Love for vacations is universal, right? It’s like “mom and apple pie” isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my family away from home and the never-ending to-do list on my whiteboard. What I don’t understand is why I return nearly as stressed out and tired as when I left. I try not to think about the cost of the vacation because any economist would tell me that, based on dollar value alone compared to rest received, I would be better off skipping vacations and staying at work. I suppose this is evidence that the value of vacations can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
I have just returned from a theoretical vacation. I’ve been out of the office for 2 weeks. For 5 of those 10 business days, I was working (in exotic locations, albeit) while my kids enjoyed the pool and resort facilities. The other 5 days, I was trying (really hard) to be engaged with the kids and trying to decompress. In between the 2 weeks, we came home for 36 hours to do laundry and change up the mix of children traveling with me (each of the kids has a slightly different spring vacation schedule). My husband also joined us for week 2.
Setting dollars aside, the “cost” of my time out of the office adds up as follows:
- Missed hike in Sedona in order to catch up on office work
- Early morning email exchanges and phone calls with colleagues in a different time zone in order to accommodate family activities later in the day
- Ninety minutes late to dinner at a friend’s house because of a conference call
- Complete disruption of my healthy eating habits and exercise routine
- Mounting pile of work for my return which will likely result in something close to an “all-nighter” immediately prior to my first day back in the office
- Still the one to clean dishes, make beds, and pick up clothing and towels off the floor
Thinking through the costs, most rational people would choose to stay home. I get anxious just thinking about it. So, I take a moment to think about the benefits before I decide if the value of vacation done my way is really worth it.
The “plus side” of my vacation ledger includes the following entries:
- Two weeks of sharing every meal, every evening and even sleeping quarters with my teenagers with little or no intervention from their peers (if you don’t count Snapchat and Facebook)
- Inside jokes created with the kids that will be part of our shared language for years to come. Ask Daly about “the game” (actually, don’t ask her; it’s our thing).
- Playing golf with Philip (15) with the Gulf of Mexico as our right rough (the lost ball count is our business, thank you)
- Choosing to take the middle seat in row 29 for a 5 hour flight so I could sit between the girls and be next to both of them at once
- Introducing the kids to many work and industry colleagues (read: proud mama showing them off) and listening to them engage in intelligent conversation like the young adults they’re becoming
- Several naps on a poolside chaise which resulted in a bit of color (don’t tell my dermatologist) and an appearance of better health
- Awestruck moments together as we first spied the beauty of Sedona and the dolphins jumping in the waves in Captiva.
- Small but high impact conversations as the kids each revealed a bit about their school and social lives
- Standing next to Daly as she learned of college acceptance decisions and helping her to ease anxiety over those yet to come
- Watching both girls leave for a day trip dressed in my clothing! I was glad to share because I was over the moon that they would consider wearing anything that I own
- Hiking the hills of Sedona and enjoying it 3 times as much because of Caroline and Daly’s appreciation of the natural beauty (and their ability to demonstrate what they’d learned in science class)
- Learning new slang while having dinner in a dive with Caroline and Philip (and no I won’t repeat what I learned)
- Sharing a moment of excitement when we thought our Pink Jeep Tour companion was the lead singer in Barenaked Ladies (turned out not to be true, but the speculation was fun)
- Watching Daly delight in her celeb spotting on our return flight from AZ (Quest Love)
Given this cost/benefit analysis, I think the economists would side with me. The time out of the office was well worth it. As Philip (15) says, “rest is for the feeble”. Well, I’m not sure I’d agree with that, but it’s becoming my mantra. It’s not the work-life balance for everyone, but it works for me. These years with the kids are fleeting, and I’ll have plenty of time for naps in the years to come. Right now, I am grateful that we’re able to take these trips and for every exhausting vacation minute I can squeeze out of them.