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Vacations are a relatively new thing for my family. We went nearly a decade without ever taking a single one. Working in a high-pressure corporate environment, I reserved vacation time for sick kids, school holidays, and necessary Monday-through-Friday personal appointments. If you’re not careful, “vacation” time can go pretty quickly without even a single relaxing moment to show for it.
For a long time I told myself I was OK with vacation sacrifice. I even managed to convince my tense muscles and weary psyche that a vacation served as more hassle than reward. I mean, I was so busy at work. Who would do my work while I was gone? Probably no one. Who would be responsible for planning the vacation? Probably me. How much would a family vacation cost? I had no idea.
Dr. Andrea Bonior explored the vacation conundrum in Psychology Today, where she discussed American workers’ hesitancy to take time off from work because they’re simply too busy. “I’m sorry,” she says, “but isn’t being too busy at work the whole reason that these vacation days are needed in the first place? Is this some sort of strange, grin-and-bear-it paradox? Being under too much stress to think about stress relief?”
We know, Dr. Bonior, but have you seen our desks lately?
It’s not just our overflowing inbox. Stress involving our family and home life tug just as hard at our physical and mental well-being. There’s the dog and the laundry, dinners and after-school practices. There’s homework, that glitchy garage door, bedtime struggles, and that neighbor who insists on blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd. Before we know it, we’re burned out at work, burned out at home, and sometimes (gasp!) even burned out with our family — a place no mother wants to be.
As I continued covering for co-workers who made relaxation with their families a priority, I began wondering: Where were the smiles on my family’s faces? Where were the memories of my kids jumping on a giant hotel bed or camping under a billion stars? When would I hear my kids say, “Hey Mom, remember that summer we [fill in the blank with something — ANYTHING — memorable]?”
These memories didn’t exist because I hadn’t let them.
Did I really want my kids growing up without a healthy model of work/life balance? No. Did I really want to waste the 18 summers I have with my kids? No way! NOW was the time to create lasting memories and make personal rejuvenation a priority. The stress of work and home would always be there, but time with my growing family was limited.
From that summer on, we made family vacations a priority. Some vacations have been big (like that time we went to Hawaii). Some have been small (like a recent trip up the coast). But every year I’m committed to stepping away from my to-do list of endless tasks to focus on my to-do list of fun with the people I love. I want us to see things we’ve never seen, do things we’ve never done, and go places we’ve only heard about. I want to do all of these things and more — together.
Perhaps the best part of getting away with my family is how I begin to see things a little differently. Able to view my family in a new and free light, I’m motivated to make positive changes at home and most importantly, I’m reminded to stay present.
Family vacations are about so much more than just an interesting Instagram feed; they’re about remembering why we work as hard as we do.
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