Summer is conference season in the child support community. I have been enjoying a busy travel schedule that gets me out of the office and closer to where the real work of serving families is being done. Those trips are all business. I rarely see anything other than the airport and the hotel. With numerous invitations, coupled with my goal to spend as much time as possible out in the field, it can be tough to find the time to recharge.
This summer I decided to be purposeful about taking leave and spending time with my family. From a scenic Midwestern road trip to visit my son, to being a tourist here in DC with my sister’s family, to hanging around the house with my two daughters home from college. I am enjoying my efforts to keep my priorities in the correct order, and I am encouraging you to make a similar effort for yourselves.
Child support professionals work hard every day for other people and their families. Because the work we do is so important to those we serve, you might feel like work has to come first. We end up putting work ahead of our own families, or even ourselves. While the families we serve are important, so are our own families, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, (I could go on and on) and let’s not forget you.
Americans are known worldwide for not taking their vacation time. And professionals in the social services fields are among those likely to allow their vacation time to go unspent. Yet they need it the most!
Self-care is a health concept just now coming into our consciousness. It focuses on minimizing the ‘compassion fatigue’ often experienced by those whose profession is to care for others. It’s more than just getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Self-care is paying attention to how your work is affecting your physical and mental health, your emotions and stress level, and your relationships with the people in your life outside of work. Self-care is purposeful action to stay healthy — finding a few minutes for humor or friendship during your workday, using your commute to truly leave work behind at the end of the day, relaxing through meditation, observing nature, or listening to music, and taking time away from the demands of the job.
Vacations may seem hectic to take, but they are a proven source of renewed energy, regained perspective and, yes, even relaxation. Perhaps just the term ‘vacation’ is our source of stress. It implies suitcases, flights, and expenses. Don’t stress yourself out to get away. Think about vacation in smaller or different terms. You can define ‘vacation’ in whatever way works for you, as long as it gets you away from your regular routine.
Child care can be another hectic aspect of summer, when kids are out of school and need activities or supervision. Spending time with them is one of the best reasons to take leave from work. Even just a few hours each week for a picnic in the park or an afternoon at the pool is a great way to put family ahead of work and to spend time in the moment. Now that my kids are young adults, I really look forward to having them home from college in the summer. I encourage you to take advantage of the summer break and make some memories before those years have flown by.
Take time to focus on your own family, to restore some work-life balance, and to enjoy a diversion from your busy workday. Are there local attractions in your area that you have yet to see? Take a drive on the Lincoln Highway, Route 66, or any rural byway. Read that book, or catch up on your shows. When is the last time you saw a movie in the theater? National and state parks are peaceful and awe-inspiring.
However you choose to recharge, I look forward to receiving your out-of-office reply. Let me leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou.
"Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."