I grew up on a small, oil-rich island in the Caribbean, the daughter of a serious PhD petroleum engineer. When I was young, my father used to spend every other week on one of the offshore oil rigs that could be seen from our back door; as I got older, his travels took him elsewhere around the world. Even when he was in town, he worked late hours, usually leaving before my sister and I were awake, and arriving well after we had gone to bed. The man was a workaholic.
I am nothing like him. (I am totally lying.)
One thing I do know about my dad, however, is that he was adamant that every year we have a family vacation. Sometimes the four of us went somewhere exotic, like the United States; other times we stayed closer to home, like a trip to a different coast of Trinidad. In every case, however, we were away for a minimum of a week, and my father flat refused to work during his time off: no one was allowed to contact him from his office, he didn’t make any calls, he didn’t try to sneak in some work time. He stopped shaving, and wouldn’t go near a tie. He was 100% dad that entire time. And it was during those holidays that some of my best family memories were born, ones for which I’m incredibly grateful.
In some ways, I think my dad had it easy: these were the days before smart phones and email, laptops and Skype. The truth is, even if he didn’t have the rules in place that no one from his office was to contact him, they’d have had to work hard to find him anyway. All the technology that we have today is great, because we’re always connected; the downside of course, is that we’re always connected. It becomes really, really tough to fully unplug; worse still if you’re self-employed. Vacations turn into Working Vacations. Quiet strolls turn into Let-Me-Just-Take-This-One-Calls. And it’s easy to return from your vacation feeling like you need a vacation to recover from your vacation.
Well, this year, honey, I’m changing all that.
My daughter Alex is finishing her school year in less than two weeks, and we’re planning a couple of family trips over the next few months. Normally on these trips, I do a ton of work — the deadlines don’t go away, and since I am self-employed, I sometimes end up staying in and working while my family sightsees or otherwise enjoys the day. (Actually, now that I think about it, I did this even when I wasn’t self-employed, but working for a corporation. Oops.) But this summer, by gum, I’m going to take a page from my dad’s book: I’m going to work like the dickens beforehand, so that once we leave home, I don’t have any deadlines looming over me. I will let people know they can’t contact me, and I’ll set my email autoreply to indicate that I am completely unavailable. While I’ll likely process a few photos while I’m away (because I love processing photos at the end of exciting days, I find it restful), I won’t be doing them during the day, or anytime that my husband, daughter and I are supposed to be spending time together.
I’m going to work extra hard to make these summer days feel like holidays Alex will remember fondly as family bonding time, and feel grateful for. This is my goal.
How about you guys? Have you set any intentions for yourselves for the summer holidays once the kids are out of school? Is this something you do every year, or do you just go with the flow?
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