It was one a.m. yesterday night when my husband walked into my study. The evening had gone by in a frenzy. Back from a client meeting, I came home to the tantrums of my younger one refusing dinner and my elder one still nursing his aching tummy. After fixing something that the younger one would rather have and making sure that the elder one has his medicines, I rushed to answer a few pending emails as I munched on my dinner.
Just as I was putting the children to bed, my younger one reminds me that he needs to submit his science project the next day. I tell him that I will do the initial work and he can complete it the next morning. What I thought would take 30 minutes stretched on for 90 minutes. It was already nearing midnight before I could finally sit to work on an important pending article. So, when my husband walked into the study at one a.m., I was still putting the finishing touches on the article.
“I have a suggestion,” he said. “A request?”
“Yes?” I looked up at him surprised. He was hardly ever so serious.
“Our vacation is coming up…”
“Yeah! I will speak to the resort tomorrow and confirm everything once again. Can you arrange for transport?”
“Haan. I will, but it’s not about that.”
“I’m not doing your packing,” I said and stuck out my tongue at him.
“It’s not that too!”
“Please don’t bring your laptop and phone on the vacation. You are working too hard and you deserve a break.”
For a few minutes, I was speechless. I hadn’t realised that I had been so immersed in my work for the last few months that even he could notice it. I am a workaholic. I identify myself with the job that I am carrying out. The sense of fulfilment and achievement received from ticking off my to-do list is incomparable to anything else.
When you work from home, the division of one’s time and focus between family and work is difficult. I cook listening to audiobooks. When I sit to help my children with their homework, I am usually editing something that I have written. When I put them to sleep, the room is dark and I’m reading on my Kindle. Multitasking seems to run in my blood and it is hard to imagine any time of the day when I have given all my attention to the task at hand. The only exception might be when I’m writing. That does screw up work-life balance.
“When shall we live if not now?” asks Seneca, the Roman philosopher and Stoic. For me, living does not constitute only the roles that I play as daughter, wife and mother; living is also defined by my role as a writer, reader and bread-winner. When we love what we do, how can we ever complain about what we do? However, my husband had a point. Though I love to hustle, I also needed to learn how to stop and smell the roses.
I need to look out of the window more. I need to pat the cat that sleeps at my gate. I need to play football with my sons. I need to go on a long drive with my husband. I need to call up my mother more often. I need to slow down before I burnout.
So, for the first time, I’m leaving behind the laptop, phone and a jumbled mess of chargers at home. For the first time, after a very long time, I am going on a vacation without my print-outs or research material. For the first time, I am going to take a real ‘break’.
Already, I feel happy.