Perennial Vacation Argument Crops Up Again


By Wendy Belzberg

Published August 29, 2003, issue of August 29, 2003.
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We take a family vacation at the end of the summer, and every year my husband and I have the same argument: He works so hard during the year that he should be exempt from any responsibilities during our vacation — including taking care of our children. Both children are under the age of 6.

— Miles away from vacation

I admire your husband’s bold formulation. If you do nothing all year but watch daytime television and eat cream puffs in bed then he may very well be entitled to make such a claim. But whether you leave your home to work or work at home as your children’s primary caregiver, you too have earned a vacation.

The obvious compromise, if your budget allows it, is to take along a babysitter who can spare you both — not just to defuse the arguing, but also to afford you some time alone with each other. If that isn’t an option, why not at least bill the trip as what it is: your husband’s vacation, not a family vacation. You may choose to cater to his married-without-children delusion or plan your days without him and enjoy your children. The best plan may be to send him off for a couple of days alone to decompress. He can then let you know when he is ready to be part of the family. I suspect it won’t take long before he discovers what he is missing.

* * *

The parents of our very dear friends are antisemitic. We have never held this against them, and we appreciate their honesty. Our friends are going away for a week and are leaving their children with their parents. I don’t feel comfortable letting my children go over to play while the grandparents are the only ones at home. I am frankly worried about what they might say.

Discriminating eye

Your children are either young enough that a racial slur will go over their heads or old enough to learn that there are racists in our world. In the latter case, it is all the better that they make this discovery close to home with you nearby to help them navigate.

And that goes for many things beside antisemitism. If you want to control all of the things your children may be exposed to and that you may find objectionable, your children can look forward to a very lonely — and very artificial — childhood.

* * *

I have an old high-school friend who is known for his thriftiness (read: cheap). In all of our adult years, he has never once bought dinner; either I treat or we go Dutch. He recently bought tickets to a concert that we attended together. My wife insists that I offer to reimburse him. I say the cost of the tickets is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to everything I have paid for over the years.

— Uneven returns

Talk about mixing apples and oranges — or should I say concert tickets and meal tickets. By your logic why not let yourself into his house and help yourself to the contents of his refrigerator — or maybe even his wallet? It is no one’s fault but your own that you have picked up the tab for someone who has proven unwilling or unable to reciprocate. Your friend may indeed have a problem with generosity — and he would not be alone in that shortcoming — but he cannot be expected to know that you resent him for it. Speak your mind, or never pick up another tab — or both. But your friend does not owe you the concert tickets in exchange for past slights of which he may or may not be aware. Offer to pay him back. And don’t be surprised when he accepts.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at

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