(The following is an abbreviated transcription from a video Linda and I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
We received a question from a reader about our yearly month sabbatical. And so we wanna talk a little bit about it.
Robin reached out and asked us this question:
“I love the idea of a sabbatical. I’m so happy that we can take one. But you’d love to hear a podcast on how to do that with younger kiddos at home. And then other practical steps. Like, do we take the month off from cooking? What about laundry?” All these different things…
We’re going to explain what a month’s sabbatical looks like for us.
The preface here is that I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way, but we’re gonna share what that looks like for us.
Now before we get into our answer, I recorded our discussion that you can listen to on our Podcast, but, if you would rather read the full transcription, you can do so here in this article!
Also, we actually took a sabbatical year in 2017 so if you want to read about that you can.
We just got back from our sabbatical month
Bob: Hey, all we are back and talking about sabbatical today. Why don’t you tell ’em about our sabbatical we just got back from?
Linda: So we just got back from taking a month long sabbatical. We went to the Seaside area, 30A in Florida. Which is great.
Bob: We do this every year. And I think we talk about this a lot.
Linda: The location changes every year.
Bob: Yeah. but typically in the Winter.
Linda: In the Winter, yes. Typically we go in the month of February because I remember when I was working a job everybody would leave like the first week of February, cuz it’s the most miserable part of the Winter. And so I wanna be gone for February.
So we typically go either the month of February or this time it was January 15th through February 15th.
Bob: Yeah. So the month long sabbatical, we’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. And, it’s life changing. You’ve probably heard me talk about it before. And we’ll just continue to talk about how great it is.
I understand that not everybody can take a month off, we get that. But some are asking questions about it and so we like sharing what we can from our sabbaticals, because I feel like we’ve learned a whole lot from this.
Over the years, we’ve seen people do it the wrong way. And, we’ve seen people do it the right way. Not that there is necessarily a wrong or right way to take a sabbatical.
Bob: But if you want to get the greatest benefits from it, I think…
Linda: We have some tips. We have some ideas.
Bob: …that have helped us. We’ve just made a lot of mistakes. And so we’ve learned from our mistakes and maybe you can learn from our mistakes as well.
Reader question about our month-long sabbatical
Bob: So anyway, Robin (a member of our SeedTime community) reached out and asked us this question. She asked,
“I love the idea of a sabbatical. I’m so happy that we can take one. But we’d love to hear a podcast on how to do that with younger kiddos at home. And then other practical steps. Like, do we take the month off from cooking? What about laundry?”
All these different things… And so, let’s just get into these weeds and just explain what that month looks like for us.
What a month long sabbatical looks like for us
Bob: The preface here is that I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way. Maybe there’s a wrong way. I don’t know, but we’re gonna share what that looks like for us.
Bob: What right and what wrong looks like for us.
Linda: So we can quickly just say how we’ve practically done this.
Linda: For 10 years, is that you basically have…
Bob: Well, it was different before kids, so it’s a different thing.
How my business survives while I’m on sabbatical
Linda: Right. But I also mean that you have someone helping you with emails and you have chosen to just put basically the business aside for one month.
Bob: The nature of what we do: creating podcasts, writing articles, writing books, all this stuff it allows a flexibility. That doesn’t mean it’s not without challenge. It was really difficult to take a month sabbatical the first time. I was just as nervous as anyone else. Possibly more so than someone with a job asking their boss to take a month off. Because at the end of the day…
Linda: It all depends on you.
Bob: Yeah. The first time we did this, I thought I was going to come back and the business was going to be gone. Like, this is just crazy! But God worked it out (check out these Bible verses about business). And we’ve done it over and over again. And he continues to work it out. And we’re receiving the benefits of that biblical rest.
Bob: That’s why we continue.
Preparation is key for a beneficial sabbatical
Linda: So we continue preparation. We prepare ahead of time basically.
Linda: So that we can be afforded this opportunity, which is wonderful. And I think now that we’ve done it, we’ve seen how beneficial it is and we wouldn’t go back.
Bob: We wouldn’t go back where?
Linda: I just wouldn’t go back to not taking a sabbatical. Because it’s not just “like, oh yeah, that’s fun.” It’s actually highly beneficial for our spiritual walk with God, for our relationship with our kids, and for our relationship with each other.
Bob: Well, yeah, and the family. It’s an extended period of time where I can hang out with the kids a lot.
Bob: And I think when they’re grown up, I think they’re gonna remember.
Linda: Yeah. Everybody says that’s time you’ll never get back. When they’re little, you will never get that time back. And I keep thinking of that. Our youngest is about to turn three in a couple days and I just keep thinking he’ll never be two again. He will never ever be two again. This is making me really sad. But I feel like I have taken advantage of this time with him, which is good.
Bob: Yeah, we’re doing our best, just like every other parent, you know?
Taking a sabbatical without kids
Bob: So let’s start getting in some of the weeds of some of taking a sabbatical. This whole thing started really as my sabbatical, because when we started you were already retired.
Linda: We didn’t have kids.
Bob: Right? Linda was retired from her church job that she had. Our business was doing well at that point. And so I kind of brought her back into the business.
Linda: And I was helping you a little bit, but it wasn’t enough to…
Bob: Definitely not full-time by any means. And so those first couple sabbaticals, we didn’t have kids and it was you and me. And so we’d go to the beach and literally I would bring a stack of 30 books and try to just read.
Linda: He would do nothing but read.
Bob: Really! Five, six hours a day. And we’d spend time praying together every day. We’d spend time kind of planning out the year with God.
Linda: And playing.
Bob: Having fun. Yeah. All this stuff.
Linda: And we didn’t allow ourselves to watch TV during the day. We said it’s okay to watch TV at night, but we cut off all TV.
