For only the second time since Christmas week, I took a week off from work for the July 4th holiday week. I’m terrible at vacation. I end up missing work, not in the “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob” a la Office Space way, but like actually waking up and being sad that I don’t have work to do in the morning. The way my editing job at Splice Today goes, I work later in the evening and earlier in the morning. I’m fortunate to have this schedule because my days are freed up to spend chaperoning my kids to every goddamn activity, sport, job, social event and musical practice they have, and writing when I’m lucky enough to safely have them tucked simultaneously somewhere.
During vacation, the children are not tucked anywhere because they are directly in front of my face. Parents who are good at spending time with their children are probably happy about this. Don’t get me wrong. I love sitting in a beach chair with my book, toes in sand, while my kids frolic in the surf and collect hermit crabs and whatnot. I’ve just never been very good at the more direct-interaction style of parenting. I don’t want to go the water park. I loathe water parks. I don’t want to go to the amusement park/boardwalk pier because I loathe rides and carnivalesque people. I’m really not the kind of mom you want to have during normal life, and I’m especially not the kind of mom you want to have on vacation. If I’m on vacation, I don’t want to do anything except read a book and eat really good seafood and maybe have a martini or two, and that’s about it. If I had a lot of money, I’d plan vacations around the world’s best sea glass beaches and go sea glass hunting when I wasn’t doing one of the above-mentioned things. I’m pretty much like vacationing with your grandmother.
My family is full of addictive personalities. For years they tried to paint me as an alcoholic like my dad, only I didn’t drink enough to fit the bill. I felt like this disappointed everyone. No one likes it when their expectations aren’t met, even if their expectations are apparently really low. So I guess they’d be thrilled to know I have a workaholic personality since there’s probably a Workaholics Anonymous where you can go learn 12 steps on how to put down your laptop and start doing yoga or some other bullshit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking work, especially if you like what you do. I stood in front of my laptop for 15 full minutes before I left for vacation. I couldn’t remember ever not having it for a week. Comforted only by the fact that I can write anything in the “Notes” function of my iPhone, I put my laptop in a drawer and tore myself away from it. This is progress.
On vacation, I also have an annoying habit of not knowing what day of the week it is. I know, that’s supposed to be the whole point, but I find it very disconcerting and I often end up buying print newspapers at beach towns so that I can have some concept of time. I keep saying I “need to learn how to relax” and purposefully doing things like sitting in a chair and watching the sunset without Instagramming it: a true challenge for me.
One of vacation’s problems is that it’s not often actually relaxing. Packing up a big family, buying food, spending more money than you usually do in a week, traveling, driving, settling in and unpacking only to pack back up again, tons of laundry, sandy shit everywhere… it really amounts to the opposite of a state of relaxation, especially if you’re the mom. Go on a vacation away from your kids? You just feel guilty. I guess there are worse things to fail at, but for me, taking two weeks off from work a year is a chore, not a luxury.
-Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.