We All Drive The Bus
I’ve always been convinced that I’m incapable of being on vacation at home; the landslide of household minutia resides too close, the laptop too easily accessible. I’m pretty sure even my therapist typed me as someone who needs to leave the premises in order to truly sink into vacation. But last week I proved myself wrong. And in the process, I developed a new perspective on parenting, work, and balance.
Last Saturday we headed to Maine for a much needed vacation; the original plan was for Jon to return on Tuesday and for Laurel and me to follow on Thursday. Per usual, we had a wonderful time with our friends in Maine – time that was replete with laughter, awesome food (probably too much food), vacation-y adventures, and catching up on fine literature (read: trashy magazines). On Tuesday, as Jon’s departure time grew closer, I was of two minds: on the one hand, I didn’t feel ready to leave and wasn’t wild about spending the rest of vacation at home for the aforementioned can’t-vacation-at-home-reasons. On the other hand, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and the idea of negotiating Laurel and my things home on Thursday via multiple phases of public transit lacked appeal.
Ultimately, as is the case with many things, Laurel was the deciding factor. She wanted to go with Daddy. She wanted the family to stick together.
So we left. And it was a good choice given that Jon, Laurel, and I got sick. But even so, the most amazing thing happened; it actually started while we were still in Maine.
I stumbled upon a new way to work. Or not work. Or rather, be completely present whether working or parenting, but not trying to do both at the same time.
On Sunday and Monday in Maine, I did launch a post each morning. But because we were on vacation, I didn’t jump out of bed thinking about posting; I got around to it after breakfast, when we were all lazing around figuring out what to do with the day. Totally low maintenance.
Then I was officially off on my internet vacation the rest of the week. I didn’t post, I only peeked in briefly on Twitter and Facebook (and admittedly, was sort of turned off by both and quickly left). I pretty much ignored my email. Instead, after we returned to Boston, I...
…spent an entire rainy day indoors in jammies with Laurel, reading books, goofing off, playing games, and eating all of our food picnic style.
…was able to be that mom -- the one who, when the sitter couldn’t come over for a few hours as planned, was able to say, “No problem; don’t sweat it!” and actually mean it.
…instead spent the sitter time (during which I had planned on running boring errands) taking Laurel to the library and toy store, then out for a yummy sushi lunch, then to pick up her pottery at the paint your own pottery studio. I can’t say enough how much I love bopping around out and about with Laurel. She is the best sidekick.
…spent my evenings with my lovely husband, not my laptop.
…enjoyed an afternoon baking up a storm with Laurel. We took advantage of the spoils of our CSA and made chocolate zucchini cake and a double batch of zucchini bread (froze a batch, gave a batch to my mom).
…made moussaka from scratch (using the landslide of eggplant and potato from our CSA). Definitely a labor of love but so worth it. And an even greater, unexpected gift? Laurel actually tried some and declared that she loved it and ate a whole piece (protein, starch, vegetable, and dairy, all in one sitting!).
…dealt with hundreds of emails that have been languishing in my inbox to get my inbox under 50 messages. I did this over the weekend when I was slowly crawling out of my internet hibernation and I think the break helped me bucket these e-mails more clearly; meaning, I followed up on the ones of interest, dealt with e-mails that required action that didn’t take long but were hanging around for a long time, and filed e-mails that simply did not resonate with me (there were a lot of them). It felt enormously cleansing and the process inspired me to get in the habit of really listening to my instinct when I receive emails – to file or deal with things quickly to avoid generating a backlog that overwhelms me.
…did not fret about household minutia. Not one speck, as Laurel says. And the house? It’s still standing. In fact, it looks totally fine, not even really worth fretting over.
At first I was a little stunned by how easy it was for me to not worry about household minutia and work and simply remain in fun vacation mode at home. But in turning the week over in my mind and with Jon, it seems like the two major factors at play were expectation and mindset. I always told myself it was impossible to be in vacation mode at home without ever really trying it. I'm someone who tends to create projects and long to-do lists (re: household minutia), so I just let go of that. So liberating. And it proved immensely powerful to publicly declare an internet vacation; I gave myself space and time; I lessened my and others’ expectations of me and my response time.
And the thing is – and this is very easy to forget as an independent businessperson who tends to put her head down and power through work – I am in charge of expectation and mindset; I can give myself space and time whenever I want, even when back on a regular work routine. The point is, I am, in fact, driving this bus and this week helped me see that I could operate in all of my various roles on my own terms to incredibly rewarding effect – it was possible to post in an easy and relaxed way, be truly mindful when I was with my family, enjoy the beauty in life’s small moments, and be focused when I finally sat down to look at my inbox.
Expectation and mindset. If you're feeling disgruntled with [work, parenting, fill in the blank...], experiment with adjusting -- even in baby steps. Remember, ultimately, we all drive the bus.