It felt like a revelation last Thursday morning when I thought to myself, I’m going to take this afternoon off. Wow. My sense of relief for making that decision was quite surprising. Years ago (before I had children) my motivation had always been my next holiday. I’d been lucky to secure a contract with extremely generous annual leave and made sure I used every day of it – long weekends away, skiing trips…and booking my two weeks off for Christmas was always the first item on my January ‘to do’ list.
There’s no rocket science in knowing that when you work on your own and for yourself, if you don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. And, I’m fine with managing my time to ensure I don’t over commit, but I guess I had the naïve idea that because I was working on my own terms, and to more relaxed working hours, I wouldn’t be particularly fussed about having time off.
I was wrong.
I read countless blogs telling mums how they shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting some time to themselves..yeah, yeah, being able to escape for a couple of hours of ‘me time’ or even just grabbing 10 minutes to drink a hot cup of coffee and tune out from the world. The reality is though, between acting as negotiator for my two pre-schoolers, keeping an eye on the building work which has been going on for the past three months at our house, staying on top of client work and all my other day to day running around, actually, an afternoon off would be very nice.
My trouble is, I feel guilty. With childcare set up for ‘designated working days’, the deal is, I should be working. The thought of using one of these days as a ‘day off’ seems completely wrong. Surely there’s an expectation for me to be pinned to my phone, always checking email and able to respond within the blink of an eye?
I guess it’s all part of the juggling act and the reason why employers are required to give time off to their staff – people need a break. It’s not healthy to work all the time and particularly when you’ve experienced a stream of reasonably intense deadlines with taxing subject matter, your head needs that relaxation time all the more. I caught myself writing an email to a client the other day saying I would review a piece of work after the Easter break. As a ‘do it now’ kind of person, this was quite out of character for me. The client however, was fine with this and sure enough, having the bank holiday off didn’t do any harm – it probably did some good.
Having the ability to discipline yourself into taking time off must be one of those challenges you discover along the way when working for yourself – just when you thought you had it all mapped out in your head. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about because I didn’t think it would be much of a problem. When my husband talks about booking time off to take a family holiday, I think to myself well, I’ll tell clients I’m going to be away and plan my workload around it, but I don’t physically book the time out (I haven’t created a form for that). To be honest though, I don’t see that changing – it can’t really, certainly not in my line of work. Media (social and otherwise) operates 24/7 and with no one to turn to for support, I remain ‘on call’.
A break for a day or an afternoon though is a good thing, I’ve decided. A quick refresh and the opportunity to take a few deep breaths to steady yourself for the next challenge. The ironic thing is, that when I did give myself Thursday afternoon off, I spent the time racing around DIY stores and then got stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get home. I did however have a slightly more relaxed morning on Monday and felt all the better for it.