My husband and I have been yearning for a break from our everyday lives for a while now. We just feel like escaping for a couple of days to get away from the daily stressors—jobs, kids, etc. We feel that it will really help our marriage and refresh us to better help with those daily stressors—and especially to be better and refreshed parents to our two young kids!
The problem lies with our parents. My parents live in the same town and love our children dearly. The issue is that they are strongly against a young couple going away and leaving little children behind. They also have a huge fear of watching our children for an extended period of time, especially if that time includes getting ready for and putting them to bed. Whenever my husband or I have broached this topic to them, their answer is always along the lines of, “Well this is the stage you’re in, there will be time later on to go away without your kids,” or “we never went away without you when you were that age!”
One time I casually mentioned that perhaps we would ask a babysitter to stay with our kids when my husband and I had a wedding invitation out of state. My mother balked at the idea that I’d hire a babysitter over her! We can’t ask my parents since they are wholly against us going away, and we can’t ask a friend/babysitter since that is a slap in the face to my parents.
-Desperately Desiring a Departure
Dear Desperately Desiring a Departure,
Ok, first of all, I am happy to see that at least you and your husband are on the same page with wanting the vacation! So many couples have this as a main point of contention. I am glad that isn’t your issue. However, you are still not where you want to be since the bottom line is that you are not able to get away.
That is, you are not able to get away yet.
You and your husband want this, and may even need this? So we are going to make this happen!
First step: We try your parents again. We speak to them from a different stance. “Yes, mom, I definitely do not think it is ideal to leave the kids.” That starts to bring you on the same page as them. Continue with this stance, of how you know how important it is for your kids to have the full attachment of their parents.
Once you feel like your parents see that you have the same concerns they have, start to explain what goes on for you, and how you feel like you need this in order to be a better parent to them. Tell them how you are more attuned to your kids when you feel more connected to your husband (which is usually the case for most people). Speak genuinely about what it’s like for you. They may not get it, they may offer other options (“Take an afternoon off”), but that’s ok. You have to give it your best shot.
Then, be frank. You need this, and you are going to make this happen.
You can address their fear of bedtime by offering to do some bedtime dry runs with them in their house. Plus, write up a detailed, clear schedule with behavioral, age-appropriate reinforcements. (4:00 cook dinner. 5:00 dinner with promise of new stuffed animal. 5:45 give new stuffed animal. 5:50 bath. 6:10 brush teeth/use bathroom. 6:20 pajamas and shema, plus promise of new reinforcer for the morning.)
If this doesn’t go smoothly, you have no choice but to tell them that the last thing you want to do is hurt them, but you are going to have to hire a babysitter. And then you should actually hire one.
From your letter I picked up that this is the part that is hard for you. You know that it will hurt them and, understandably, you don’t want to. I’m wondering if it also feels bad knowing that they disapprove of what you are doing?
This is something you need to address within yourself. If, for example, they tell you never to let your kids be in the sun more than a few minutes because of the dangerous risk of skin cancer, you would probably agree. But what if your pediatrician tells you that your kids need to have 15 minutes of daily sun exposure in order to be able to metabolize Vitamin D? You have to make decisions as a parent that your parents may disapprove of.
Yes, you would feel funny, but I would imagine you would do what is right for your children, not what your parents think is right.
And if you and your husband have jointly come together and decided that a short vacation away from the kids is important for your family, then go do what’s right for your family!
You can deal with the guilt later…
Aviva Rizel, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Aviva maintains a busy private practice in Cedarhurst, NY where she sees couples, families and individuals. She previously served as the Clinical Director of The Five Towns Marriage Initiative. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), the most effective, research-based model for strengthening couples’ connections. Aviva is also active in educating therapists and laypeople about EFT. Mrs. Rizel and her husband, Meir Rizel, MS, a Mental Health Counselor, enjoy co-lecturing across the tri-state area together almost as much as they enjoy raising their three children together in Far Rockaway, NY. To reach Aviva, email AvivaRizel.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-292-8482 To find out more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, go to iceeft.com.