What I’ve learned in 3 1/2 weeks off

I just had 3 1/2 weeks off work for the birth of my son. This is the longest vacation I’ve had since I was in grad school (back in the late 90’s), and I’ve found it to be good opportunity to engage in some introspective thinking.  I’m deeply grateful to my employer and my team to allow me to take such an extended amount of time off during this important time in my family’s life.

Below are a few things I’ve learned. Not that I didn’t know these already, but they certainly were re-emphasized.

Facebook is a great tool, but it’s possible to be on it too much. At least with my network of friends, not that much happens such that it needs to be checked every few minutes.  If I’m clicking refresh on the page, odds are I could be spending my time better elsewhere.

Work goes on without me. I check my e-mail occasionally, and my team continues to get work done. Life goes on without me. That’s good; it means the team is built to a point where it can run for extended periods of time. It’s also a bit scary in that it can run without me.

Routines take a long time to create. After more than 3 weeks off, I’m just starting to get into a routine with my day with my family.  It’s going to be another period of time to get into a routine once I’m back at the office.

There’s far less free time at home than I expected. With a toddler and a newborn, free time is scarce, and when it does happen, all I want to do is nothing.  My ambitious list of career-oriented items to do during my time off barely was touched, though I did make some progress.  I also spent far less time with my camera than I expected, given that I have a newborn in the house. On the other hand, he doesn’t do much yet, so there aren’t a lot of expressions to capture.

Time off provides perspective. Without the daily grind, I was able to disengage from the wheel-spinning activities of life and concentrate on the bigger picture in life and work (in between toddler-created messes and diaper changes, of course).