My Learning Curve: Restorative Sabbatical Part 2

Russ climbing his research tower – science is thrilling.

This is part two of a four part series on a Restorative Sabbatical.  Please read the series – and be encouraged.

Picking up where I left off in part 1, Deborah gave us an assignment.

First, we were to ruthlessly go through our schedule cutting out everything we could and zealously guarding our time.

Second, for one month Russ needed to take regular breaks to rest, reflect, and be restored. He could follow what Deborah Gray calls the 3-4-12 rule and take three, four hour breaks each week, or he could “cancel” one day each week. We opted for canceling a day and seeing if that would be enough.

In her book, Nurturing Adoptions, Deborah Gray writes:

I use the twelve-hour-a-week rule for parents who are tired, burnt out, or worn.  I suggest the adult spend twelve hours a week, either in three four-hour chunks, or four three-hour chunks, doing nothing but what is pleasurable for them.  (p. 334)

I recall reading that and thinking it sounded nice (but rather cushy) for people who couldn’t quite cut it and had lots of extra time and/or money on their hands. But we were in a desperate place and after three years, things were not looking up.  Like so many things, we view them differently when we find ourselves in a position of need, and Deborah was quite firm in her instruction that we give this a try.

Russ set the date for his first Sabbatical Day.  He didn’t feel he could take the time to be gone overnight, so he planned a long day away.  Being the list-maker that I am, I kept encouraging him to make a plan for the day, to figure out what was most important to him, etc.  Really, I should have just given him space to figure it out, because although his first attempt was a bit of a disaster (as you’ll see), he finally settled on a plan that worked for him.

Russ loves hiking and backpacking, so he was immediately drawn to spending a day in the mountains.  He packed his backpack with the needed supplies for a day, and since it was still early spring, plenty of winter gear.  What he neglected to mention, until he was nearly out the door, was that he planned to X-country ski and/or snowshoe to his research site where he has a very high tower loaded with meteorological equipment.  Russ figured he would enjoy the solitude while still getting some work done.

If you feel like chuckling a little to yourself, feel free, we’ve done it a lot.

He drove to the “end of the road”, donned his heavy pack, strapped on his snowshoes and headed up the mountain.  About two miles in he realized that perhaps this was not what Deborah meant when she said he should “rest.”  She had advised him not to plan or “figure things out”, but to let his mind rest. We are often so busy, especially when parenting children with special needs, that our minds can’t organize or process our new lives.

In her book, Attaching in Adoption, Deborah Gray writes:

When parents have new and difficult events in their lives, lots of information has to be processed.  The old ways by which they defined their lives, safety, and roles will need alteration.  Most people need to do some re-tooling of their mental apparatus in order to fit the new circumstances of their lives.  They need quiet time in which to do this thinking. (p. 310)

As Russ trekked up the mountain, his mind was filled with the physical effort required and the work that lay ahead.  He alternated snowshoeing and skiing as the snow levels varied along the road.   After a day spent collecting data and checking equipment, a day when his mind was completely occupied with work, he headed back down the mountain.  With a heavy pack on his back, he gained speed as he skied out, until he suddenly hit a patch of dry ground and was flung forward to the ground.  Needless to say, it was a painful trip out.

Russ arrived home late that evening.  I was eagerly waiting to hear about the amazing, wonderful, restful day he had and the incredible time he had spent with God.  Instead, he came in weary, wearing a baseball cap that covered a large scrape across his forehead.  He was very quiet and I was a bit worried.  The next day Russ told me the story of his first “Sabbatical Day” and his realization that as much as he wanted to combine work and rest, it simply did not work.

We began to talk about what he needed for a successful “Sabbatical Day”and made a plan for the following Wednesday.

[Read part 3 here.]

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

~Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

20 Comments

  1. Amy
    June 30, 2010

    O my!
    That tower!
    Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Amy, it strikes fear in my heart every time I see it! Russ assures me that he uses good safety measures, but I always feel better when I know he is down and back in cell phone range.

      Reply
  2. Dana
    June 30, 2010

    Oh Lisa – that is just classic! Our new son is not home yet, but so many times we try to combine work with play and it ends up all work! Or too much work for the play to be really relaxing.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Dana, that is so true! We think it will work…but soon we realize it isn't quite what we had hoped for.

      Reply
  3. God-Given Passions
    June 30, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned along the way. I have seen that weary look in my husband's eyes. He likes to get away by doing yardwork – what is it about us that makes true rest so difficult?? I need to be more encouraging when he has opportunities to really relax.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Audrey, Russ loves yardwork too – probably because he enjoys physical work and often gets to use power tools.

      Reply
      1. God-Given Passions
        July 1, 2010

        Oh my gosh! I know – what is it about tools and men? I guess it's just like me with my Kitchenaid 🙂

        Reply
  4. Nancy
    June 30, 2010

    Oh I am loving this! Thank you, again, for sharing. We forget often to be quiet.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Nancy, it is hard to enjoy quiet when we are accustomed to busy family life. I don't think I would have enjoyed being isolated the way Russ chose to be, but having time to think is very healing.

