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Living at Work: How Mothers Can Find Some Real Time Off

When was the last time you took a few minutes for yourself?

I'd like to introduce you to Michelle, The Professional Family Manager. Her blog encourages women to feel proud about the hard work they do as mothers, promoting respect for the career of motherhood. You can follow her on Twitter as @Family_Manager.

“It's so nice to just sit down and relax for a moment and forget that in five minutes I have to get up, do the dishes, do the laundry, put the kids to bed, clean up this mess, and lay some clothes out for work tomorrow.” ~From a cartoon by JoAnn Larsen

Living at WorkHow easy is it for you to relax when work is staring you in the face?

How do you get a break from the workplace when you live in it every day?

I think a major source of mothering stress is the fact that we cannot get away from work unless we leave our own house. Unless you are either wealthy enough to have hired help to clean the house, maintain the house, maintain the yard, and maintain the vehicles, thus being truly able to put your feet up, or you are wealthy enough to be able to afford constant vacations away from home (again while others are caring for your children and belongings), the primary place you have to relax is the same place in which rest all your responsibilities.

When you work outside the home, you get a lunch break; even if you pack in your lunch, you usually are not required to eat at your desk or in a lunch room. When you are a mother, you can't look at the clock at 12:30 PM, pat your toddler on the head and say, “Sorry, dear, it's my lunch break; I'll be back to take care of you in an hour” and head out the door for a quick bite at Panera Bread every day.

You also do not get sick days, paid time off or at least a two-week vacation. You are also on-call 24/7. Your holidays are working holidays as you coordinate activities and deal with the stress (as well as the fun) of family get-togethers. A simple check-up at the doctor's office requires you to find someone to cover for you, and if you do not have extended family to help or friends nearby — or even if you do — it's not always a quick and easy thing to arrange; either the doctor has to be flexible with his schedule, or your family/friends do.

If you are a “stay-at-home” mother, you also have the societal — and, sometimes, spousal — belief that, because you are home all day, you have time to do things for yourself. When your spouse comes home from work, he wants to relax with his family… and he has no idea why you are a bundle of nerves.

Why don't mothers insist on their well-earned, well-deserved, and physically and emotionally necessary time off?

Probably because few — including ourselves — think we need it. Moms are already “off,” right? No one gives us time off because we don't ask or insist on it; we also don't arrange for it.

Time off for mothers has to come in three forms.

Yes, all three.

Time Alone

One is the occasional few hours out.

I don't mean the time we spend in the grocery aisle closing our eyes for two-minutes and half-dozing-half-daydreaming as we relish the opportunity of having snuck out to do a family job sans kids.

I also don't mean going to a mother's group where we talk about being mothers, wives, and kids.

I mean something completely just for you. Even if it is just once a month, having even that little time to yourself will bring happiness to you and, by extension, happiness to your family.

Money doesn't have to be an issue. You could go to your local library or Barnes & Noble and read. Just grab a coffee. You could also get dressed up and meet your friends for a cocktail; it doesn't have to be a full meal out or even more than one cocktail, just being dressed up and on the town is so different from your daily life that that alone can do wonders for your psyche.

Date Night

The second is the occasional date with your husband.

I don't mean the one where you curl up in front of the TV and eventually pass out.

You and your husband still need to date. You need and deserve the same attention you received before children. You are, after all, still a woman.

Vacation

Finally, you need to go on vacation.

Away.

Either with your spouse or without.

This is the more difficult one to do, both financially and logistically. The trick is to think outside the box. For instance, one thing I crave and enjoy is peace; no one pounding on the door when I'm in the bathroom, no shouting, no loud music, no problems to mediate, etc.

I live in a remote area, and three miles down the road is a monastery. Literally, it is off the main road from which I live. One weekend last year, I left the children with my husband and stayed at one of their retreat houses by myself. I spent a weekend four minutes from my house in total isolation. How funny is that? Their fee is whatever you can afford. Monasteries all across the nation have retreat options, and most work on a “pay what you can afford” basis. Many also have retreat houses for couples (and sometimes even families), so if you are looking for time to reconnect with your spouse, this can be an inexpensive option.

In our troubled economy, some spa resorts are offering tremendous discounts and relatively inexpensive packages. A few years ago, I put aside five dollars every week to go on an overnight — yup, just one night — trip to my favorite spa, Mirbeau. I travel mid-week and buy a discounted package. As tough as money is for our family, and as much scrimping as I do, I feel I am worthy of five dollars a week and asking my husband to come home early from work one night to meet the bus when the kids get home. I look forward to my yearly “vacation” and love how I feel when I come back.

(And there are also blog conferences. My last two vacations were to Bloggy Boot Camp. I highly recommend them, especially if Tara is presenting!)

Why do we think vacations for ourselves are indulgent? Do businesses believe they are being indulgent to their employees by giving them days off and vacation time? Why do we and society treat the work we do differently?

I think it's time to change that perception.

© 2011 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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