When you end a relationship, dealing with your ex’s family is tricky. This is even more true if you share children. Kids mean that you’re always going to have a connection to your ex’s family. For some people, that’s a nightmare. But if you and your ex get along reasonably well, maintaining ties may not be such a bad thing. I am extremely lucky to get along with my ex’s family — which is why I agreed to spend the holidays with them.
That’s right, I spent the holidays — with my ex’s family.
My ex and I were together for six years. Over that time, I got to know his family well. As a family, they take Christmas very seriously, which I appreciate. My son has never spent the holidays with them before this year, so it was extra special. I knew it was important that I allow him this experience, but I wanted to be there too.
Even though it’s been several years since we broke up, my ex’s family has never treated me as an outsider. They’re just as sweet and nice to me as they’ve always been. Knowing this, my decision to spend the holidays with them wasn’t as difficult as some may imagine. I expected it to be fun, and my son is still quite young and attached to me. If I wasn’t on board with spending the holidays with my ex’s family, he likely wouldn’t be either.
Making sure my ex’s family has a relationship with my son is incredibly important to me, even though my ex and I are no longer a couple. Since most of my ex’s family lives in the same state, making holiday plans were easy. His mom is an amazing hostess, and she loves having everyone around. So we agreed to head up to Northern California where she lives and stay for a few days. The prospect of getting out of town for a bit is always exciting too, especially around Christmas.
Even though it was a no-brainer for me, others were surprised.
Whenever I would tell friends about our holiday plans, they all had the same question — was this trip a good thing… or not? Of course it’s a good thing; I genuinely love my ex’s family, and thankfully the feeling is mutual. So my answer to their questions was always the same: “I don’t mind being in a car with my ex for a long trip, it’s being in the car with my six-year-old I’m not excited about.” Which was entirely true.
I’m super lucky that my ex and I get along so well. We’re truly good friends since our breakup, which was almost four years ago. Having a good relationship for the sake of our son is important to both of us. We usually celebrate his birthday together, and we spend some part of Christmas together as well. For me, spending the holidays with my ex’s family seems like a completely logical thing to do, even if it did mean being stuck in a car together for over eight hours.
The drive itself was actually really easy. With snacks and a couple of breaks for lunch and a trip to Target, it didn’t feel so long. I have to give my kid credit, he was a total champ. There was no complaining — he napped, listened to music, and delighted in the many livestock sightings during the drive. Conversation between my ex and I flowed as easily as I expected. He was excited to finally spend Christmas with the majority of his family. Plus, there was snow, which would be everyone’s first “white Christmas” in a few years.
We arrived Christmas Eve night. Everyone was tired, but we still stayed up late chatting and catching up. Since none of us see each other very often, there was a lot to talk about. Most of the questions were, of course, directed at my son. He relishes attention, so to have a bunch of grownups showing an interest in him was pure heaven for him. On Christmas morning, we all sat together opening presents. I had gotten everyone small gifts, and was pleasantly surprised that they had also gotten gifts for me. Unsurprisingly, my son, who is the only grandkid on that side of the family, was lavished with gifts.
Never once did my ex’s family make me feel as if I didn’t belong. Even though I’m the mom to their only grandchild, that doesn’t mean they have to treat me like family. But they always do, which I appreciate. They are very respectful of me being his primary parent. Therefore, I try to give them as much access to my son as I can. Spending the holidays with them meant that I could take a step back. Since they don’t spend a lot of time with my son, they wanted to do all the things. For a mom who doesn’t get much of a break, that was heavenly.
Spending the holidays with your ex’s family isn’t an option for everyone. Sometimes, even if you do get along with them, it just doesn’t feel right. Navigating these kinds of relationships are never easy. And what works one year may not work the next. It’s important to understand what your boundaries are for these situations. Honoring your own feelings is also crucial so that everyone is having a good time.
I know this isn’t the only time I may spend the holidays with my ex’s family. My son is still young, there are many years ahead of us. Even though our life circumstances will certainly change, I will try to be involved. One day it may be too uncomfortable for me. Or maybe my son won’t want me to come. And that’s fine. My only hope is that he remembers how much fun we all had when we were together.