Time to Fly
I hope to begin a movement — one critical to the survival of hard-working empty nesters who are weary after decades of child rearing. It will be called “Gap Year for Parents.”
According to the American Gap Association, a gap year is “an experiential semester or year, typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.” But today I would like to boldly suggest that the target audience be expanded. Yes, I know kids need a break — college is grueling at times and summer breaks are typically filled with internships, additional classwork, or demanding summer jobs. But if I may, I would like to add a parental perspective. Most of us have been working or pursuing advanced degrees as we brought up our children, juggling the many roles of parenting — chauffeur, cook, maid, counselor, etc. — with only a two- to three-week vacation in each of the past 18 years (probably closer to 25 years with multiple children). Now tell me who really needs the break!
So when my nest emptied I decided to give myself a gift and declared a “A Gap Year” to usher in this new season of life, one dedicated to reconnecting with family and friends. I traveled to Europe, both coasts, closer to home, and even managed a “stay-cation.” All trips were carefully planned and budgeted, with most travel done over weekends with the exception of a two-week trip to Europe. My accommodations included bed and breakfasts, luxurious hotels (with the help of points), friends’ basements, and airplanes. Throughout my travel, the best memories arrived at unexpected moments and often when nothing in particular was planned. While fine wine, Vegas shows, and formal dinners were a treat, atmosphere took a backseat to companionship. It’s funny, when looking back, the memories I recall the most — conversations involving uncontrollable laughter on topics I can’t even remember, devouring every flavor of taffy created, dancing to 80’s music until my knees ached, and simply reminiscing in a hotel room with college friends over a tiny bottle of exorbitantly priced minibar wine.
As my gap year comes to an end, I will continue to enjoy the memories as I share stories in the months ahead. What started as an itch to travel to intentionally reconnect with people I cherish, gradually became a new way to approach life — a mindset shift to do something for myself instead of focusing primarily on my children. While that may sound a bit selfish, think about it: if a gap year is acceptable for our kids, why not for us?
May a Gap Year for Parents be in your future as we, too, take our time to fly!