The first year I went away as a self employed birth worker, I noticed that during my holiday I was still responding to work emails, something I didn’t use to do when I was an employee. I didn’t resent it but I was very conscious of the difference. As an employee, I used to truly switch off when I was away, and I rarely worked outside of my contracted hours.
Sure, in my pre-parent years whilst working a postdoc and then for a biotech start up I worked very long hours, including weekends and evenings, but chose to do so myself and didn’t resent it. After becoming a parent, I did the odd bit of work in the evenings and at the week end and during holidays, but mostly I went home and did not work, and certainly never worked whilst on holidays.
Since I left science and started working for myself (I’ve been doing this nearly 10 years now), my business has grown significantly. There is always stuff to do, and in the early years, so in the evenings/at the week end I was rarely switching off. I also interact with a lot more people than I did at the beginning, so there are messages coming from many different sources and apps, messages on my business page, comments and questions, and so on, which need replying to.
In the digital age with live in, where the boundaries between work and home are somewhat blurred, I might have ended up there anyway if I’d remained a scientist. I am currently reading Call Newport’s book, A world without email, and his description of the corporate world of today certainly seems fitting with an constant barrage of messages.
As I’ve grown older, I have become more conscious than ever of the need to establish firmer boundaries in my life between work and play, to be more present to myself and my family, and to resist the desire to answer yet one more email or message. The downside of being self employed (the upsides far than make up for it however!) is that I used to have a terrible underlying feeling of guilt when I’m was not working. Unconsciouly, I found myself sticking to the idea that I ought to work 9 to 5 and be productive all the time, something that I now see as a hangover of our education and workplace system.
About 3 years ago I embarked on a journey to get out of this productive overwhelm, and I blogged about it here. It has been so utterly transformative that I am planning to create a course to help others do the same.
The other important aspect to consider is, when you have chosen a path that involves giving and caring for others, you need to spend time away from that, refilling your own tank and giving to myself, before I am ready to give again to others (I wrote a post about that too).
My first summer break as a doula, I was quite shocked to notice how tired I was, because for the first for the first 3 or 4 nights of my holidays I slept for nearly 12h each night (a normal night for me is usually between 6 and 7h of sleep).
This year, interestingly, I seem to have gone into that mode before I have even left. This is because I’ve become much better at feeling my body’s energy and wellbeing, that when I need to slow down I feel the need before I reach crashing point. July has been an intense month for me, supporting several expectant and new mothers nagivating various challenges within maternity care, and completing the first version of my new online postnatal rebozo closing ritual course. I really feel the need to slow down and recharge deep in my bones.
Ahead of my holidays I plan to shut down the physical part of my online shop. I’m making plans to tell my audience that I will not be sharing work stuff on social media (I might share the odd holiday pic instead), and I plan to only answer messages that are truly urgent.
During my holidays I no longer plan to do any work. I wrote in my goals for August to rest and just be. I’m going to go to bed earlier and sleep later, I going to have long, social family diners, I’m going to read more books and swim in as many bodies of water as I can. Bliss.
And when I’m back, I am going to fine tune my work and family time even more, to keep the fine balance of work, life and play in a state that works for me, keeps me purposeful and happy, to keep putting the things that keep me fuelled like drumming, wild swimming and dancing as the foundation of my work, and spend as much time as possible being joyfully present.
(this blog was first published in 2016 and updated in 2021)