On Sabbatical

Early in December I had a thought flash, one of those rare and complete events when a fully formed idea hits at the right time. I’ve been struggling with burnout and depression since about July, which was really alarming to me. To have had no summer break upswing meant that something big and deep was going on. I’ve built a lot of self-care into my life and am puzzled by the state of affairs.

The idea that came to me: what if I went on sick leave?

That’s how my brain phrased it. Not vacation. Not taking a break. Sick leave.

“Interesting,” I thought. “I wonder why.” And then I thought back to my last vacation: summer break. You know, when I sanded, pressure washed, and stained the deck. When I coached 2 soccer teams. When I went through everything in the basement, reorganizing and ruthlessly decluttering. I also thought about previous vacations, where I am, of course, always a mama, always moving as a group, paying attention to the group’s moods and desires, and taking care of everyone.

“Ah,” I realized, “I do need to call it sick leave. I need – within myself – a clear indication that this is about deep and personal care.” It’s a boundary. It’s a Get Out of Guilt Free card.

I had planned to take all of January off and then spent the first two weeks sick. I wasn’t tending my soul, the medicine I needed was quite literal. Yesterday the thought that I had only 2 and a half weeks left came crashing into me. I didn’t feel like I’d been asking “What will make me happy today?” for more than a couple of days, which was of course true. I talked to Rainer, and his point was that this is not about the calendar, it’s about me. He’s right. The idea of waiting until mid Feb before actively homeschooling the kids was starting to cause me guilt. See? That’s why I need the boundary words. Sick leave.

Except we’ve changed the label. Matthias told me 8 days into the Very Bad Cold, “As soon as you called it sick leave I knew you were in trouble.”

On Sabbatical. The kids have checklists for everything they can do independently. I have a mandate to do whatever.

Right now, I’ve taken myself out for lunch. And ordered a three course meal.



2 thoughts on “On Sabbatical

  1. katharine says:

    After my fourth baby was born I suffered a depression that lasted nearly eighteen months. It might have been postpartum but for me it was more about the multitude of emotions that I had been shelving as I put the others in my family first. I cried and railed and yelled my feelings out and slowly, ever so slowly we realigned our ways of being to better allow me to take the time I need to be whole.

    In August my husband took a job across the continent and I became for all intents and purposes a single mom to four. We were terrified the depression would return but so far my plan is holding.

    Every day I wake up, entrust the children to each other and go for a run. When I get home I shower as slowly as I want to then make myself breakfast and tea. The kids are small (2 – 12) but quite competent together. They feed themselves breakfast, get dressed and look after the little one every morning. They also shuttle each other to lessons a couple of days a week.

    I am the lynchpin here and it is a thing I need to remember every day. A little time for me means that we ask get a better shot at each getting what we need.

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