Friday miscellany: Annual vacation planning

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.

24 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: Annual vacation planning

  1. That first photo of you and Hubs alone where he’s kissing your head brought tears to my eyes – LOVE! They are all great but that one in particular spoke to me.

    Congrats to all!

    1. @Connie – I kind of like the one of us kissing in the midst of all the running around children…as if to show what all this kissing leads to 🙂

    1. @Anu- Yana is awesome. And my maple tree cooperated in keeping its leaves through that weekend! I’m really thrilled with them.

  2. The SMH article makes me angry. Of course systematic solutions would make everything easier, but am I supposed to not work (or not try to work optimally) until subsidized daycare and 6 months paid time off becomes the normal?

  3. I laughed when I saw the “goofy” family photo. We’ve been taking our own family Christmas shots for 32 years. I have 4 boys and 1 girl (my girl is in the middle, like yours) ages 21-31. Sometimes we’ve had a family member or friend take the photos but many times (in the early years) we were using the tripod. We frequently used the “goofy” pose to get the kids more co-operative. I have all the Christmas cards, photos and Christmas letters (28 years of letters!) in a 3-ring binder. My plan for 2020 is to get them all uploaded and printed in some kind of photo book. Good memories!

    1. @Leslie – definitely print them up! Photo books are wonderful, and you can give them to all your adult children as gifts. I’m sure they’ll love them.

  4. Re: Sydney Morning Herald article

    The author’s reference to “systemic change” is just an intellectual way of saying, “I don’t want to deal with my problems myself; get the government/employers/anybody-besides-me to fix them waaaaaa”.

    There are “systemic problems” but I personally think it would be better for most people to try to influence what they can influence (for example their own schedules), rather than complain about the way things are.

  5. Why didn’t the author of the Sydney Morning Herald article urge her country’s legislators to support subsidized childcare and more parental leave? That could help make a change for working mothers.

    Instead, this article is like one of those old Andy Rooney segments on “60 Minutes”: one person complaining about something, but doing nothing about it. At least Rooney was sometimes amusing while grousing about airport security or coffee cans.

  6. That Sydney article is so disheartening. Laura, you offer women/moms/anyone unique ways to live their best life! I am a working mom of 3, trying to lean German on the side. I try and do 2 sessions a day for total 20 min. But I’m only getting it done ~3x/week. I don’t feel guilty; I feel proud! That’s still a habit 🙂
    When a doctors appointment/airline flight is delayed, I open the Kindle App. I’ll take those minutes as MINE to read. I’m not gonna give those to mindless social media. I have books to get through 🙂
    At the end of each and everyday you own your life. No one can change it more than you can and the Sydney article was far to much inaction and pessimism for me.
    It’s a shame she couldn’t even try some of the tactics you provide. I think they’re great!!!

  7. Like other people who have commented, I’m very frustrated by the overly simplistic article in the Sydney Morning Herald. I think she completely missed the point of your article and I doubt she’s ever listened to your podcasts or read your books. You have helped and inspired countless women, myself included, and I hope you don’t take what she said personally. The article was critical and yet, didn’t provide any practical tips or solutions at all.

    To end on a positive note, your family photos are SO lovely!

    1. @Taryn – thank you. I don’t take it personally – I’m kind of flattered that people might be talking about me in Australia, even if I think they’re misrepresenting my ideas 🙂

      I am liking the photos too! So fun when they turn out well!

      1. Hi Laura! Been following for a couple of years, and an Aussie. I have been very inspired by your approach. I think one of the huge disconnects in the approach between Australia and the US comes from the tax treatment of childcare. I have ended up getting a nanny due to various health issues of my children and I am fortunate that I work from home. But my nanny costs are not tax deductible and are really expensive. I am willing to do it because it will keep my career going, it is flexible and I earn decent money (although a lot of it goes to the nanny!). However this makes getting a nanny unattainable and a waste of time for most Aussie women. Childcare centres come with many germs and is unreliable in my experience. So many mums end up looking after the kids, because that is what it is supported in Australia… If you could tax deductible nanny costs I think there would start being different approaches in Australia. My thoughts anyway!

        1. @Nicole – our childcare costs aren’t really deductible either. There is an amount you can deduct but it is a small proportion of what care costs. I can’t claim it as a business expense – it’s all rather curious. I can spend crazily on a business trip and deduct that but not the childcare that allows me to travel in the first place!

  8. “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.”

    Yes, yes, yes. We have many friends in dual-physician families. When the woman’s field is felt to be “less intense” or she chooses to go part-time, guess who is stuck with laundry, Target runs, and sick days?

    I don’t want to take days off to shop at Target.

    1. @Virginia – nope, it is not a wise use of resources to have an extremely highly paid woman with specialized skills taking time away from work to do housework and errands. If she enjoys these things, great. But if it’s just that someone has to do them…there are other options.

  9. Your family photoshoot is just so much fun. The maple tree is an amazing backdrop!! I love the one where you are all holding hands and walking. So fun to think next year you will have a cute new littlest one in the mix too!!

  10. Fun to see your growing family. I’ve been following your blog since you were a mother of 2. I would love to hear where you are vacationing next year.

  11. The photos of your family are beautiful, Laura. My favorites are the one of you and your husband kissing w the kids running around (definitely should print and frame!), and the one of the six of you walking and holding hands — and the two photos of all of you crouching down and smiling at each other in the leaves. The outfits are so well-coordinated without being matchy as well. Glad you got a chance to do (made time for 🙂 ) both family and maternity photos!

  12. I loved seeing your family photos–it was kind of you to share them with us! Beautiful family, and while I’m sure there are spats and meltdowns, there’s a lot of love in those shots. I’m an only child myself, and only have one child, so I watch your big family life with wonder and amazement.

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