Posts Tagged parenting

Single Parents Can’t Take Sabbaticals

Sabbatical buried under laundry

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year.

Sometime back in the dreary days of Portland in February I was sitting at my desk and wondering what it would be like to take the summer off. I mean really take the summer off. Go on runs whenever I felt like it, sleep in past 6am, get a new stamp in my passport. In general, answer to no one.

So I gave my notice. My last day in the office was a Friday, April 18th.

I was giddy with visions of all of the “Me” time I was going to have, until the alarm rang at 6am the following Monday morning, and again on Tuesday, and Wednesday, and you get the picture.

It was then I realized that single parents can’t take sabbaticals. There’s no such thing as a sabbatical from parenthood. The only difference between the working me and the sabbatical me was I had more time to do laundry. I was still spending my mornings getting kids to school, and my afternoons picking them up and shuttling them to their various after-school activities.

The fact that I couldn’t escape my environment was killing my sabbatical. My morning, afternoon and evening routines were exactly the same as they had been when I was working full time. The only difference? I was doing laundry and running errands on weekdays during the middle of the day instead of cramming everything into my Saturdays.

So what did I do? Went back to work, well, sort of. I accepted a part-time contract writing job so I could fill the middle of my days with putting words on paper instead of putting dishes in a dishwasher. The thought of spending my entire summer driving my kids back and forth to dance and soccer, doing chores, and hearing, “I’m bored. What can I do?” was enough to scare me out of the house.

My fantasy of taking a real sabbatical was a total fail. But there is a small light at the end of the tunnel. My kids will be going to Australia with their dad for three whole weeks to visit their relatives. The first time in over 23 years that I have had three consecutive weeks to myself.

How much adventure can you cram into three weeks? I don’t know, but I aim to find out.

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Dear Mom, How did You Survive?

teenAngstI never got along with my mom. She always said I didn’t turn out the way she expected, and she never failed to remind me every chance she got. So when she passed away nine years ago I didn’t really miss her. Sounds cold and callous but it’s true. I don’t miss her criticisms but I miss the fact that I no longer have that historical link to my past.

Dear Mom,
Was I really this annoying when I was 14? Never mind, don’t answer that, I think I know the answer. My daughter is just like me isn’t she. Yep, Karma’s a bitch.

How did you handle this when you were a single mom, working full time with three angsty teenagers in the house? You must have been thrilled when I went to Finland for a year in high school. You’re welcome.

Just so you know I turned out okay. I know I was never the daughter you wanted, but I have thrived in my own unique way.

Your first grandson is graduating from college this year. Yes, that little kid who used to play in your tool drawer is now 22.

My youngest son is smart, funny and easy. You would really like him.

Then there’s my daughter. Mom, she would drive you crazy just like I did at 14. She is stubborn, defensive, creative and beautiful. She’s like that crazy brew we used to make at camp when everyone would bring a can of soup and all of them would get poured into one pot. Sometimes it tasted good, and other times it was the nastiest brew ever.

What do I do with her? I think I remember you just letting go and trusting me, and it worked Mom. You gave me wide boundaries as I recall and I never abused them. I made mistakes but I learned from them. And that’s the important part, right? Is that what I do with her? Set her free? Let her make mistakes?

This is hard. This single parenting stuff is hard, Mom. I don’t know how you survived, but you did.

I thank you for not clipping my wings and letting me become the person I am today, even though I’m not the person you wanted me to become. I’m better for it. Thank you.

Your angsty daughter,


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