Living far away from family, no grandparents or aunts or uncles to rely on but parents need a break – When I was a kid, about 6 years old, my parents moved away from their families in the New England area and we moved to a place called Spring City, PA, which is about 20 minutes from Valley Forge Battlefield and National Park. Without their family to spend the holidays with, my parents became friendly with two couples in the neighborhood, and when necessary, the parents would pinch-hit for each other, taking care of the kids in emergencies, and being the back-ups on the school forms for 2nd emergency contact.
Let’s take a vacation with the neighbors!
One year the parents decided to rent a huge house on Cape Cod that would sleep all 14 of us. I recall it was around $1,200.00 split between 3 families for 400.00 each but I could be off; I wasn’t really privy to the details back then.
We traveled for about 6 hours with each family’s station wagon loaded up. The house was big enough for us, but some would have to sleep in the living room, and some on the porch. That was okay with me, it would be like camping out and we were at the beach!
Planned division of chores and parenting
The parents did a schedule and divided up the chores. They also rotated a “night” off and a “day off” so that they could have some couple time, arranging for the house to be theirs for a period of time, and for them to also be able to go out at night, alone. This arrangement worked well because everyone benefited.
As children, we found out there was always something going on with that many kids to hang out with. We went to the beach, played candle pin bowling, went to the park and even went to the movies on a day it rained. Although we all had different habits at home, we blended pretty well as an extended family and I think it was because of the schedule and respect each adult had for the other.
At night, we played cards, scrabble, did puzzles, went to the beach, and told stories. Each “parent for the night” couple was different in how they interacted with us, but it was all good and it was a great way to build memories with the family, and still provide some couple-time without paying exorbitantly for child care, or worrying about leaving the kids with total strangers while on vacation.
Eating “at home” also saved a bundle. Each family signed up ahead of time to take part of the cooking chores. Some brought spices from home, and the money was pooled for the grand shopping list. Everyone had a part in the chores, including the littlest kids who were charged with picking up their toys, making their beds and putting their dirty dishes in the sink.
Oh yeah, we consider them family
Twenty years later, our families are still friendly. And although the children have lost touch with each other, we all look at each other as “family”.
If you are worried about having couple time during your family vacation, and don’t have a lot of money to spend, or fear leaving your kids with total strangers, explore vacationing with the neighbors, who might just turn into the best kind of friends you can ever have; the ones you call “family”.