Happy Friday everyone! I mentioned in a post earlier this week that my husband and I sat down and mapped out our vacation days for 2020. Neither of us needs to put in for vacation days at work but in my perpetual quest to figure out the “best” way to handle schedules, I thought this approach was worth a try.
Here’s my reasoning. First: it reduces conflict. We’ve often planned vacations one at a time. This makes sense; when spring break is close at hand, why worry about next December? But different family members have different ideas of what constitutes the perfect vacation. Spending a vacation on an island resort means you are not spending it skiing, or hiking in a national park, or visiting a city with a lot of history and art, or going to an amusement park. By planning the entire year at once, more people can see that their top destination choices will be accommodated in the reasonable future. So they are more willing to support other people’s top destination choices at other times.
Second, looking far ahead allows us to take advantage of some quirks in the school calendar. We will have four school aged children for the 2020-2021 school year. Our district allows for five days of “absences for educational purposes” but in general, we’re pretty much tied to the school schedule. In 2020, Labor Day comes late enough that we don’t start school until September 8th. This means that we can take our “summer” vacation during a slightly off-peak time (e.g. September 1-7 or so). Because Christmas and New Year’s fall on Fridays in 2020, we will wind up with an entire post-Christmas Mon-Fri week off. This is a good time for skiing, but we’ve not been able to take advantage of weekly rentals because we’ve wanted to be home for Christmas. In 2020 we can do both!
Having all these dates set far ahead of time allows us to make bookings when there are bookings to be had. We had real trouble last spring break finding flights with six seats when we were booking only a few weeks ahead. A 4-person hotel room is easy enough to find but when there are 7 of you, this is a different matter.
And finally, setting the schedule holistically allows us to pace ourselves, financially and in terms of time. I tend to underbuy, so it’s actually helpful for me to see that what we’ll spend on vacations for the whole year is reasonable. Someone with the opposite tendency might consciously tone down one vacation in order to spend more on a different one, and not blow the budget for the year. As for time…both my husband and I felt like we took a lot of days off in 2019. There’s nothing wrong with this, and we made a lot of wonderful memories, but going into 2020 knowing that these are the four weeks we plan to take off will allow us to manage our workloads and the kids’ expectations. Given that we’ll be taking days off for parental leave as well, managing this is probably more important than it was in 2019.
(As for stuff coming up…this is the upside of flexibility. We could take an extra day or two around a long weekend somewhere if it seemed like a good idea, but if I know we already have some solid vacation plans, I feel less like we’re missing an opportunity if we choose to stay home during these shorter breaks.)
My kids were off school on Tuesday (election day becomes teacher in-service day in our district). I took my older boys to Barnes & Noble, and after some book shopping we had hot chocolate together in the cafe. It was really nice!
I’ve been tracking my time for 4.5 years — which is a bit extreme, I know. But I’m not the only one who’s made a long-term go of it! I enjoyed this blog post from Raphael Rosen on tracking his time for the 8760 hours of a year. Interestingly, though he’s running a business, he wound up logging as much time with his kids as he did at work (about 40 hours a week for both). One thing that seeing a great many time logs has taught me is that if you, as a parent, wish to spend a lot of time with your kids, you probably will — even if your work is intense. Of course, plenty of other things will go, but despite the larger cultural narrative, those hours tend to get protected.
I am one week into “NaNoEdMo” — my modified version of National Novel Writing Month. Instead of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in November, I’m editing an existing novel. I have committed to spending one hour per work day on this project. So far I’ve done this every day. It’s going…OK. I like parts and don’t like parts. I think it’s good to exercise the fiction muscles from time to time. NaNoWriMo is getting me to do that, when I hadn’t in a long time. So that’s a positive.
Less positive: This essay in the Sydney Morning Herald, complaining about my recent New York Times piece on how new parents could manage their time to stay productive at work. I think it’s a somewhat shallow analysis to believe that these two statements — working mothers face discrimination and obstacles AND people can make their own lives and careers better though smart strategies — can’t both be true. Plus, my experience is that people will face even more obstacles in terms of financial stress/dependency and an unfair division of labor at home upon dropping out of the workforce or scaling back. My work is focused on helping women in particular see that dropping out or scaling back are not their only options. Do I hope society will change? Of course. Are there things we can do individually? Yes! Life is not either/or.
In any case…Next week is going to feature a few posts on related topics (nothing more on the Sydney Morning Herald though, I promise!). I got a great reader question from someone who leaned back in the throes of the little kid years when she didn’t know to ask for/demand support, but now she’s bored — not a good use of anyone’s talents! Best of Both Worlds will feature an interview with Jennifer Petriglieri, author of Couples that Work (about two-career couples). Next week’s entry in the Tranquility by Tuesday series will look at how, practically, someone who’s leaned back a bit can lean back in. So stay tuned for all that!
In the meantime, as the days get darker and colder (in the northern hemisphere) it’s a good time to re-read The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter.
Or maybe you just want cute photos. If so, check out this blog post at Yana Shellman Photography.