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Blog, Kid wrangling

Parents need sabbaticals too

As parents, we frequently talk about (and take pride in), the fact that parenting is the hardest job in the world. However, so many of us take the daily grind of this vocation for granted. We don’t take regular breaks and consequently wind up feeling exhausted, neglected, and resentful. Sure, our parenting job is also often the best job in the world… but it rarely carries time out benefits like our paid jobs.

Think about paid employment for a minute. Most jobs come with a certain amount of annual leave. And, in addition to that, weekends/days off. We get regular breaks in order to return to our jobs refreshed.

As a parent we are usually ‘on call’ for our children 24/7, particular when they are young. And let’s be honest. It’s exhausting. We need regular breaks, from the hardest job in the world.

Historically, the concept of a sabbatical comes from the Old Testament commandment in the Bible, to stop working the fields every seventh year. Academia have adopted this practice for employees and most academic institutions offer a paid or unpaid yearlong sabbatical. More recently, other professions have followed suit, offering employees 2-12 month career breaks, sometimes called ‘long service leave’.

Stefan Sagmeister runs a successful design studio in New York and every seven years he closes his business. For a whole year. He talks about this process in his 2009 TED talk. He maintains that this break is crucial to the continued success of his brand.

I can hear what you are thinking. A whole year?! A parent cannot take a whole year out of parenting. I know. But, I’m going to advocate that regular breaks away from our family are crucial to the continuing ‘success’ of our family.

I recently spent a long weekend with my best friend, who lives a short flight way. We didn’t plan anything outrageous (partly because she was sick and I was injured) but spent three days second hand shopping, binge watching a Netflix show, eating chocolate, cheese and wine. And it was bliss. The best part was that I got to be ‘just me’ for three days. I wasn’t ‘mummy’, I was just me. Three days away left me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next three months of parenting.

So, I’m going to advocate that you, as a parent, takes a break away from your children and family at least once a week. In addition to that, take annual leave in the form of a few days or a week away from them once a year (with or without your partner). And, yes, I’m going to suggest that you take a sabbatical once every so often too.

Take a couple of weeks to unplug, unwind and connect with things that will restore you.

Here are some tips to make your sabbatical (whatever length) successful;

  1. Unplug – from social media for a length of time. Do this… if nothing else. Read more about unplugging here.
  2. Surround yourself with nature – try a bit of forest bathing!
  3. Move your body. Get out of your head and connect with your physical self.
  4. Connect with people and things that nourish you and give you energy.
  5. Expect inspiration. Breaks from the norm are known to bring enlightenment.