One week from today, my family and I are moving out of our suburban home and into a 24 foot travel trailer RV. For the next year, we’ll tow that portable house all over the United States with our old SUV, working and living in cities and campgrounds that promise free or cheap WiFi. My kids are calling it The Biggest Vacation Ever, but I won’t exactly be on vacation. I’ll still be working - although hopefully less than full time - because someone has to pay for the campground fees and cereal.
Things, they are a-changin’.
In the future you’ll probably see a new writer here talking about the specific issues that face moms who work full time, issues I no longer have a right to call my own. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me for a few weeks as we - my family and this column - work our way through the transition. After all, what working mother hasn’t had to learn how to master transition?
Although, I’m not sure that master is the right word.
It doesn’t feel like we master transition so much as survive the current manifestation of it, only to have to relearn completely new tricks and skills the next time changes pop up in our lives. It’s kind of like having multiple children - the previous ones don’t prepare you for future ones near as much as you’d expect. Sure, you carry a few tips with you from past go-rounds: you don’t buy more than one bag of the really little diapers for your second child, and you call your marriage counselor ahead of time to schedule emergency sessions for when the stress of change will inevitably get to be too much. But beyond those little things, it feels like you’re winging it just as much the third time as you were the first.
For this most recent major life change, I’m trying to focus on a few specific things that I hope will make the transition a little easier on everyone.
Communication - my kids are sick and tired of me asking how they feel about this trip. I can tell by the eye rolling. But I want to encourage them to talk about their feelings, including their fears or disappointments. I also want to prepare us as a family for the bumps we’re bound to face on the road by sharpening our communication skills.
Acceptance of the unknown - no one likes walking into a dark room or heading into an uncertain future. It’s scary. And the fact is that there are lots of things about the next year that remain a complete mystery to us. We’ve never even vacationed in an RV before, for one thing, and I’m not exactly accustomed to making a living nomadically. Normally I would try to ease my fears with ample planning, but it’s impossible to plan for an infinite amount of unknown variables. I’m doing a lot of deep breathing and reminding myself that I have faith in our family’s ability to handle whatever comes up.
I feel like I’m getting those things pretty much right.
What I’m probably not getting right is the mad dash race to cram as much work as possible into these last several days. I have a couple of really big projects that I’m trying to finish up before we leave, telling myself that I’ll be more selective about what I take on while we’re traveling. My concern is that these last couple of weeks would have also been a great opportunity to ease off work so I could focus on preparing for the road, and yet I couldn’t turn down work or the potential of more money in the travel pot. I think there’s some sound logic there, but I’m also worried that I won’t be any better at managing my workload after we’ve moved into the RV.
I tend to use transition as an excuse to completely abandon any attempts at balance, promising myself I’ll do better after and when and later. That’s justified to an extent, except that I have a natural tendency to be a workaholic and these brief descents into work obsession can be a gateway for me to a life that’s completely off kilter.
I just hope I notice when after and when and later have become now, and that when that time comes I’m able to follow through on the promises I’ve made to my family (and myself) that work will be less hectic.
If I don’t notice on my own, I hope someone can help remind me before too many opportunities are missed.
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