The Wall Street Journal: When reuniting the family doesn’t feel so good: Surviving the obligation vacation


For many families, summer vacation 2021 was anything but relaxing.

As travel picked up again, extended families reunited. Grandparents hugged grandchildren, adult siblings caught up in-person, and long-separated cousins played together on beaches and in playgrounds.

For families coming together again after more than 18 months of the pandemic, though, those reunions are often emotionally heightened events. Call it the obligation vacation: relatives reuniting while emotionally depleted.

Aging parents are eager for adult children to help with overdue home-improvement tasks. An aunt wants to see the baby. Siblings recall old rivalries. It isn’t a relaxing break — and lately it’s been happening as the Delta variant gains footing.

An expanded version of this article appears on

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