During a work vacation, I take advantage of my husband's flexible academic schedule (winter break, spring break, etc…) and relinquish drop-off and pick-up duties as well as most household chores. "Work vacation" is a phrase to signal to my husband that I need to immerse myself in work while he picks up the slack.
A work vacation probably flies in the face of my responsibilities as a mother. But as a working mother, and indeed, as a worker, it's necessary. My male counterparts (and I see more and more of my female colleagues falling in line) have been doing this for years - staying late at the office to meet a deadline, while their wives put dinner on the table and pick up their laundered shirts for the week. If I want to succeed at the office, sometimes it's necessary for me to follow suit.
There are dangers to the work vacation, of course. Work-vacation creep is particularly insidious. This is when a weeklong work vacation turns into a month-long or quarter-long period of getting to the office early, leaving late, and ceding any notion of balance. (Imagine if vacation creep was a danger to our normal lives - maybe it's the reason return tickets were invented!) The trick to taking a work vacation is to make it a short sprint, not a new norm. When it becomes a new norm, you know it. You wake up from a night of dreaming about work to realize you haven't had any fun or seen your kids in a real way for a long time.
Work can be exciting and rewarding, but so is life beyond the office.
Here are a few tricks to ending a work vacation:
--Get a babysitter and go to a rock show in San Francisco. You will have so much fun and get home so late that you will remember there is a whole world out there. You will also remember you were young once, and you had cravings and desires that had very little to do with your working life.
--Slow down and play with your kids. I'll be the first to admit that this isn't my strong suit. But when I read books, paint, or play games with my kids for an afternoon, I remember what amazing little people they are and why work should be secondary.
--Hide your laptop. If I don't take my laptop out on a given evening or weekend, it's almost guaranteed that I'm enjoying life: getting out in nature, loving my family, and pursuing my personal interests.
--Go on an actual vacation. I'm always surprised to hear of colleagues who bank loads of vacation time every year. Not working is the best antidote to remembering who you are and how interesting you are away from work. Vacation also reminds you how amazing getting enough sleep makes you feel.
Do I wish I could live in a world without the necessity of a work vacation? Part of me does, sure. But immersing myself into my work for short periods of time can be immensely satisfying and invigorating in its own way. I feel lucky to have a husband who gets that.