I shared in my last post that our family goes to Santa Barbara for my husband’s work trips about once a year. We use the time to visit family and friends, but the main purpose is work, which means a lot of things are out of our control. We’ve had to troubleshoot quite a lot over the years, so let me share some of the unique challenges we’ve had and how I’ve reframe how I think about work travel generally.
Tag: work life balance
My family makes trips to Santa Barbara for work and to see friends and family once or twice a year. My husband still works remote for the university and when we first moved to Modesto we were optimistic that our visits would be well-timed, quick, and fun. But we are well into the third calendar year of the pandemic and none of the trips have been very well-timed or convenient, but there have been lots of moments for fun.
I’m excited to document what it’s like to travel and do an extended stay with a young family. This is a unique type of travel because it’s not a vacation! These trips are typically open-ended, meaning we don’t know when we can return home and have to extend the stay one day at a time to fit the needs of Nick’s work. Our last two trips were 8 and 11 days long, but were projected to be 5 and 7 days long, respectively.
My partner puts in much longer hours on these trips, around 10 hours, but it’s not out of the question for him to do a 12 hour day. When working from home he works a typical 8-5. His trips might loom on the horizon for months, but we never know the precise dates until a week or so before, which makes planning really hard. (He’s had to take emergency trips solo, too, as it’s just the nature of his job.) It’s also important to remember that usually I am not solo-parenting at home, but it feels that way on the trip. We live out of a hotel room, have one car, sometimes have to keep up with school, and have had very limited access to services during the pandemic (no housekeeping and no room service).
Tips for doing extended stays with a family:
1. Buy your food from the grocery store, and only eat out when you must or when it’s been planned.
It’s expensive and emotionally and physically taxing to eat every meal out, particularly with little kids who don’t want to wait or sit still, and those with food allergies. Generally, I don’t think eating out at restaurants with my kids is fun. There, I said it. Now you know I’m not a cool mom.
I’ve been making great strides with my 2018 habit changes, but I have been struggling to find ways to treat myself. My favorite thing ever is a good ol’ Treat Yo Self day, but generally speaking, mimosas and fine leather goods are not sustainable or attainable healthy treats. On the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin often talks about how using food, drink, and shopping as treats undermines the positive habits changes we are trying to make. For example, one of my big goals this year is to stick to a budget and get back to saving monthly. My partner and I even started using the You Need a Budget app to better track our spending. It’s been going great so far, but the last thing I want to do is treat myself with shopping when what I want most is to save.
I think occasional planned indulgences that are food or shopping based are fine, I just want to get away from the notion that they are treats. We are all so busy with our daily lives that we may feel depleted and drained. That’s why treats are effective at staving off burn-out. I’ve pulled together a list of experiences that are very simple, low cost or free, pleasurable treats.
I shared previously that I’ve been listening to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Usually I’m obsess over a blog or a book to get my inspiration or motivation fix, but I love the portability of a self-help podcast. It feels extra efficient! I also really like the sisterly banter between Gretchen and her sister, Hollywood writer/producer Elizabeth Craft. I think it can be very discouraging when you’re trying to work on yourself and the people you’re reading/listening to are preaching and make it seem like they have it all figured out, but Gretchen and Elizabeth don’t do that. In fact, they give themselves demerits and gold stars at the end of each episode, and I find that very relatable.
Here are my five favorite lessons I’ve learned from Happier with Gretchen Rubin:
I’ve been revisiting some of my Pins about parenting and motherhood, and one blog post really struck a nerve. Allison over at Our Small Hours wrote Tips for the Introverted Mom and I found it very useful to help me name the frustration I’ve been feeling lately.
I discovered in the last few years that I am an introvert. Even though I enjoy being social, I become very worn out when I have to interact with people for extended periods of time. In my former job I got to strike a good balance of working independently and working one on one with students and colleagues. It was always those independent blocks of time that I relied on to get me through the day. I don’t get many of those alone hours now that I’m a stay at home parent. Usually I’m able to power through, but sometimes it’s a real challenge. When I feel my patience wearing thin, I say things I don’t truly mean or I speak in an irritated tone.
We all have situations at home or work that can really try an introvert’s patience. If your’e an introvert, here are some tips for finding respite.
