What is it about a family holiday that makes it fraught with tension and stress leaving you worn out at the end of it?
I know I am not alone because many of our friends reveal that they too come back feeling they need another holiday to get over the one they’ve just had.
Following a recent vacation to Spain I reflected on the aftermath of the holiday which went something like this.
We were so tired that when the Easter term holiday finally arrived the four of us practically through our luggage on to the plane so desperate were we to head for some sunshine, warmth and rest.
The day we arrived the weather at our destination was warmer than the snow and ice we’d left at London Luton Airport early that morning and as we went to collect our hire car and set off on our journey to the apartment I could feel that tension start to melt away.
The kids were snoozing and listening to their iPods in the back of the car and my husband and I chatted about the last few weeks and reflected upon how nice it was to actually have some time together instead of seemingly passing each other in the house like two ships leaving a port.
And that’s where the tension started.
Silly things like driving the car whilst checking the mobile phone.
At home our cars have hands free although I condone the use of using mobiles whilst driving after all what is so life threateningly important you have to use the mobile when driving.
As the journey continued I became increasingly annoyed with him every five minutes checking the mobile phone for emails and text messages.
And, as any good woman would do, I offered to drive.
Back came the answer “aren’t I driving properly then?”
“No!” came the retort.
Having had an exhausting seven weeks leading to this vacation and having left home at 3:45am naturally I was concerned for the safety of us all and this was in no way being disrespectful to my husband who is a good and responsible driver.
But for god sake what is so crucial that the mobile had to be checked so often.
That was my first disgrace and ‘rebuffment’ for bad behaviour.
When we arrived at the apartment it was clean and in an excellent state we usually have a number of chores that we give our children to do including washing hands, unpacking their cases and carry ons and putting their clothes in wardrobes.
I have a very specific job that is to delegate the tasks, unpack and get the linen and beds made.
Here lies the start of the holiday stress.
Children by their very nature have a selective hearing problem they are excited and want to get out and about they don’t want to stay cooped up in a flat when the sun is shining let a lone listen to a list of orders being barked out by tired parents.
Simple jobs become a marathon and a challenge to complete especially if you are a pubescent 13 year old, an irritable tired 9 year old, factor in a 45+ short of patience, quickly irritated father.
Mr M (my husband) has a short fuse when it comes to patience and is easily irritated.
His impatience was further exacerbated by our apparent lack of speed we were applying to our tasks, myself included.
The best way of describing this scenario is liking it to Vesuvius – a slow eruption emanating a sticky froth building to an almighty explosion.
If the U.N. were handing out medals for family diplomacy going above and beyond then I’m pretty damn sure I’d be up there I suspect with millions of other mothers for the sheer effort I show gritting my teeth and calming the situation.
I watch in frustration at the way this relationship between my two boys and husband deteriorates into a war of words and a constant nagging to get a move on.
Invariably the tension escalates into a riot of words. Then I ask or rather request Mr M should chilax, ease off and actually leave the apartment and get a beer.
My 9 year old steps in showing overt diplomatic skills and I see a career in the diplomatic service beckoning as he shouts”shut up everyone and just stop moaning!”
I, on the other hand follow Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people and I strongly recommend you read it.
Habit 2: begin with the end in mind and habit 3: put first things first, both seem to strike a chord with me at this point.
By all working together as a team the quicker we get jobs done the quicker we are on the move.
In simple terms it means if you help me I help you and everyone wins.
No one’s time is compromised and no one misses out because we all get to finish and get out at the same time.
This in my house-hold along with the 4th habit “win win” is my utopian ideal. But we are long way from that.
Like many working house-holds in the UK when faced with this large concentration of time, 24/7 suddenly becomes a real challenge to get through each and every day without some part of the holiday home becoming a war zone and maintaining peace and harmony is the equivalent of finding gold.
During a normal week, if anyone has a normal week step up here please and tell me or better still show me now.
Families are on an invisible treadmill of school, work and routine.
The majority of house-holds during school/working week will have some perceived routine. Ours is no different in fact it starts when we leave home at 7:30 with my husband often leaving much earlier than us.
A family holiday means a massive concentration of time together and for the majority sharing accommodation significantly smaller than our own homes.
Factor in accumulated tiredness which seems to manifest itself when you grind to a halt at the start of your holiday = no patience or time for each other so naturally irritability escalates like the national debt.
You really get to see and experience first hand each other’s foibles which during a normal working week don’t appear to be quite so annoying.
My 13 year old tries to take on the role of adult by scolding his younger brother mostly to get him into trouble.
There’s my nine year old who considers winding up his 13 year old brother and getting him in to trouble a national sport.
My husband who just gets irritated when anyone of us talks and god forbid someone speaks when he’s on that mobile phone again.
Finally there’s me. I think I’m the only sane and patient person in our household. (Debatable)
The working school week combined has to run like clockwork in order for the majority of us leave to be able to leave on time in the morning.
Working lives have become a grinding treadmill one that has become increasingly difficult to jump off. Factor in the economic climate and many are working longer and harder than ever before leaving the majority of us exhausted.
When a vacation finally arrives we simply are devoid of giving to each other anything that remotely resembles human decency.
In fact I’m exhausted reading this!
Therefore using my infinite wisdom, I came up with some top tips for great family holiday’s.
- a successful family holiday should involve going to the same destination but each member of the family staying in different hotels
- invest in a serious decent set of groovy noise reduction headphones that way you switch off and tune out to any arguments, shouting or abuse
- make alternate holiday arrangements for the kids like PGL or a kids adventure holiday, that way they can’t be blamed for anything or get in the middle of anything. Better still book yourself into an adventure holiday and learn sky diving or mountaineering
- leave spouse at home or get him/her to stay in alternate accommodation
- book the kids into alternate accommodation
- ban holidays altogether and stay at home that way you can make several day trips and if war should break out only one day is ruined rather than several whilst the family take sides as to who did what to who and when!
- Finally, leave them all at home and go on your own holiday my preferred choice!
What do you think? Are holidays a necessary evil? Do they give us more grief than rest?
Share with me your thoughts don’t be shy.
Tell me about the worst or the best vacation you’ve ever had?
Was it with the family or on your own?
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