My Year Off


4 1/2 months into my year off as a stay at home mom with twin girls

How do you really take a year off?

If someone offered you a year off from your job, would you take it? What do you think you would need in your life to really take a year off? Lose a job? Earned some extra money? For me, it was having twin girls and my husband and I deciding not to send them to daycare. I’m 4 1/2 months into my year off and I’m discovering a whole lot about myself. As part of my professional and personal blog, I would like to share this journey with you. I am hoping with writing about it, it will help me to stay present and learn something new about myself and help you too.

The last time I took a year off was my junior year of college when I went on National Student Exchange. Even though I was still in college, if felt like a year off from my regular school life. I attended Rhode Island College and as I look back at my life today, all I can say is thank God I had that experience. So many familiar feelings are coming back. When I decided to take a year off from work to be home with my twin girls, I thought, I can do this! I’ve been working in student life for 13 years. In higher ed, faculty can apply for sabbaticals and on some campuses, so can student affairs professionals. For my district, the one chance I was going to have was taking a 1 year maternity leave.

I will be honest, the first 4 1/2 months have been hard. I’m experiencing a lost of my life before the twins. Having twins is a lot for anyone to take on. The biggest challenge I have faced is identifying myself as a mom first. When I look back, it seemed I would talk more about my work, my students first. Now, I share about my girls, my son Sam, my family, and our new home we are about to move into. Then I have to stop and hope that is enough for the person I am talking with. I have to hope it is enough for me too. Some days it is. Some days I miss talking about the college experience. I miss advising my students. But then, I pick up one of my girls and she smiles and laughs and I think, I wonder what I will teach her.

So, how do you really take a year off? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far:

1) Stop checking your work email. I know.. I know.. I had to let my mail box go to full to really stop checking it.

2) Stop checking your Work Facebook. Especially for student affairs crew. Your students will be fine and you will advise again.

3) Move off campus. Even though I look out my apartment windows and can only see the baseball fields, I still have to drive by campus on my way out. I can’t help but think of work. Happy to share, we will be moved off campus by the end of September.

4) Pay attention to what is triggering you to think about work. For me, it has to be this new Lean In movement. Even though I am leaning into motherhood right now, I still think about what Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book Lean In about women choosing to stay home vs sending your child to daycare. Her research showed that investing in daycare will pay off more in the long run than saving money on daycare by staying home. It’s when you are at work that people will see you and offer you more money. If they don’t see you, then they might forget about you.  I wish I could tell her that being a twin mom is hard and way different than taking care of one baby. I am no where ready to go back to work. I know because I’ve already experienced having one child who I sent to daycare at 4 1/2 months. Can I get a break for being a twin mom?

5) Do not be afraid to enjoy your new life. If you do find yourself with a year off to spend with a new baby or get to work on a new project, don’t be afraid to enjoy your new life because your life will never be the same. You are going to learn a lot! Some will be exciting and some will feel unfamiliar. You might even wonder where your old self went. Then you will have a moment when someone asks you when you will be going back to work and you will finally be proud to share you are taking a year off. After 4 1/2 months, I think I’m finally there. Let your year off be enough for you right now. Just think of how much more life experience you will bring to your students, to your campus after your year off is over. More than you ever imagined.

6) And give yourself an outlet to write or reflect on this year off.  It could be a journal. A blog. I’m amazed how taking these last 2 hours to write this post has given me the peace I needed. Thank you for reading.

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