• Erin Engelke

Separating Yourself From Work Even When It Won't Let You


Peace out, work! Sometimes my family comes first.

My husband and I were finally getting away…taking a break from the demands of life, the insistent requests from our kids and the pressures of work. It was a trip that, although it was going to be too short, was a time for us to celebrate more than a decade of (almost) complete and total wedded bliss.


The grandparents had all three kids for three luxurious days, and while we knew they would eat nothing but McDonald’s and cupcakes, we couldn’t have cared less for the rare chance to get away and reconnect.

The scenario was perfectly set.


I only made it a couple of hours into the trip before my phone started burning up. Text messages from my staff. Emails from my boss. Phone calls from the media, requesting interviews.


My plan to escape work was quickly dissipating…and rapidly. I had to respond. Yet one email response led to another and then another. I just had to put the issues to rest before I could truly relax and enjoy my trip. The only problem was, with each request fulfilled, I received yet another one.


I’m incredibly fortunate to have a patient husband who understands my work pressures, but enough was enough for him.


Confiscating my phone (by throwing it into the back of our oversized SUV), he lectured me on the need to let it go.

We were on vacation, for heavens sake, he said. I was setting a precedent that couldn’t be reversed if I let it continue.


And he was absolutely right.


Not only was I allowing myself to stay connected to the office when I was legitimately supposed to be disconnected, but I was communicating to my staff that vacation is nothing more than me working from another location for the day.


And I was sending the message that they, too, would have to abide by the same standard for their own vacations.

Worse yet, I was destroying an important trip for our relationship and for me personally. I’ve advised people throughout the years not to allow work to become their life, and here I was allowing it to creep into my very being.


For those of us who are committed, dedicated employees who can’t handle leaving things unsettled, ignoring the demands of the office can practically eat you alive.


But as I learned on this trip, sometimes you have to forcibly remove the temptation.

Because, truth be told, those demands will be there whether you’re on vacation or not.


Let them go and give yourself permission to live life…the most important “work” you’ll ever do.

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