OLW 2014 | Reflections on Personal Sabbatical

Jennifer Wilson

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April 22, 2014

One week ago I returned home from six days away from my husband and daughter, the longest we’ve ever been apart. I missed them dearly, but I have no guilt or regrets.

In this post I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings on taking a personal sabbatical, including the surprises I experienced.

Why I took a vacation without my family and what I learned from the experience.

I shut down my computer and turned on the TV. I had reached my goal of finishing enough work before leaving so that I could travel without my laptop—and had one whole hour to spare before heading to the airport. I watched an episode of Property Brothers, but found myself fidgety.

I didn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t working, cleaning, or caring for my family. As I sat in the airport waiting to board, still fidgety, I realized this was the reassurance I was looking for. I needed this personal sabbatical; I needed time to check out from the day-to-day and re-learn how to be still.

I needed space to remember who I am and what I am doing.

I will be the first to admit that I am very fortunate. I have work that I enjoy to fill my days and pay the bills. I have a supportive, hard-working husband. We’re able to send my daughter to a daycare that allows her to thrive and me to be an even-better mom.

I also work too many hours and worry too much. I don’t get enough exercise or enough sleep. I’m tired—and whether your work is in the home or outside of it, I bet you understand what I mean. Sometimes you just wish there was a pause button, so that you can have a chance to catch up.

An Act of Radical Self-Care

I was reluctant to admit that I needed any kind of intentional effort on self-care. I knew the facts, but working from home gives me a lot of time alone. I felt like asking for any more would be indulgent.

I had planned to visit my best friend this spring, but to also take along my daughter. But when my friend shared the good news that she had accepted a new job and would be moving, the better answer became clear.

I would visit her solo, helping to pack and enjoy her last bit of time in beautiful San Diego. Boxes full of expensive dishes would be no place for an always-on toddler and I had a great reason to accept this time for myself.

The tickets were purchased and I crafted the previously-mentioned plan of attack that would allow me to disconnect for six whole days.

At first I did feel guilty, but every more-seasoned mom I spoke with said that I shouldn’t. The more I sat with the idea and the closer the time came, the more confident I felt in the decision. 

A Little Goes a Long Way

That fidgety feeling lasted for most of the first day. Then I quickly melted into a new groove of sleeping in and not having to be anywhere at a specific time. I read a lot when my friend was working and went with the flow when she wasn’t. (Confession: I even caught a few episodes of Kim & Kourtney Take New York.)

To be honest, I expected my phone to suck me in every day as I tried to craft complicated emails with two thumbs. I expected to read business books on my Kindle (which I did) and be struck with so many ideas that I’d have to ask for a pad of paper.

None of that happened. To my own surprise, I simple enjoyed myself and appreciated the space I was holding for each moment.

We did things together and with her friends. I was so focused on relaxing that I was able to easily resist the “danger” alerts that my introversion provides in new situations. I actually had fun and enjoyed not being in the driver’s seat—literally and figuratively.

While I soaked up the California sunshine, I did miss my family a lot. Skype calls, video messages, and photo texts made it all easier, but by the end I was ready to be home. I was also ready to bring as much of my easy-going attitude with me as possible.

Rededication after Sabbatical

Almost every time I’ve traveled in recent years, I’ve loved feeling unencumbered by my stuff. We don’t really need that much to survive and even thrive, which is all the more apparent when you’re away from home.

I noticed how happy it made me to have fewer decisions and a focus on living life each day. This experience reminded me that my journey towards space this year is working. I made my word visible with this trip and it left me rededicated to seeing it through.

Creating space in my home had been a stumbling block thus far, but since returning home I’ve cleaned out the bathroom closet, both freezers, and the fridge. One of the kitchen counters has been cleared and laundry has been put away.

Taking a personal sabbatical was not part of my original plan to create space, but I strongly feel my efforts made the stars align for this. I feel lighter, less tired, and more ready for the rest of 2014.

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10 Comments

  1. Rosa

    Jennifer, I am a fan of your work but this is my first time leaving a comment. It you don’t know Liz Lamoreux, you should check out her blog. I took an online class from her a couple of year ago called ‘create space’, exactly about creating space to be still in the middle of our everyday life. But the real magic happens at her retreats, I attended on in the Oregon Coast last year, and I work from home, and I have no kids, so leaving felt very indulgent and I felt guilty but when the guilt melted away, it was wonderful. Find out more here
    http://www.bepresentretreats.com/?mc_cid=68fd56483e&mc_eid=d1065f7ea4

    Reply
  2. Christine N

    That’s awesome, this personal sabbatical concept! And glad that yours was everything you hoped it would be.

    Reply
  3. Honore

    How grand that you had such a relaxing and revealing personal sabbatical. We should all give ourselves that kinda “space.” May you continue to thrive…and when’s the next one?

    Cheers~

    Reply
  4. Jen

    I was very happy to read that your guilty feeling drifted away and you were able to be present in your adventure!

    Reply
  5. Trish Allard

    I am a great fan of taking time away from the ordinary, often stressful home life. Every year for the past 5 I have taken beginning with 10 day and now it is up to 6 weeks to fly home to Ca and spend the weeks helping my sisters and hanging out with my favorite old friends. I have have found it invaluable because do spend lots of time reevaluating how I’ve spent my time at home and finding new ways to enrich it. My gift back to one of my sisters is to organize and fru-fru up anything she is having trouble containing. We did half of her garage last time, and she has a few closets she wants help with. They make me feel so at home and I come back to my home much refreshed and happy to have bonded with my sibs. I highly recommend it!

    Reply
  6. Fawn Carriker

    For years my best advice to young(er) wives/mothers has been “You can’t care for them unless you take care of you.” I am so glad you found this personal sabbatical refreshing, and that the “space” you gained has carried over to life back home. – Fawn

    Reply
  7. Libby Wiers

    Well done! We always need the occasional time away to recharge, and most of us don’t do it often enough.

    Reply
  8. Cheri Mandaquit

    Congratulations on making time for you! As you discovered, you can come back refreshed and recharged. An annual sabbatical helps us to focus and realize what’s really important in our lives. I think I’ll take one!
    Good job!

    Reply
  9. Cyndi Brideaux

    That’s what I love about going camping. Totally unplugged and sharing 1:1 time with friends and family. Rejuvenating!

    Reply
  10. Gab

    Great post!

    Reply

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