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Can Moms Have Sabbaticals Too?

peru-kidsMoms of the world, this post’s for you.  Whether you work full time, part time or devote all of your energy to your family, are sabbaticals for you?

Alina Tugend, a New York Times reporter broaches this subject at the end of her recent column, “The Best Time To Ask For a Sabbatical Could Be Now.” She writes: “How do I get a sabbatical from my full-time job of parenting? I’ve requested one from my children, but have been denied. They’ve advised me to reapply in a few years.”

The benefits of taking a break from the mom job has few down sides.  You can come back rejuvenated, fired up with new perspectives, happier with yourself, more confident and more committed than ever to being best-mom. Oh yeah, and you can return R-E-S-T-E-D.

While the full monty of 6 to 8 weeks away (or more) won’t be realistic when it comes to sabbaticals for moms, what will work is a shorter version of taking a break.

Tah Dah! – Introducing the MINI-SABBATICAL. Using the sound principles and concepts of a full sabbatical experience (at least four weeks away in purposeful pursuits), you can take 2 weeks and achieve many of the same goals.

Check out this morning’s email from my soon-to-be divorced working mom sister, Carolyn Stapleton, Director of Programs at Beech Acres Parenting Center in Cincinnati:

“Hate to say it but I have been reading so many stories lately where I think to myself, well good for them but they don’t have kids.  Mostly divorce books, like Eat, Love, Pray, I’m actually jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert.  If I had a year to travel and could move on, that would be great, but that’s not reality for a lot of people.  So I think if you two can figure out how working mothers can take a sabbatical, you’ll have a market!”

My next blog posts were going to let you follow a mini-sabbatical I just finished (16 days with the one goal of rejuvenation), but  I’ve been I am reminded that while career sabbaticals boost performance and help us live more fulfilling lives – moms have unique challenges. Making the arrangements for the kids and totally disconnecting (requirement for sabbaticals) ain’t going to be easy.

Mothers are notoriously fierce about making tough choices when it comes to the best for a son or daughter. When we accept and understand that getting away from our kids isn’t just a selfish, all-about-me decision but an experience that will bring extraordinary payoffs for them as well as us, then we’re on the threshold of a starting place for how sabbaticals really are for moms – at every stage of your parenting status. This is the essence of a sabbatical mindset.

Three and a half years ago, my sister made arrangements for her son, Andre (age 7 at the time), to be cared for while she joined me and a group of 8 women on a 12-day journey through Peru.  Part of our challenge was spent hiking for four days on the Inca Trail achieving the summit above Machu Picchu on the last morning. It was no piece of cake even for my Colorado-hiking sister.

Carolyn was the only mother-of-a young-child on that trip and I know she worried at times about how Andre was doing. Since communication was non-existent, she didn’t have answers during the trip.  About six weeks after the trip, I asked her, “How did the experience make a difference in your life?”

“For one thing,” she said, “I feel like I’m a better parent.” Whether it was something she experienced in the deep dark eyes of all of those Peruvian children or the times when she squatted down to talk to a child begging in the street, something obviously happened that was different than a usual Moms’ Night Out experience.  Perhaps, it was more about the views at Dead Woman’s Pass. Perhaps it was realizing that her mommy routine is much more than routine, because at its core is a towheaded boy with sparkling eyes.

Carolyn may have forgotten her answer, which is easy to do after three years back in mommy-land.  To me, that only substantiates that a series of mini-sabbaticals – not just one – will keep us fresher, more effective (in jobs and as parents) and happier with our day-to-day lives. (Rebecca Bradley, CEO of Partnership Coaching presents a “super-size reset button” idea – a perfect new way of thinking about continuing our success.)

I’ll return to this topic of moms and sabbaticals.  Meanwhile, follow me along on a mini-sabbatical and begin to think – “how could I do that?” I worked extremely hard to make it happen for myself. And you can, too.

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