How do you spend your breaks?

My big kid spent spring break in another state, with my ex-husband. Early in the week, we were talking on Skype and we had the following conversation:

“What are you doing for spring break?”

“Nothing too exciting. I’m going to work, pretty much like usual.”

“But don’t you get a vacation?”

“Yes, but I’m just using it to work.”

“But does anyone at your work take a vacation?”

“Yes, some do. I know some people are going to visit their families. One person is going to Disney World with his family.”

“So how come you aren’t doing anything fun?”

“Well, I’m trying to get caught up because of time I’ve spent with you, and your brother and doing family stuff at other times. And I’d like to get a bit ahead so that we can spend time together when you’re around.”

[Noises of not really buying my story. I try again…]

“You know how we’re planning to go on a couple of trips this summer? To Big City in the US? And foreign country?  I’m working now, when others are on spring break, so that I can take longer vacations during the summer, when you can come too.”

“Oh. OK.”

So that’s how I spent my spring break. The baby pretty much went to daycare as usual (babies like routines!) and my partner and I worked pretty much as usual – albeit with much fewer classes and meetings than a normal week.

I did do a few things to acknowledge the “break” bit of spring break. I got a pedicure. I worked more at a coffee shop than my office. And I indulged in spending some time working on a project that speaks to my soul, not just my professional strategic plan.  But I also did a serious amount of grading – which was definitely not fun.

Would I have liked a real break from work 2/3 of the way into a busy and stressful semester? Yes! Of course! But not if it meant coming back to another 5 weeks of feeling super behind and in crisis mode. I figure I’m trading a week of relaxation for an extra 30-60 minutes of sleep per night for the rest of the semester – and fewer premature gray hairs.

Was I kind of making a post-hoc justification to my Big Kid about the lameness of my break? Yes. For sure. But I do take a lot of vacations in the summer. It’s part of the deal my partner and I have made with ourselves, because we love to travel, visit far away family, and be outdoors. And since we’re basically not paid in the summer, we refuse to feel too guilty about spending a month or so away from the lab and office. And we get to take those vacations with Big Kid, and that’s important too.

Breaks are important and it would be better for me to have mini-breaks throughout the year rather than a lot of time off in the summer. But given the broad architecture of my life, this is what works for me and my family.

What works for you? How do you spend your breaks?


6 thoughts on “How do you spend your breaks?

  1. I don’t have children, but I feel like my conversation with my partner this morning went something like the conversation you had with your big kid. Except I was a lot less patient. I am on the quarter system so we had final exams before spring break. I splurged by getting a 1 hour massage during finals week, and then got a pedicure this weekend with a girlfriend. I’m spending the first three days of spring break grading (I always regret assigning term papers), then hopefully finding a full 6-8 hours tomorrow to work on manuscript revisions. Then, Thursday, Friday, Saturday I’m taking time off and unplugged with my husband. Spring break was a lot more fun when I was a student (undergrad or grad school), but if I don’t find some time to write over this break, it will likely be 10 weeks before I have time to submit this pesky manuscript!
    In solidarity!

  2. It doesn’t matter what we do in our “break from other duties”, as long as we feel some satisfaction in getting it done. We shouldn’t feel guilty if it is work-related, particularly if we feel stimulated by our work. It can be as much of a “break” to spend consolidated time on one task as it would be to do something that seems to others as though it is enjoyment, when really we are only enjoying it on the surface and would really prefer to be doing something deep and meaningful. I loved the times during “break” when I could get my teeth into something I normally couldn’t concentrate on.

  3. I had a five day Easter break. I spent it with my family sleeping, reading fiction, eating and taking long walks. I’m 2.5 years pre-tenure. I firmly believe that taking breaks makes me more creative and productive.

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