I took nearly two weeks of vacation at the end of 2010 that included Christmas and New Years. It was the fi
rst time I had been away from the office for two weeks. At first, I went through a short period of detox - a little shaky, anxious and constantly gazing at my blackberry almost feeling guilty for being out of the office. Apparently I was not alone. According to a survey conducted by Right Management, 66% of employees failed to use up their vacation days in 2010.
A recent article in Forbes attributes the reasons for not taking vacations to the recession, less discretionary income, and fear of being laid-off. However valid the reasons, the article touts the therapeutic value of an out of town vacation and gives reasons why. I disagree. While some of my colleagues were gallivanting through New Zealand and Australia and friends of ours were posting Facebook updates of "Christmas in Europe 2010," we were "home for Christmas 2010" right here in Houston. "Not too bad" I thought, "I'll get to reconnect with my family, rest, relax, take it easy, sleep in, read the paper, and enjoy the Christmas season," or so I dreamed.
The following are a few takeaways from my "Houston 2010" vacation:
1) Do not give your three-year-old and 16-month-old cart blanche access to chocolate fudge and sugar cookies and expect them to behave at the grocery store.
2) Chocolate fudge and sugar cookies are the children's equivalent to PCP and speed.
3) Asking a three-year-old to "hold it" while at the hardware store is an unreasonable request.
4) Kroger does not make you pay for a broken spaghetti bottle that your kid threw out of a grocery cart.
5) If you are a friend, please, please, please do not attend our annual day-after-family-Christmas gathering when you or your family has been sick with the stomach flu. Yes, it is the gift that keeps on giving, and I have been thanking you in four-letter ways ever since.
6) When your child catches a stomach bug, you will catch it too.
7) I learned how close I could get to dying and that my will to live is far greater than I thought.
8) My wife, who stays at home with our children, has a really hard job. I knew this but, playing the role of Mr. Mom if only for a week gave me a new appreciation of all she does.
9) Grandparents who take the kids for a few days should be canonized as saints.
10) I love my wife and kids and look forward to future vacations together.
While my "Christmas 2010" vacation was not relaxing, I am planning to do this more often, though next time we will head out of town. I recognized that a vacation does not necessarily equate to quiet, rest and peace - but every man has his fantasies - and that is mine. Being at home for two weeks meant a routine (albeit not peaceful) and connection with my family that allowed me to be a part of their lives in a very meaningful way. I look forward to doing this again, incorporating the lessons learned above, and without another stomach virus.