I recently returned from my first real vacation in five years. Because driving across the country to take my kids to camp is not really a vacation, although to the people in my office it sounds like one; I'm not at my desk, am I? But really, staying in a hotel with three kids is not a vacation. As any caretaker parent knows, it's just my regular life in a different location.
So anyway, husband and I and one child actually left the country to go to a place where English is not the first language. (Why the child, you ask? Wasn't this supposed to be a vacation? It was a birthday gift, so that we could stop giving him too many toys and objects. Plus, it's our job to teach our kids to feel comfortable no matter where they are, anywhere in the world. Have to start somewhere.)
So...did we stop working? Of course not. Was it still a vacation? Of course it was. Did we feel like we shortchanged ourselves, checking in with our offices? Nope.
Did people back at Keynote make fun of me for working? Of course they did. I can live with that, though. I came home and didn't feel overwhelmed. I felt like I knew what had been going on in my absence, no crises arose, nothing dire escaped my attention. Not that everything I was doing while I was gone was actually time-sensitive...but it kept the backlog down when I returned.
I did receive one appropriate email from a colleague, an article from Businessweek.com by Claire Suddath (quoting from Jeff Davidson), which appeared to be scolding me for working...except that once I read it, I realized it actually provided me with an excuse to not sign off completely.
There are two parts that hand me a ready-made excuse:
Unless you’re the business owner or CEO and you absolutely have to be reachable.... Wait, that is me. Ok, then, Katrina, carry on.
...the best rule is to communicate with your office for only two reasons: if you absolutely have to, or if the guilt and anxiety you’d feel over staying away detracts from your ability to have a good vacation.... Wait, that's me, too. Well done, then, Katrina! "Guilt and anxiety" is probably overstating by a good deal, but still, dial that down a few notches and you see why it's easier to stay in touch.
This is my business, and in part, it's my life. I love my job, and not only do I miss it when I'm not here, I feel a sense of obligation to my colleagues to be present for them when they need me.
So how did the vacation go? It was excellent, thanks for asking. We still did all the things we planned to do, and our accessibility detracted absolutely zero from the experience.
Our son knows we both love our jobs, and he has grown up in an age of 24/7 access to everything anyway. So from his point of view, nothing was amiss. The same technology tools we used to check in - iPad, iPhone - are the same tools he uses himself (when we let him). And someday, I want him to find a career he loves as much as my husband and I love ours. Something that doens't feel like "work".
A funny, mostly irrelevant, side note: isn't is supposed to be women who take the longest to get dressed and ready, pack, leave the house, whatever? Not in my family. My son and I would be out the door, downstairs having breakfast in the hotel, or out on the beach, while my husband was still packing up the chargers, wires, and devices. But then, I'm lucky that way, because I have someone to do that for me. Hmmm, must make note to train children to take over this chore, as they become old enough....