As we gear up for a summer full of road trips and cottage weekend, I'm reminded something an acquaintance said to me last year, after I told her about an upcoming road trip with my daughter and husband.
She asked if I guilty going away on getaways with our daughter when my stepchildren are with their Mom.
This question wreaked of judgment. You know those questions... the ones that are less of a question and more of an accusation. Yeah it was one of those.
"Don't you feel guilty when you go away with Reese and not them?"
My answer "NoI don't feel guilty at all"
I paused, watched the look on her face, and then went on to explain. (Honestly I was kind of going for the shock value in my response)
"Do I think it would be nice if they could come with us? Absolutely. I wish they could be with us every weekend... But do I feel guilty? No! We're not doing anything wrong"
Here's what really surprises people. My husband feels the same way.
With an every-other-week schedule we spend half the time away from them.
(By the way, have I ever told you how much I loathe the term "access schedule?")
Our life, and most importantly our daughters life, shouldn't be put on hold when they walk out the door....
When they are with their Mom they get to do lots of fun activities.
We shouldn't have to sit and stare at a blank wall, only to resume regular programming when they return.
Most importantly, Reese shouldn't be forced to live her life according to an every-other-week access schedule either.
Their lives don't stop when they are at their Moms, and her life shouldn't stop either.
We are very open about this with them too, and they totally get it. They understand that even though everything isn't always EQUAL it is always FAIR.
When they are with their Mom, they go to parties, on getaways, on all-inclusive vacations, go for ice-cream, have cottage weekends, movie nights, beach days etc... They do a lot of great stuff. They have a blast!
If we put everything on hold for Reese while they are doing all that, it would be so unfair for her. In fact, sometimes I worry that it is her who is missing out!
Now if we were ALWAYS going on vacation without them this would be a different conversation.
If we treated Reese differently than them when we are all of together, that would not be okay.
But that's not the case.
We have lots of great traditions as a whole family and always try and maximize the time we get to spend with them.
We do an annual weeks at the cottage and try to go away once during the winter too.
But we aren't going to say "no sorry, we have to stay home this weekend because the kids are with their Mom" - It's just not going to happen.
That doesn't mean we are leaving them out, that we show favouritism, or that my husband has moved on and created a life with a "new family" - it means that we've adapted to (and accepted) the complications that come with co-parenting and having a blended family dynamic.
We're all living life to the fullest, and doing the very best that we can with the circumstances that we're in.
Another thing to consider is that in our family, Reese and her siblings have a significant age difference. As I write this, she is 5 and they are 12, 15 and 16. Their social lives, work schedules and to be honest, their desire to spend time with their parents makes it a unique situation.
As they get older our family time becomes less and less. It’s not something we dwell on, it’s pretty age appropriate. Sometimes we go away with just two of the kids, sometimes one, sometimes all four - but still we maintain that our daughter’s life won’t be put on hold because she was born into a blended family.