I’ve listened to many podcasts and read blog posts recently that have really struck a chord with me. Though their messages were a little different, they essentially boil down to the same thing: As busy adults we have the right to claim time for ourselves, to be unproductive and unplugged, to pursue creative talents, to dabble in a hobby, to unburden ourselves from side-hustling, and stop worrying about the state of our homes. But how do we square this with the messages about “adulting”? Whether you use the word ironically or detest it, adulting still aptly describes the way adults spend most of their waking hours—working and performing other essential responsibilities. I say most, because there are those little stolen minutes or hours that we may use doing something shameful according to society/your parents/journalists/the media/politicians/you fill in the blank. The shameful stuff I’m talking about are the unproductive hours consuming media, engaging in hobbies or skills we can’t or don’t want to monetize, performing self-care, or just generally not engaging with culture the same way previous generations did (gambling in Las Vegas, eating at chain restaurants, golf, the list goes on).
I’m not making the argument that using the term adulting means I’m looking for affirmation for being a grown up, and I don’t want to rule out my dream of being a mermaid either, but I do want to address the guilt people feel, particularly women, when they spend any amount of time not attending to their careers, family obligations, and homes—all in the domain of adulting.
Last week we took a family trip to Santa Barbara. Nick had to do some work at his office, and we wanted a getaway and a chance to catch up with family and friends. We ate well, laughed a lot, and spent quality time with loved ones. In short, it was awesome. I want to bottle up the feeling of vacation and bring it home with me, which is why I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating a bucket list of summer activities.
Part of me hates the idea of committing to yet another list. I’ve been listening to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft for a bit, and Gretchen’s idea of designing your summer really spoke to me. You can listen to her talk about it here and here. Rather than create a list of things I have to do, I’m making a plan to do some things I can’t wait to do.
Life has been moving quickly. We’ve been doing the house hunt for over two months, and we finally have an accepted contract!
The whole process has been nothing but a series of ups and downs. There is nothing like the high of finding a house that could be your home if only you can get it. There’s also nothing like the low of making a solid offer and finding out yours hasn’t been selected. It’s easy to get discouraged, but along the way there were also little blips of excitement. We were back-up offers on two houses, and both houses were slated to fall out of escrow. We crossed our fingers and prayed. The first time it didn’t pan out, but the second time it did.
I was reveling this morning about how far we’ve come, and I got so overwhelmed. My heart started pounding and my vision started to narrow. I thought, did I drink to much coffee? And maybe I had, but I knew that what I was feeling was anxiety. When I’m anxious I can’t think straight. I might have a list of ten things to do, but I can’t figure out how to prioritize them and I lack the motivation to start. When I’m anxious I want to escape, but I don’t have anywhere to go for privacy in this (currently three generational) house. When I’m anxious I feel lost, and I start to question all of my life decisions.
…be productive. …relax. I find myself thinking both of these thoughts throughout the day, and I’m beginning to think these concepts are completely meaningless.
I hurry up to finish whatever task so I can move on and be ‘productive.’ As a stay at home mom, ‘productive’ looks and feels differently than I thought it would. I thought I’d feel productive if I did a daily workout, if I cooked nutritious meals, if I completed all my household responsibilities, and the list goes on. But I don’t really feel productive unless I’ve checked off something on my personal to-do list, like write or read or create. I’d like to say that I do all of those three things every day, but unfortunately I have some days (or even streaks of days) where I’m 0-3.
When I’m not rushing through something to be productive, I’m hurrying through something else so I can ‘relax.’ Relaxing feels elusive because in order to relax I would have to get rid of the pit of worry in my stomach or the throbbing tension headache. I haven’t mastered shutting off my brain long enough to feel the sweet relief of relaxation. And when I’m done relaxing, I often find something unpleasant waiting for me, something that wasn’t attended to properly before I hit pause on my responsibilities.
I am hopeful that if you’re reading this that you can relate. I have to believe that I’m not the only one struggling with the need to be productive and the desire to relax. I’m going to try and put both ideas aside and muddle through just living. I’m going to be more present in the daily monotony and stop worrying about when I’ll get that next blog post up or that long overdue story edited. I’m going to approach relaxing like I do living and put it in my calendar and check it off the list. I put ‘read a book’ in my calendar two weeks ago. I’ve finished two books and I’m onto a third, which is three more than I read in all of 2016.
If you never make time for yourself, for productivity or relaxation or both, you never will until you find a way to make yourself accountable and stop the cycle. I adhere to goals when I write them down in my journal or calendar and then talk about them with other people. If I keep my goals a secret, I let myself down every time. I don’t think I matter a whole lot, and therefore I can easily dash my own hopes.
Maybe making plans to be productive or relax is silly and both should only carry as much weight as something like brushing one’s teeth at least two times a day. I have an app that reminds me to breathe, and sometimes I ignore the friendly chime altogether. I’m not dead, so clearly I’m inhaling and exhaling, but breathing is probably key in restoring balance to productivity and relaxation.