Switching off by switching roles

Switching off by switching roles

by Katelijne Vercaeren

Family role switching and vacationsImagine you just arrived at your dream holiday destination. You are ready to let go of the stress following wrapping up work, the never-ending organizing of kids, the sweating rush of packing, the exhausting travelling and dragging that overpacked luggage up the stairs.

Yes, paradise city is calling at last: time to switch off and enjoy! Or not? Perhaps something is creeping up on you? You want to relax — cocktail in hand, and most likely you can’t because you’re still stuck in the roles you hold in daily life.

​Think of a typical family situation. Take a moment to identify with the roles that you normally occupy: master of logistics, caretaker, head cook, organizer, and/or perhaps the breadwinner, always on the go, responsible for making money. And then there are the kids. They spend most of the school year being students, soccer players, video gamers, and/or passengers in the car as you drive them from one activity to the next.

When summer hits, the whole family system gets shaken up. The kids are suddenly no longer at school, and the way that you have been organizing your week no longer works. You need to step into something else. We don’t often think about the impact of these changes on our relationships. We think it is a personal problem.

When we go on vacation together it is normal to have a dream that the moment you arrive, you will ALL relax and magically have fun. However the usual roles are right there to grab you! Do you really want to spend your vacation organizing everything, being responsible in exactly the same way that you are at home? 

Your answer might be: “Yes, I do.” Okay, that’s fine, as long as it is a conscious choice. Most roles take us over without our permission. The relationships we are in need certain roles to be filled. For example, when you have small children, they are filling the role of the children, dependent upon others, and they will have certain needs. Someone older needs to be organizing activities, rest time, meals, etc. Does that someone always have to be you? 

With circumstances changing, roles need to change as well. When we allow ourselves some downtime, we can take a closer look at those roles and consider how we can take some vacations from old habits.

Family roles on vacation1. Creating awareness: What are the roles you need to become conscious of?

We occupy our roles automatically. Part of creating awareness is about realizing where you are on autopilot and where you need to take yourself off. It is also about becoming aware of the roles you are tired of playing and looking at which roles need to be occupied differently — or where you want to switch gears. It’s when you realize that “that someone” does not always have to be you.

2. Designing an alliance: How do you want to be together during summer?

Whether it is with your partner, kids, a co-worker that stays behind in the office or your travel buddy, summer is an opportunity to redesign your relationships. There’s a different need every year as people grow and change. Think about what you need to put in place to not just survive, but to deepen your connections. Then have that conversation about what everybody’s part needs to be to have a magical summer — and take ownership of it.

3. Choosing the role you want: What experience do you consciously want to create?

A situation tends to grab us and put us in a role. Think about the experience you want to create this summer. Dare to take off the straightjacket, go shopping for new roles or different ways that you might fill that same role, choose intentionally those that truly fit you. If you had full permission to design this summer your way, what is the present you would give yourself?

When switching off by consciously switching roles this time around, choose to travel light. Enjoy summer!

By Katelijne Vercaeren with Cynthia Loy Darst, Senior Faculty Member CRR Global.

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