Family Trip

Carolyn Hax: Is it selfish for a parent to take a solo vacation?

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Dear Carolyn: You responded to a spouse, “Fuming Mad,” who was resentful that their husband was taking a seven-day solo trip, advising them to go on their own solo trip to even things out. I thought your advice was really bad.

The real issue is why does the husband feel the need to get away from his family, and especially for this length of time? It is pure selfishness on his part, and very disrespectful to his partner.

My daughter is experiencing a similar situation with her husband. They have been married for five years, and her husband continues to go on fishing trips without her. He took the first of these many trips shortly after they were married. His most recent was a five-day fishing trip, leaving her at home with an 18-month-old and a full-time job.

She DOES NOT want a trip of her own. She wants her husband to be at home with her and to help raise their new son. Her obvious preference would be to go on a family trip together.

My daughter has discussed this problem with her husband many times, but he continues to go on his lengthy fishing trips rather than spend time with his family. I understand the need to get away from time to time, but a seven-day trip while the spouse stays home to take care of young children is simply unfair. Don’t get married and have children if you don’t plan to give up your self-indulgent lifestyle.

Oregon: You’re a loving dad who is angry and upset that your daughter is in a stressful marriage. I understand that. I feel for your daughter, not getting the respect, attention and investment from her husband that she and their baby deserve, and I feel for you, having to witness this and having very little recourse. If it helps to yell at me, then have at it.

I disagree strenuously, though, that one spouse going on one trip once a year for one week away from the family is “pure selfishness.” You don’t get to decide how much time qualifies as too much; each family does individually.

I also disagree that a couple with one mini-beef — he planned seven days, the writer mistakenly thought they agreed to four or five — is analogous to your daughter’s chronic situation of “many trips” one spouse hasn’t agreed to at all.

But I’m glad you brought it up, because your daughter’s (and your) very different problem is valid for its own reasons. And so much harder to solve! My advice would not have been for your daughter to take a vacation for herself.

Though I think she should, soon, with a good friend, to get perspective on this life-defining impasse.

And he could use the pointed message of her absence right now, because her speaking up “many times” and having a valid point haven’t worked.

What would work — you’re right — is a husband who didn’t want to leave so much, or at least reduced his travel out of respect.

But that’s not whom she married.

No advice can change that.

Your daughter’s tough, tough choices are to accept this husband, as-is, cushioning the reality as she can (counseling, for example) or leaving him on the grounds that a partnership — a family — is not possible on these terms.

If she seeks your counsel, urge her to work either way with the reality of him. Not the reality he flatly refuses to be.

Editor’s note: The first line of Carolyn’s response has been updated from “loving parent” to “loving dad” to correct a production error.

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