Monday, January 03, 2005

The necessity of time off

The week before Christmas I went to get my hair trimmed. As I sat in the chair, the woman next to me complained about her corporate job. "All I got for my 20th anniversary at that company was a balloon," she fumed. "And a girl in my department got the same for her first anniversary. What a slap in the face."

"Cheapskate corporate bastards," I said, and was cheered. "That's why I'm self-employed," I added, and was met with silence.

Then the woman said, "My mother worked from home. I could never do that. You don't get paid for sick time. You don't get paid vacations. You don't get benefits. She was always working." She must have seen I was getting ready to argue, because she then said, "But at least she was home for us kids."

Which didn't exactly inspire confidence given her complaints about her mother working all the time. And it didn't really do justice to what was on my mind: that for me at least, not getting paid for sick or vacation days doesn't really matter, because I make far less than minimum wage anyway. All my benefits - including the ability to stay home with my son, and the ability to take sick or vacation days when I want them - are so intangible I don't even notice them most of the time.

And that was why I decided, at the last minute, to take the week between Christmas and New Year's off.

My husband already had the time off. Despite his noble efforts to keep our son entertained while I work, those weeks his school district provides, because our computer is in the living room, his brand of entertainment (which usually requires me to look up every five minutes whether asked to or not) leaves me distracted and disorganized. These are the weeks I wish we had an office.

There was the husband-at-home issue. The other issues were visiting with family and friends, and the suspicion that most of my would-be sources were facing the same, well, issues. It had been hard enough to reach them in the two weeks before Christmas. I felt sure I'd be leaving ever more pointless voicemails during the week after.

So I took the week off from work. I needed a break anyway, and while I didn't get exactly what I needed - time to work on my business plan, organizing my workspace, and more of my fiction than just a few sentences here and there - it was nice to spend time with family and friends for a change. It reminded me that breaks, whether daily or monthly or yearly, are necessary even for those of us doing what we love. And it reminded me of how much I treasure my solitude.

May the desire and the ability to take more time off this year naturally come our way. It's just good business.


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