My husband and I took a few vacations with our respective in-laws before we had kids. We’d all stay in the same hotel and always catch up for dinner, but the hours leading up to it were ours to spend however we wanted. And that worked great right up until we had kids.
Once babies entered the mix, our family vacation dynamics did a 180. Where everyone used to go their separate ways, now we were all crammed into a one square foot radius for all of our waking hours. Calling it bloody would be an understatement.
It’s taken us five years and another baby to figure out the secret to surviving vacations with our in-laws. Here’s hoping that these tips will make it happen a little bit faster for the rest of you.
1. The first rule of vacations is that what happens on vacation, stays on vacation. So if at some point you find yourself lifting your maxidress over your head to breastfeed your little one in front of your husband’s entire family, you can rest assured that the story won’t come back to haunt you at Christmas dinner.
2. There has to be a clear division of labor. In most cases this means that the grandparents will do whatever they want to do and we parents will do the rest…and by rest I mean all the crap work (literally). The sooner everyone accepts the working arrangements, the happier everyone will be.
3. Helping out doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. My idea of help was keeping my kid so I could go to the beach. My mother-in-law’s version involved serving ice cream to my four month old while I ate dinner. I’ve learned a lot since that first year about being really clear with my requests.
4. It’s never too early to drop and go. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that my kid could survive a few hours without me. Now I’ve learned that the best strategy is to give no warning at all. Drop the baby in their arms and say “you’ll be fine” as you run out the door.
5. Don’t assume that old people and kids will be on the same schedule. Aren’t retirees supposed to be the ones lining up for the early bird specials? Somehow no one in my family got the memo. The only upside to the continued 6am kiddy wake-up calls is that I can count on my in-laws to take over for a while after bedtime. Hello sunset walks on the beach!
6. Never let your in-laws make the hotel arrangements. Mine bought a condo and filled all of the bedrooms with twin beds…including ours. We’ve got two kids and my mother-in-law is still pretending we’ve never done the dirty.
7. Stop calling it a vacation. Call it a trip or a visit or whatever other word you can find. Just don’t call it a vacation. It will work wonders on your mental state if you can pretend that your real vacation is yet to come…which brings me to my last tip:
8. Plan a post-vacation vacation. I used to come home and exclaim, “I need a vacation after my vacation.” Now I book it in advance. This year I used the “I have to get back to work” excuse to finagle my way home five days earlier than the rest of the fam. Five days of peace and quiet in the office will be just the vacation I need after 10 days with the in-laws.
Related post: The Mother In Law Prenup