Q: I recently divorced and my ex-wife has custody of our three children. I remarried a woman who has custody of her three children. It has been a difficult transition. My biological children come over every other weekend, and my wife has her children on the same schedule so we can blend the children together. My wife wants to go on a vacation with me and her children. We have scheduled a blended family vacation this coming summer. I'm having a hard time going on a vacation and not inviting my biological kids. My wife tells me that there are differences between the kids at our house and my kids at my ex-wife's house. I agree with what she's saying, but I'm having a difficult time. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Let me explain to both you and your wife why taking only her children on a vacation may be a mistake:
First, there's a fine art to combining families. The fact that your wife thinks that "there are differences between the kids at our house and my kids at my ex-wife's house" is concerning. This implies that she perceives your kids as merely visiting, but their "real" home is with their mother. That kind of attitude promotes favoritism, resentment and jealousy — and there you are, right in the middle wondering why your children reject you. (May not be happening now, but I predict it will if you continue like this.) After a while your kids won't want to visit because you treated them like "step" children.
I can offer a story from my own life: We had tickets to go to an A's game, and my daughter, my husband and I were on our way when we ran into my bonus daughter on her bike on her way to visit us. She asked where we were going and we told her. You should have seen her face. We explained we didn't ask her because she was at her mom's that week. It made no difference to her where she was sleeping. She was hurt that she wasn't included.
Getting all the kids on the same schedule is great, but it doesn't give your kids one-on-one time with just you. I suggest you check with your ex to add a dinner visit each week that gives you some alone time with your kids. If you live too far away for that, set a Skype date every week and stick to it. Anything to let them know you think of them more than just when they are with you. The weekends can then be designated as Bonusfamily time. Create the family you want. It doesn't just happen.
Taking only your wife's kids may be cheaper now, but it could be an expensive decision down the road.