My wife and I – working parents with three daughters, three dogs and two remote desk set-ups at home – went away for 5 days this week.
It was a big deal – and amazing.
We hadn’t been away this long since at least 2019.
But we also learned 3 things that will hopefully make the next getaway easier to take – for us and other working parents.
1) Resilience: Those early FaceTime calls home were brutal. It wasn’t like we had left them alone with the Miniature Schnauzer in charge. We had asked their beloved and longtime caregiver to return for the week. They love her and she them. Still, those first two days were filled with questions of when we were going to come back, why we had to leave and – to our surprise – how their days at school had gone – remarkably long, detailed descriptions that were nothing like our normal dinnertime brevity. But soon the calls grew shorter as the sisters began to help each other in our absence. One night, my oldest made a chocolate dessert for my middle daughter – and it wasn’t spiked with ghost peppers! (I saw it with my own FaceTime!) They were working together, calming each other, laughing, being kids but also taking responsibility for each other. Skip the NOLS course and put that money into another getaway for my wife and me!
2) Silence: My wife and I went to Scottsdale, Arizona, to do very little. There was eating, reading, hiking and sleeping. And then we did it again. At one point, my wife, surely trying to conjure a memory of those prelapsarian days before children – and so many dogs – said: “Maybe we are just quiet people who never get quiet at home?” I looked up and nodded. From 6:30am to 9pm in our house, the only certainty is that you are working or parenting; you are not googling the lifespan of a Saguaro cactus. (Turns out north of 150 years, with some topping out at 200. And those remarkable arms? They don’t start sprouting until the cactus reaches middle age!) Since neither parenting nor working is a quiet activity, silence for working parents is, well, golden. We did not take it for granted.
3) Clarity: Whatever we were talking about, our conversations unfolded calmly and thoughtfully – kids, work, us. We had time to think about our responses and to continue the conversation until, shockingly, it came to a natural conclusion. And because of that, we had a lot of great discussions, but we also made a lot of good decisions about family and work. Yes, we had to work a bit while we were away, but that comes with the choices we’ve made. My wife started her own firm in 2013, and she’s always going to have to – and want to – talk to the people she works for and who work for her. I’m only eight months into The Company of Dads so I’m always busy. But given my company’s mission it would be hypocritical of me to work all day and miss time with my wife. That’s always been clear – even more so as I type in the bathroom of our hotel room late into the night!