Vacation guilt

Aug 11 2010 Published by under [Education&Careers]

As Scicurious very sensibly noted last week, it's okay for scientists to take a vacation. The world won't end, your research won't be ruined, students will survive for a week without you, and that departmental meeting you're missing isn't really that critical, right? Yet every time I leave, even if it's for a conference, review panel or something else that's not actually vacation, I practically twitch with guilt and unease.

Part of the problem is that I still have no full-time person in the lab to oversee everything in my absence. For a variety of reasons (which I'll cover someday), I've been able to keep the lights on and publications flowing with tiny grants, but haven't yet landed anything big enough to pay for much more than supplies and a bit of hourly labor. So, while I have some fabulous grad students who have worked in the lab long enough to be independent, there still really isn't anyone "in charge" when I'm not around. I worry constantly that something bad will happen when I'm gone and there won't be anyone around to deal with it.

The other issue is that vacations aren't relaxing anymore. Granted, the last real "vacation" I had--where I actually went to a destination with the sole purpose of taking a break, and ended up actually doing only that--was as a high schooler. Since that time, any time off has been spent traveling to visit family members back home, almost always coupled with assignments to finish or papers/grants to write. Yet no matter what or how much I do when I'm traveling, I never feel caught up when I return home. It's days like these when I almost long for my waitressing days of yore, when I could at least leave the job behind and not worry about playing catch-up when I returned to work. How do you out there do it? Unplug totally? (Not an option due to issues with Progeny's biological father, unfortunately--need at least a phone on). Leave the computer behind, lab be damned? Middle ground?

No responses yet

  • tawaen says:

    My advice to everyone: Whatever you do, do NOT accept the Blackberry at work. Unless it means they'll fire you. In which case take it, but never turn the thing on.

    While obviously you will have to do overtime or get called in for an emergency at any job, there should be a clearly defined end to your work day/week. Once papers start coming home or on vacation then you give up the idea that there is a time that is work-free. You're always on the clock. And no matter how much you love your work, it consumes you if you don't set clear boundaries.

    (That probably doesn't help you, Rebecca, since you're the boss. But for underlings, it's self-preservation.)

  • Rob Knop says:

    I tend to keep up with email, but defer any sibstansive work. If I don't delete or mark email read at least every couple of days, I'm overwhelmed when I get back. But I don't respond to a lot.

    The problem of no vacation for vacation's sake is a related one. Visiting family can be as tiring and energy-sapping as work, sometimes.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Drug Monkey and ScientopiaBlogs, Rebecca Montague. Rebecca Montague said: New post--vacation guilt http://bit.ly/cHtR27 [...]

  • Karen says:

    I remember when I was working 80-hour weeks, and my husband insisted we take a vacation. He was right of course -- the place wasn't going to pot with me gone for a week -- and so we went. This was before cell phones were popular, thank goodness. It took fully three days of the week off before I started to feel human again.

    Since then I've always made time for vacation. Screw the rest of the world, I need to feel human once in awhile.