Family Negotiations

Sarah and I recently returned from a family vacation in a suburb of Tsfat. At least that’s the way we thought of our three nights at a villa in Israel’s North. 
    But we hadn’t taken into account today’s work culture. The marvels of 2022 work culture mean that what is to you a vacation villa may be for your children a remote office with an outdoor hot tub.
    It took Sarah and me a while to catch on to the new reality, though the signs were already there even before we left our home in Ra’anana (in July, we moved there from neighboring Herzliya). We had thought to go up North first thing on the morning of our first day (Sunday) and to take our toddler grandson Noam up with us.
    Noam’s parents, my son Nathan and his wife Avia, however, had other plans for that morning: they would work from their home in Herzliya (they are both in high-tech) while we babysat not just Noam but his infant brother, Lavi. And so instead of beating the traffic and enjoying a vacation day, we left in the afternoon, and a trip of two-and-a-half hours took close to double that.
    My daughter Ruthie and her husband Nofar, who also both work for high-tech companies (she as an in-house lawyer), each worked a full day (from their home in Tel Aviv) that Sunday before coming up to the villa. On Monday, they both went to a co-working space called Klika in Hatzor HaGlilit, a small Upper Galilee town.
    Nathan and Avia worked from the villa, each taking turns with Lavi, and Sarah and I took Noam on a hike outside Rosh Pina featuring several ma’ayanot (fresh-water springs). We went with our son Elie, his wife Hadar, and their two small children. Elie and Hadar were on vacation (they are both in education), though Elie used much of his free time in the villa to prep for the school-year ahead.
  When we returned from the hike mid-afternoon, there was definitely tension in the air between Nathan and Avia. Normally on work days, Lavi is with a caregiver, but now with Lavi under foot, each of them, it seemed, had been trying to convince the other why their work should be prioritized.
    Ruthie had said that she would be taking off on Tuesday to be with us (Nofar would not be with the family, as he had military reserves duty—not every challenge for an Israeli family vacation is new!). On Tuesday morning, however, Ruthie told us that she would be taking her own car on our outing to the Jordan River. When I asked her why we needed a third car when there were enough places for our group with just two cars, Ruthie caused me to understand (quite forcefully in fact) that there is a difference between taking time off and taking a whole day of vacation: Ruthie would be going back to the villa mid-day to put in a few hours of work.
    Conclusions: Because of their ability to work remotely, your adult children will NOT assume that just because they have accepted your invitation to stay at a vacation place they need to be on vacation. If you take a hardline position, your children may call your bluff and say: no thank you. Hopefully, your children will not force you into a minimalist position and will understand that if they agree to come with you, they have to spend a decent amount of quality time with you.
    Needless to say, the more that grandchildren figure into the picture, the stronger will be the hand of your children. So best of luck to you on your intergenerational negotiations and management of expectations as you plan for your next family vacation/remote-work venue.

TEDDY WEINBERGER is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from Miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, Sarah Jane Ross, have five children.


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