know what YOU think.