For most people, the word “vacation” conjures images of road trips, beach getaways, sleeping in and relaxation. But almost any working parent will tell that their definition of a vacation involves mostly those last two elements – sleep & relaxation. These two elements are the most precious to parents because they are so elusive. With small children around, even if you manage to escape to a beach house, you’re still going to be up at the crack of dawn feeding finicky eaters and refereeing fights about who did what to whom. It’s hardly much of a break, really. This means, when your children are too young for sleep-away summer camp, the only true vacation days in your life are the ones you enjoy when you’re home from work while the kids are at school.

So when I tell you that I had a vacation planned for last week, you should understand that my vacation was of this, most perfect variety. My relaxation plan: during the week, with children at school and Dick at work it was just going to be me, the dog, and the luxuriously quiet house in which I would fit about 4 years worth of sleeping, reading, and housecleaning into my mostly open schedule.

I say “mostly open” because I started off my vacation at work. You see, at the last minute, I was forced to shorten my vacation day on Monday because of a mandatory meeting. Once the meeting ended around noon, I decided to execute on my relaxation plan but only after sqaundering a few precious hours running errands.

With errands completed and off my mind, I returned home with the intention of collapsing on the sofa for a nap in the late, rainy afternoon. Just as I started to drift into that rare deeply relaxed state where you feel as though your body is floating away – as though you’ve been slipped anti-anxiety meds or muscle relaxants – I was startled awake by the jarring barking of the dog and the sound of the front door flying open. I soon learned that Dick had been called to pick up Adam from school because of a high fever. Sure enough, his temperature was nearly 102. So much for that fabulous afternoon nap.

Those of you with children in daycare know that once a fever has been detected in your child, they don’t want to see his infectious little feet darkening their doorstep for at least 24 hours. That meant my Tuesday “off” was now going to be spent “on” as I desperately tried to entertain a bored (and not at all feverish) 4 year old boy.

Thankfullly by Wednesday, Adam was better, his fever having broken about 22 hours before. But sadly for me, Wednesday was the only day I absolutely could NOT take off from work because I had two critical project meetings that I needed to lead. So, no vacation on Wednesday. Thankfully, there’s always Thursday.

Thursday, July 3rd, was definitely going to be my day. No doubt about it. Thursday would be my day for sleeping in, taking it easy, maybe accomplishing a few things around the house. The world was my oyster. Naturally I slept in. Well, I slept until 7. Dick was running late for work so I volunteered to get the kids dressed, fed and off to school. A short while later at home, between bites of my bagel, my eyes scanned the room and settled upon a pile of unfolded laundry.

It’s really hard to relax while looking at a half finished project. You try to relax but your mind keeps drifting, imagining all of the stuff you can get done without the children around. Part of you screams, “NO! Are you crazy? Go get a pedicure, sleep, watch a Lifetime movie, anything! But don’t give in to the house work!!” The other part of you knows how utterly disgusting it feels to walk barefoot on your children’s bathroom floor and also knows what it’s like to try to mop with 2 bickering overly enthusiastic “helpers” shadowing you like the paparazzi on Branjelina. When faced with numerous glaring chores and the prospect of all that help, if you’re like me, you usually slap some tape over the inner voice that wants a nap and choose to clean, instead.

Just as I was about to move from laundry and into cleaning, I heard my phone ring. It was Dick reminding me about the 12 o’clock doctor’s appointment for Adam that I had completely forgotten about. CRAP! It was 11:57 as I tossed aside my cleaning supplies and bolted out the door.

My remaining Thursday afternoon was spent rushing from the doctor’s office, to the store, back home and then off to daycare by 6 o’clock to grab the children. With the babysitter due at 6:45 and me without a shower or a plan for feeding the kids some dinner, I felt as if I’d been mugged – my free time stolen by some thug who then had the gaul to leave me with his two annoying kids to take care of. But, wait, those kids are mine…

Friday, July 4th. Although the kids and Dick were home, I was still, technically, on vacation. I mean, it wasn’t going to be the kind of vacation day that was quiet or relaxing, but at least I didn’t have to “be” anywhere or “do” anything. Except now I felt an annoying, sore tickle in the back of my throat and later that day I found I was running a low-grade fever, suffering from body aches and developing a persistent sinus headache. I had caught Adam’s cold.

Saturday, July 5th. Someone please kill me because I don’t have the energy to do it myself. I guess the final insult here is that I spent my entire vacation either working or taking care of everyone else and now when I need to return to work, I’m sick. Oh well. Maybe I’ll try for another vacation week next year. By then, 5 years into this whole parenting thing, surely I’ll be too daft to notice or to care that vacations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

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