On a sweltering summer day Claudia (34) drove with her family through the French Ardèche. “It was raining when we left that morning. The plan was to go on a tour and see a town. Once underway, the cloud cover broke open. Our sons, ages four and six, were bored to death in the backseat and wanted to swim. I suggested my husband stop at the next river beach.
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Surly along the waterfront
“That’s impossible,” he said, startled. “How can I do that without towels, swimming trunks and sunscreen?” “John,” I said, “this morning’s application still works, and then they swim in their underpants, don’t they? I dry them with a shirt.” While the three of us were building dams in the river – I had rolled up my trouser legs and my bra was fine for a bikini top – my husband stood sullenly along the water’s edge. Legs wide in a demonstrative pose, arms folded tightly.
At such a moment I seriously think: why am I going on holiday with this man? He thinks everything is dirty, everything is a hassle. A grain of sand in the awning, sticky hands after an ice cream, wet swimming trunks on the garden chair, mud pants on the floor. He is the same at home. Everyone has to take off their shoes there – even the neighbor who comes by.
From now on only with the kids
Since we are otherwise having a good time, I have long ago decided to take his frantic fear of dirt and unpredictability for granted. But on this beautiful holiday day I just couldn’t bear it. Our children had the time of their lives, we had no other plans, then they would get dirty. How can you enjoy when your husband checks his watch every two minutes. “You know, from now on I’ll go on holiday alone with the kids”, I shouted.
It’s no wonder that most divorces are filed after the summer holidays. At home, everyone is busy with their own work, obligations and division of tasks. On holiday you are dependent on each other and all pain points are magnified once again. As with Dee (36).
There’s no shortage of fun with the kids during family holidays, that’s not the problem. “My husband can’t get out of the water with our seven-year-old son and nine-year-old twins. He does the shopping and when we stroll through a town he takes the three children under his wing. When the kids are in bed, though, things get complicated. Because then we have nothing to say to each other. We hardly notice this at home; my husband works at night and I during the day. We rarely see each other. At most in bed and there you can do other things than talk. When we discuss something it is about the household and the children. But then, those topics don’t really matter on vacation. So let’s just read a book. Side by side, silently. With the only text: ‘Would you like another glass of wine, dear?’”
I love him and he loves me, but secretly I dream of a man with whom I can have a good conversation. Light a candle, crickets in the background. It sometimes crosses my mind: go on holiday with the children without me, then I go with friends. Then I can chat until we drop.”
The obligatory ‘coming together’
It’s all female whining, says Sjaak (40), who needs good conversations. Just like quality time by the way: “When I finally sit down with a beer, I have to do everything again. Have sensible conversations. Play volleyball with the whole family. To some ridiculous show that has the whole campground running out and you can’t see the stage. It’s fine to have a game with my sons every day, or to play football, but hello: they are ten and twelve – they prefer to just lie in the pool.
My girlfriend and I have peace, a stack of magazines, the sun and a drink, how much more do you need to be happy? I’m only stressed by the obligatory ‘getting together’; I have enough at work already. She sees the holiday as a boost for our relationship, I don’t think it’s necessary for anything. In ordinary life we do great together. Our bond is very strong. Maybe next time we should go camping with friends; seems like an excellent lightning rod to me. We pay big money for those holidays, I want to enjoy them as much as possible. Without whining.”
four days coma
Dershan (43) also has his frustrations. “I think my wife is a lovely woman when she lies on her bedchair in a bikini. All that goodies: all mine. Well, the latter is a bit disappointing in practice. Our daughters, aged seven and ten, are finally playing together, she is fast asleep on her beach bed. I get that, we’re both tired of the hard work. I am also counted out for the first vacation days. But after four days of coma, I’m done with it. Then the children want action and I become restless myself. But there is no movement in it. At home she never sits still, then I’m usually the one begging for a Saturday with no plans. On vacation I feel like I’m out with a complete stranger. Once in Italy, she lets everything fall out of her hands.
Putting plasters on children’s scraped knees, getting drinks, cooking – I have to do it all. I think it would be so nice if she would lie on top of me for a few minutes with that lovely summer body. Attention for each other – that’s what vacation is for, right? After two weeks I’m happy when she races from top to bottom like mad. That’s great, I think, you’re back.”
These parents always have screaming arguments on vacation >
Ignoring all the rules
Rebecca (39) seriously considers never going on holiday again with her boyfriend who ignores all parenting rules at the campsite. “Of course: there are fewer rules on vacation, but he really makes a mess of it. I think it’s ten o’clock for bedtime for our children, aged nine and eleven, their father shouts: ‘No, we’re going to look for bats.’ I don’t think they need a fourth ice cream cone, he’s already paid for them. No telephones with you to bed: my friend thinks it’s nonsense, then at least they are nice and quiet in the morning. Skating without guards, climbing on a roof, feeding chips to the dog; I turn around for three seconds and my other half cheers them again.
It drives me crazy, but being able to make it negotiable, just one word from me and the tent is too small. Since I find arguing on vacation even worse than unruly children when I get home, I’ll just let it go, although I’d prefer to hit him around his ears with a tent pole. A friend who has the same problem with her husband made short work of it. She said, “Either you have a little respect for my upbringing, or I’ll go on vacation without you next time.” She stood her ground.
When things got bad again that summer, she went to a friend in Zeeland for two weeks and left him alone with the children in their holiday home. Her husband could have cried when she got home, he’d had it so hard with their boys. Since then he has treated her like a princess and on holidays he adheres to the parenting rules.”
Dershan has meanwhile made arrangements with his wife. “This summer we are going to the Dominican Republic. There she can sunbathe until she sees blind and the children and I do not have to be bored there. We can do tours, abseiling and quad biking. Then we all have the vacation of our lives. I can’t believe we didn’t think of this much sooner.”
This article was previously published in Kek Mama.
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