      Reply
  5. Laurel
    June 30, 2010

    Oh what I would do for some restorative rest. I am at the end of my rope … hanging on for dear life … with no safety net … no friends to get together with (except my long distance bloggy friends) … hubby gone 3-4 days per week (and working here when he is "home") … no "Big Kids" in the area to help out with the young ones any more …

    I do not even have 1 hour per week that I can turn off my "mommy brain", much less 12 hours per week.

    Dreaming of a Sabbatical Day … or weekend away with my husband … or ??? whatever the Lord can bring me right now to lighten my load …

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Laurel, I pray that God will lighten your load and send somebody to ease your burden. I"m so sorry for this hard time in your life.

      Reply
  6. Renee
    June 30, 2010

    Thanks for addressing this. I find myself mostly feeling like a single parent, since my husband is so incredibly busy with the farm from sun up to sun down. He's been encouraging me to leave our youngest with grandma and the other kids, and take a little break. However, Isaiah has only been home for 4 months, and I struggle with whether or not to leave him yet. I would have no problem leaving him with Daddy, but Daddy can't swing that time away from the farm at this point.

    I am so thankful to you for sharing Deborah's wisdom.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      June 30, 2010

      Renee, I know how hard it is to leave your children, but if you get to the point of being depleted, I would encourage you to try to the 12 hour a week idea. Your little guy will probably do well with his grandmother, especially with his siblings with him. It would help you to be the mom you want to be. By the way, I enjoy your blog and look forward to getting back to Nature Study this year in our homeschooling.

      Reply
  7. sandee
    June 30, 2010

    I am loving following this….as a single mom…I am trying to figure out how I can have a sabbatical. With four kids, the cost of drop in day camp is TOO HIGH….our daugher is home from Ethiopia only 3 weeks now…and being mom on duty 24 X7 is tiring…I need break, but can't figure it out…so I take it at night, when they are all asleep, reading or sewing or watching a movie, but then wake up TOO tired in the morning to be a good momma.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      July 1, 2010

      Sandee, you definitely have an extra burden that many of us do not. I would try to put together a "team" of friends and family, people from your church, anybody who has a heart for orphan ministry (that you trust). If you can't do it for yourself, maybe a friend or pastor would seek help for you. That team needs to be made up of people you can call at short notice, people who will love and not judge. If you tell them your needs, they can talk together and see how they can meet them. Be honest, if you need dinner brought to you, grocery shopping done, a bit of respite, tell them that. It is hard to ask for help, but it can make all the difference. I'll be honest, it was hard for me to ask for help and some of my friends kindly said "no", but many said "yes" and some of them made regular, weekly commitments to help with my kids. It made the past year so much better.

      Reply
      1. sandee
        July 2, 2010

        Thank you so much. and you are right. It is hard to ask for help. I think people look at me and judge…you are single, and you adopted you "brought this on yourself"…so don't complain. No one who lives around me or goes to my church NOT ONE, has ever adopted. I know folks would say, find a different church…but it is a small church, feels homey and my two older kids (12 and 10) have been there since kindergarten….so it would be one more loss for them.

        Today, I so wanted to call some one and say..here is my grocery list, here is my atm card and the number, would you go shopping for me. But I did not. ….I had my oldest (12) stay home and watch my youngest (7)….and took the two in the middle shopping with me. My middle son got a second cart and would go out on expeditions to get things on the list, to make it go quicker.

        Reply
        1. OneThankfulmom
          July 2, 2010

          Sandee, you did "bring this on yourself", but it was out of obedience to God. It is very hard when you don't have other adoptive families in your life that can understand this calling. Do you have a youth group in your church that might see helping you as a means of serving children? Maybe there are some girls who would babysit for free to serve, or an older girl who would do your grocery shopping once a week. Noah does my groceries and it is very, very helpful (although I do end up with some interesting items). It sounds like you found a good solution today, but a day away – or even a few hours – to truly rest would be so good for you. I'm praying right this moment that God will provide that for you.

          Reply
    2. OneThankfulmom
      July 1, 2010

      One more thing! Sandee, you really must sleep. When Russ is out of town I try to make myself go to bed by 10:00 or I get myself in bad shape and I become a terrible mother. Somebody else commented earlier that a therapist told them the same thing. Sleep is restorative. Even if you feel that it cuts into time for you – ultimately it will make you feel better.

      Reply
  8. Alyssa DeHart
    July 2, 2010

    I was just directed to your blog and I am grateful to find it. I am a mother of 7, two adopted with broken hearts. We are approaching our three year mark and I have been to exhausted and back my husband is not back yet. I appreciate your post and the guidellines from Deborah’s book I have only read the first one and we have been working on the 50 pleasures approach but, I think this 12 hours a week sounds like what he needs. Now how to have him let go enough to do it…thanks for your ideas and suggestions

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      July 2, 2010

      Alyssa, it is so good to meet you. I just read the 50 pleasures idea recently; maybe we'll give a try and I will write a future post about it. I hope this idea of a true break helps your husband. I would love to hear back from you.

      Reply

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