Home Alone

There is no place like home. And when you want a break, sometimes there is no place like home alone.

Even with just my spouse, our engaging 9-year old son and one spunky canine pup at home, it can be a relief to have two out of the first three leave town so you have a break for yourself. When the ask – “Do you mind if we run up to Sugar Bowl for the last weekend of skiing?” surfaced, my immediate thought was “Care to make it long weekend and we’ll see what we can do about school?”

How parents with multiple kids, single parents, or those taking care of older parents, handle the day-to-day grind is a mystery to me. If you could bottle and can that ability somebody should; it’s priceless.

The dirty little secret from my former days as a road warrior (sans being a parent with a child) was that any number of colleagues I worked with – mostly dads –  used the refuge of the work road trip as a sanctuary. Those trips meant that while they still might get the call, they had less of a feeling of being “on call.”  When home is San Ramon and you’re in Detroit there’s not a lot that you can do about much of anything.

While out of sight is not always out of mind, it sure can help. There is even a word for such a physical escape, hejira.

And when you can’t or don’t want to escape, a break can come if others in the household make an exit for you.

The research regarding performance, whether it’s work-related, athletic, or just being an everyday human is the value of taking a regular real break. While mine was a weekend day, the advantages of taking a modest break during your day for “you time” is pretty compelling; clients who grab 10-15 minutes during the rush of day to do something as simple as walk around the block, or walk across the corporate campus, report greater clarity of thought, better energy, and getting more things accomplished.

When part of your job – whether it be the stay-at-home parent (which should be the stay at home working parent for most people) or the parent who mixes out-of-home work with parenting – is taking care of others, it can be a boost to just have just yourself to contend with for a short spell.

While the guys hit the slopes at Sugar Bowl for what turned out to be a notch longer than 24 hours, I attacked things that called my name to be cleaned or fixed inside the house, several hours of yard work, three loads of laundry, a trip to Costco and another one to Bi-Rite, a couple of hours of off-leash dog play at the gated dog park, dinner by myself in less than 60 minutes at Delfina, and the first two consecutive days of working out in months.

The result? After some “me” time I felt refreshed.

And after that little break I’ll confess to missing the noise and clutter of the full pack back.

While the chaos and semi-confusion that marks family living was there again before I knew it, that sense of having a little peace and accomplishment will stay with me for some time.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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