My mother has always said sometimes in life you have to stop and smell the flowers. I never really have– until now. This year I vow to appreciate not only those flowers, but life in general. This is my year to reflect, replenish and rejuvenate. This is my sabbatical year.
The idea for taking a sabbatical began as a joke. My husband had a wonderful opportunity– professionally and personally–to transfer to a west coast office within his current company. Having been born and raised in SoCal he has dreamed of coming home for years. Since he left, actually. I, on the other hand, have only known the east coast: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina then back up to New Jersey. I adored my Princeton community, where we had lived for the past seven years. My connection there ran deep. It’s where I started raising a family, where I established myself part-time as a nutrition consultant, where I cultivated profound friendships.
Why would I leave all that? I had no doubt that living in San Diego would provide a happy, healthful life for my children and, for certain, my husband. But it’s more than a little daunting to start fresh. And as anyone who has ever been a wife or a mother knows that success behind the scenes depends largely on her efforts. I can attest that this past year has been extremely challenging with much of the tedious, frustrating and seemingly unrewarding endeavors falling on me. I will say it: motherhood and wifehood are not glamorous positions! No one offers me promotions or raises, and positive feedback is very rare to come by.
Somewhere along the way I decided that I would reward myself in the end– I would take the time to enjoy myself in my surroundings and not feel guilty for so doing. I’d start a bucket list–anything from projects to tackle, places to explore, foods to try, skills to hone. I told my husband that when all the new people we’d meet would inevitably ask “What do you do?” I would reply that I am on sabbatical. In fact, I joked that I would set my email account to a long-term automated out of office reply, such as one might do when taking maternity leave. And that’s when he suggested that I go ahead and take maternity leave now because I never really took advantage of that. I then took it one step further, and suggested that mothers themselves are the ones who deserve the break– they are on 24 hours a day 365 days a year. I propose a leave from maternity.
The absurd concept that I would step away from my day-to-day efforts of what has defined me over the past number of years became less of a joke. I was determined to reinvent myself in my new surroundings. What a perfectly timed opportunity in that both of my children will be in school five days a week at last. Seven-plus years in this particular role of being a full-time mother, I feel like it’s time for the job description to change.
As I gave more thought to my sabbatical, I considered the actual root of the word. From the Latin sabbaticus, it means a rest, a ceasing from work, a hiatus. Think shabbat in Hebrew (Sabbath), which comes on the seventh day. A sabbatical year is in the seventh year. In academia, medicine and other fields, institutions may provide a sabbatical leave for the purpose of writing or traveling as research. And so, because nobody is simply going to hand it to me, I grant myself this opportunity of a sabbatical year. Follow me on my journey!