The Real Reason Working Parents Need Vacations
Common wisdom has it that working parents need vacations to recover from the exhaustion that accompanies regular life.
Nooooo. The real reason we need a vacation? The two weeks leading up to it.
With summer breaks in full swing, herewith… a breakdown of the typical 14 days before a vacation. (Note: The term “vacation” used for context only — the correct term for travel with small children is “change of scenery.”)
14 days out: Begin worrying. You’re going to have to pack, find pet sitters, finish copious amounts of work, get on a plane with kids… leave the house. Start remembering how guilty you feel every time you leave Fido/Fluffy/Bubbles. Think about every possible circumstance that might occur while you’re gone. Make contingency plans for contingency plans. Begin wondering why you thought this was a good idea.
13 days out: Begin making mental lists.
12 days out: Begin making actual lists.
11 days out: Continue adding to list. Use both sides of page. Squish items into margins. Realize you should have started with a notebook instead of a single piece of paper.
10 days out: Consider workload. Resolve to finish everything ahead of time so you have nothing to think about on vacation. Laugh derisively.
9 days out: Make pilgrimage to pharmacy. Buy child-strength pain relievers, cold medicine, pull-ups, bandages, shampoo, antiseptic, sunscreen, anti-snake venom (if available), allergy relief, ear drops, antiseptic wipes, upset-stomach relief, nail clippers, emery boards, and an industrial-size box of tampons. You never know what you won’t be able to buy on site. Disney World, after all, is a developing nation.
8 Days out: Rent compact car.
7 days out: Pull out suitcase. Set aside essentials. Add contingency items. Continue adding contingency items.
6 days out: Put away suitcase… replace with industrial-sized trunk. Change compact car to SUV. Call airline to confirm surcharge for overweight luggage.
5 days out: Begin to panic about how much work is still left undone at the office. Calculate minimum amount of sleep required over next four days. Mentally consider how bad it would be to work on vacation.
4 days out: Begin assembling the carry-on bag. Realize it would be easier if kids had their own color-coordinated backpacks. Go to store and buy two kid-size backpacks. Hope they like colors.
3 days out: Return backpacks and exchange for different colors.
2 days out: Check airline website to see if there’s in-flight food service (hahahahaha). Consider essentials for three-hour plane ride. Go shopping for Goldfish crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, peanut butter sandwiches. Worry that fellow passenger might have a peanut allergy. Scrap sandwiches. Go to store and buy cereal. Create optimal travel-distraction kit including paper, crayons, coloring books, tape, books, headphones, and tablet with endless loop of SpongeBob Squarepants.
1 day out: Confirm details with pet sitter. Stop newspapers. Stop mail. Recall story on Facebook about criminal who used info about delivery stoppages to know which houses to rob. Debunk on Snopes; reinstate mail and newspapers anyway. Make note to ask pet sitter to bring in papers/mail. Share garage door code with sitter. Realize that will be useless if the power goes out. Get a key made for her. What if she loses it? Give a key to every friend and neighbor within a two-mile radius… just in case. Lay out kids’ travel clothes including daughter’s favorite white sweatshirt. Recall last year’s tragic grape-juice incident. Make mental note to avoid on-board purchase of anything purple, red, or orange.
Night before departure: Search online for recipe using all perishables in fridge. Put finished meal in garbage disposal. Order a pizza. Run dishwasher. Do all existing laundry so life will be easier when you get back (ha!). Check in online for flight. Realize you’re not sitting with the kids. Briefly consider this serendipity. Call airline to change seats.
Day of departure: Wake up early. Shower. Check email, finish last-minute work. Take last-minute inventory of packing list. Get children up. Pack essential sleeping toys including blankies and stuffed dog. Unplug coffee maker, toaster, iron. Make sure oven is off. Check again to make sure oven is off. Kennel Fido and/or do an exhaustive check to find Fluffy to make sure she didn’t escape when you packed up the car. Call her name. Offer treats. Beg. Plead. Open can of tuna. See Fluffy come out from under chair directly in front of you. Realize you’ve forgotten to refill older child’s prescription. Do speed pharmacy run.
2 minutes to departure: Check to see if oven is off.
1 minute to departure: Check one more time to see if oven is off. Make mental note to remember to close garage door.
Departure time: Leave house. Hear child announce stuffed dog is not in the car. Return to house. Retrieve stuffed dog.
Leave house again. Arrive at airport. Call neighbor to make sure garage door is closed. Board plane. Realize you’ve forgotten your own bathing suit.
Order glass of wine — just make sure it’s white.
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
I’m Lisa, I’ve spent my career chronicling the travels, challenges, and delightful messiness of fitting together work, life, and parenting. I’m the mother of two grown daughters, and I currently live in Massachusetts with my husband, two cats, and endless homeowner responsibilities.
More on Working Parents & Vacations
- Read more posts about working parents and posts about family vacations from The Family Room bloggers including 10 Things I Learned About My Family While on Vacation and How to Deal With Returning to Work After Vacation
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Post Vacation – Back to a Normal Routine