Earlier this month, I traveled home to visit my parents in South Carolina with my three daughters in tow.
As I drove, I thought about how this was not really a vacation. It looked like a vacation – I packed my bathing suit and sunscreen. It also looked like work – I lugged a bag full of textbooks, projects in process, and my computer. Since I started working from home about 18 months ago, I have not had a real vacation and I don’t foresee one in my future either.
One truth for moms who work at home – or moms in general – is that we have jobs that we can take anywhere. For me, that means I have a job I take with me everywhere I go. A wise friend recently told me that when his children were still at home and he worked at home, he regularly had to make a conscious decision to “uncouple himself from his work.”
How do you uncouple from work? Honestly, I am still trying to figure that out myself but here are a few ideas:
- Blocking out work-free time. Just because I brought my work along, doesn’t mean I have to work constantly. On a working vacation, I can slow down the pace, devoting several hours a day to relaxing and enjoying my family. Work will wait. But those little girls? They want to go swimming, now.
- Taking a mental break. Working at home, my tendency is to think about work constantly – even in down time. To me, uncoupling from work also means uncoupling mentally.
- Staying unplugged. On a regular work day, I may check mail and social media sites frequently, constantly even. Social media networks will still be there when my working vacation is over. For today, I can choose to leave my phone and computer alone.
I’m going to start now.
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go for quality time when you get it-
we force ourselves to eat together as a family- whenever I am in town- we have dinner together- even if it is late- so we have that family time. no TV- just us.
On weekends, we carve out some family time- and do our best to assure we are all present for it.
Then, for vacation, it’s not possible to completely unplug or you come back to a big pile, on the other hand- it is possible to have a really good vacation and come back re-charged.
I am learning that one (recently!)
We worked from our beach condo this summer and decided next year we were drastically leaving the office time zone in order to get more of a vacation. The flexibility allowed us to enjoy our 2nd home and the beach, but we didn’t unplug much. It was not a vacation.
I still built in a lot of time for our son, what was sacraficed was my vacation reading list, creative thinking time and sleeping late. These are all things that make it my vacation.
however, I got to spend a LOT of time with my son. Between my work schedule we played chess, built sand castles, he learned how to shuffle cards and we worked on several cub scout projects. So it was a lot more time then we would have had if I had stayed in Dallas and worked and he had been a day camp. So I am blessed.
I have the opposite problem – whenever I bring work home from the office it almost never gets done and the handful of times I’ve tried to telecommute have been disasters! My kids constantly interrupt me, demanding time and attention, even though my husband (a Stay-at-Home Dad) is there too! I can’t figure out how parents of young children work from home, it baffles me. I’ve mostly given up trying to work and instead focus on my family when I’m home (a good thing), but it still bothers me. I feel like this is something I should be able to do.
Thanks, Jennifer. Great advice. My kids are having a hard time this summer adjusting to me working more than ever. I notice how much they enjoy the special time I set aside to be with them during the afternoons. I wish you had told me that it gets easier, though! I appreciate you taking the time to comment.
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Welcome to the bane of working from home– the never-ending “pull” of work. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and frankly, sometimes I’m great at unplugging, sometimes not so much.
I’ve found the best way to create some space is to mentally give myself permission to go into “relaxation” mode. The thinking goes like this– “Yes, there is laundry to do (or a report to write) but the kids have been whining for you to play with them. They are only young once and soon will be gone. The ‘work’ can wait.”
Then I completely unplug– no Droid at my side, no answering the work phone when it rings…and we just go outside and play.