What Makes It A Day Off?

24 Oct What Makes It A Day Off?

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 24.10.22


Two months till Christmas, right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just looked at the date and got a tiny fright myself. Ever since Covid turned up in our lives and we started spending chunks of time on “pause”, I’ve lost my inbuilt sense of “how long ago” and “how soon until”. But I think “two months till Christmas” usually comes with a mild sense of panic, right?

I am never ready for Christmas. Like anyone who works in events or entertainment, my work is seasonal and each Silly Season is delightfully mad. It starts in September, builds up a proper head of steam through October and November, and pops like a cork in December. All fun and games till someone loses an eye.

We’re not alone in this – the build-up of pressure applies to anyone who works in a business that wraps at Christmas and takes a summer break. Schools, offices, factories, tradies – anyone who plans a family getaway or shuts up shop will feel it.

So Christmas shopping happens when you are also frantically writing end of year reports, finishing projects, waiting for family to descend, booking travel and accommodation for January, and suddenly remembering one of the kids starts at a new school in February. (Again, sorry if I scared you.)

I haven’t had what you might call “a day off” for weeks – I say this not in a “wah wah” way, but with amazement that we are back to pre-Covid levels of gatherings, gala dinners and all those good things that give me a reason to shake out the sequins and fire up the curling tongs.

Though somewhere in this wild romp of gigs and travel and writing, it has made me ponder what actually constitutes “a day off”.

Is it a day when you don’t do anything you get paid for? In which case, travel days back from an event would count – except they don’t feel like rest and recreation. Is “a day off” not just about the absence of paid work, but about being able to choose what you do?

Of course, choosing what you do for a whole day is a rare luxury for a parent. Your day away from work is also their day away from school, which has you cast in unpaid roles of chauffeur, cheerleader, event manager, cleaner and cook. Some of this is fun, but it’s not all what you would choose. I recall the year my daughter signed up for water polo which involved 6am starts on a Saturday. I’m not saying I discouraged her from a second year but … I didn’t actively encourage it either.

Maybe each of us needs to think about what “a day off” looks like and see if we can design a date here and there that somewhat resembles this.

Here’s mine: Waking up without an alarm set; listening to music, not the news; not checking emails till I’ve made coffee and read something uplifting; doing some kind of bendy, stretchy exercise thing; sorting laundry and cleaning a thing till it shines; looking forward to something nice on a plate; and approaching each task slowly – even invoices or work emails or filing – and savouring it without being impatient to finish. It’s the slowness, I reckon, that makes it feel less of a chore, and tricks you into thinking it is something you choose to do.

Also, doing it – just for a day now and then – in my pyjamas. Guess what I’m wearing now.