My husband and I are both very fortunate to work at higher education institutions that shut down between Christmas and New Year’s. The week or so off aligns well with our childrens’ school break, so we don’t have to take a lot of personal or vacation time to be with the kids. I was off from December 22 to January 8 while our daughter’s school was closed.
Upon my return this week, I was immediately greeted with “How was your break?” from everyone I encountered. To which I responded, “It was good, but I’m glad to be back.” The reactions I received to that honest reply have me feeling a bit defensive. People seemed shocked and even occasionally affronted that I was ready to be back. Some responded with, “Really!?! I could have used at least another week!”
Well good for you.
My break was good. We got to spend the days before Christmas and Christmas Day with family. We enjoyed wonderful food and received thoughtful presents. It was delightful to focus on my family, cooking and and the joy of the season without the distraction of work hanging over my head.
And then Christmas was over and we were left with two young children who crave routine, structure and constant stimulation for another 13 days. I had scheduled a number of play dates in advance for our daughter, who is seven, but several fell through due to cold and flu season, and even when she did have play dates, they were only for a couple of hours. My husband and I found ourselves taking the kids to the park, indoor play spaces, the zoo and the arboretum. We had arts and crafts stations set up, built five (six? seven?) LEGO sets and played more games of “Life” and “Guess Who?” than I could ever count. Still the natives were restless and craving more.
Did I mention the puppy? Yup. We gave the kids a puppy for Christmas, which means that in addition to kids going full-throttle all day, every day for 2.5 weeks, my husband and I were on constant alert for a puppy needing to go to the bathroom or chewing on something she shouldn’t. And at night we took turns sleeping on the sofa near the puppy’s crate so she would feel comfortable in her new environment.
So yes. I am glad that my kids are back in school with their friends, back to their normal routine and bedtimes, back in swim lessons. And I am glad to be back at the office with my colleagues, back to my normal routine and bedtime. I am not a monster; I love my children and cherish my time with them, but I am a poor substitute for the constant structure and stimulation they are accustomed to during their normal routine.
Next year, instead of a puppy, we might give the kids the gift of a week-long day-camp for Christmas.