As I write this, I’m lying by a swimming pool in a beautiful villa near Venice, Italy, watching my children splash in the water without a care in the world beyond what flavor of ice cream to have after lunch.
It’s incredibly peaceful and couldn’t be more relaxing. In a few days, my ex-husband will arrive — and I can’t wait.
Most people react to the discovery that we regularly holiday together in one of two ways: complete disbelief or "so you're getting back together?"
Part of the reason we do this is that I’m not one of those mothers who thinks that just because the kids live with me 70 percent of the time, that gives me the right to call the shots. I don’t have the right to take the kids away from their dad for long periods of time. If I want to do it, we talk about it and try to work out a way to make it work that everyone is on board with. Three weeks is a long time for our children to not see their dad (and vice versa), because he’s been completely hands-on and present since their first day on this planet. So it’s always an option for him to join us for part of our summer vacation.
This year, we've also taken the children for a weekend staycation, and we regularly spend time as a family on weekends. Because we are still a family. He and I may not have been a couple for over four years, but that doesn't — shouldn't — affect our lifelong roles as parents.
In the same way that I ended my marriage because I wanted my children to grow up with two happy parents (and leaving an unhappy relationship will always lead to happiness, regardless of any initial disappointment, grief and regret), I spend time with my ex-husband in their company because I want them to see that parents who are no longer together can get along, even enjoy each other's company.
I want them to grow up knowing that while co-parenting can be extremely challenging and stressful, it doesn't have to be all about resentment and bad feelings and arguments over visitation. From a young age, they've been raised by parents who aren't together, so our situation — vacations as a foursome included — is just normal to them. They don't know any different.
Undoubtedly, going on vacation together also eases the financial burden of holidaying as a single parent (you don't get any discounts for going in solo parentis), and it definitely makes those lengthy airport waiting periods a lot easier when you can take turns entertaining/placating/watching the kids and enjoy the luxury of a bathroom trip without having all your baggage and two small people crammed into the stall with you.
I appreciate that our situation is unique in many ways. It wouldn't be possible to do this if there was any negativity between us. We both have had to learn to focus on the bigger picture (primarily our children's happiness) rather than dwell on the small stuff. I know that for many former couples, spending more than a few minutes in each other's company is difficult enough, and the thought of sharing precious vacation time with an ex is unimaginable. In that respect, I know how lucky we are.
I hope our approach to vacationing with the kids continues for as long as we're both comfortable with it. If new partners come on the scene, we might have to rethink the current arrangement. But whatever we decide, our kids' needs will come first.
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