Bob: Nothing until like 8pm or something.
Linda: Yeah, it was actual time to renew ourselves and to get in The Word. Because we had that boundary, which for us was a temptation at least.
Bob: Yeah. Everybody will have temptations. So it’s important to set those boundaries on whatever your temptations are. And so if that’s Instagram, and you’re afraid you’re gonna spend six hours a day on Instagram, then…
Linda: No Instagram till 8pm.
Bob: Or delete the app, or whatever you need to do. But the point is those little rules that you make, I think are one of the most important things to getting the benefits from the sabbatical. And if you don’t do those, if you don’t create that structure, you’re gonna miss out on a lot of the benefits.
Linda: Yeah, one of the things that you’ve told me before is you’re like, “I can’t wait to be bored.” You know, as adults, we rarely get bored.
Bob: Well, as adults in 21st century, boredom basically doesn’t exist.
Linda: And so one of Bob’s goals basically is to get bored to where he is like, I’m just bored.
Bob: I don’t remember who this was that said this but I was reading about somebody, probably one of our great leaders from hundreds of years ago, who talked about how that time (and not like, boredom in the idle hands or the devil’s play work type of boredom) as in giving your brain space to think without just a constant bombardment. That’s what I’m after.
The need for decompressing
Bob: That’s the goal, or one of the big goals, of the sabbatical for me. How do I decompress my brain so I can get out of the weeds and get up to the 50,000 foot view again and actually make life decisions. Actually evaluate my life and where we’ve been, where we’re going all this in a much higher view than down in the weeds.
That’s the goal. And that’s what I mean by boredom.
So what about you? Linda hates being bored.
Linda: I do.
Bob: So how did that work for you?
Boredom and the need for a sense of purpose
Linda: Well, it’s not just being bored. It’s feeling like there’s no sense of adventure or sense of purpose for me. That’s what it is.
And this has honestly been a big struggle with the kids. I don’t like sitting in the house with the kids where they are running in circles, screaming, fighting, hitting each other… that I can’t go to the bathroom.
Bob: Well, they never do that.
Linda: I try to avoid that. I need something to do with them. That’s one of my struggles. It’s less about being bored and about being quiet as it is… I don’t want to just be the referee all day long.
How we structure a sabbatical with kids
Linda: So let’s get into what it looks like, being on a sabbatical with the kids.
Bob: So,that above was pre kids. Which it’s honestly easy to have a sabbatical without kids. Once you add a baby and multiple babies and kids into the mix, it becomes a lot more complicated. And I think really easy to waste the entire sabbatical period.
Bob: Why don’t you just start talking about. How we structure things.
Linda: So yeah, with kids, what we do is we basically take every other day. So instead of when we had no kids, it was all day, every day, you just do whatever you want. Go where the spirit leads
you. Go where the wind blows you, whatever. So with kids, we had to be start getting really intentional. So I think it was just, we just had Alden the first time and it was every other day. So Bob would leave.
Bob: I would take Monday.
Linda: And for him, he was like “I want to be gone as long as I want to be gone and I don’t want pressure to come home.”
So that became our thing because that stressed him out, and it made it so that he couldn’t rest.
Bob: Yeah. So I don’t understand this, it’s just a psychological thing for me. But I didn’t want, and I still don’t, and we still do this today… I don’t want a clock ticking.
That clock ticking, says you have to be done by this point and home at this point. I just want it to be a wide open window where I can go and pray on the beach for three hours if I want. Or, I can go read at a coffee shop. I can go to the library and read. I can do whatever I need to do, as long as it needs… without that window ending.
Now typically, most days I leave in the morning and I’m back by lunch or a little bit after. It’s not like it’s 6:00 PM when I return, maybe one day was really late, but not usually.
Checking in with your spouse
Linda: When we’re going to have those longer sabbatical days, we checked in with each other because we only had one car available. And the person whose day it was got to leave, so and they took the car.
So if it wasn’t your sabbatical day and you’re at home with the kids, you either have a bike or could walk, but if it’s raining or cold or something, then you pretty much can’t leave. So that was one of those things that we were constantly like “okay, if you’re gonna be gone this long, that’s totally fine. Could we just somehow work it out?”
Bob: We’d talk about the car situation.
Linda: Which I stand by the idea that I would like to have a car next time. I would like to have two cars during our sabbatical next time.
Bob: All right. Well, we’ll talk about that together.
Linda: I know Bob doesn’t want me to do it, but I really do.
Bob: We don’t need to bring it on the podcast. Anyway.
Bob: So that’s our rhythm where we alternate days. And so if she’s gone, then I’m with the kids. And I’m just trying to make memories and have fun with the kids. And do whatever I can.
Rest can look different
Linda: The most rest I can get is being away from the kids, which sounds really terrible. And I don’t mean to sound terrible.
Bob: No it doesn’t, it sounds like a worn out mom who just needs some alone time.
Linda: For me, the real rest comes not from being away from our business, but actually from being away from the kids. And it’s not being physically away from them as much as it is having to do the referee thing.
Realistic expectations can avoid disappointment
Linda: It’s an adjustment every single time for me. On this trip you told me, you said “It’s like we’re at home. Unless it’s your day to be on sabbatical. We just need to just go into the day thinking this is just like every other day. It’s not rest.”
Bob: Yeah, sabbatical is just in a different location.
Linda: Yeah. The day is not a sabbatical day for me unless it’s my day to be gone. And we’ll just be thankful for our days of rest.
Bob: Because if you don’t have that expectation set, you’re gonna probably be sorely disappointed the whole sabbatical if you have a bunch of kids.
Linda: Which was me. I was completely frazzled. And Bob’s said “you have to stop looking at it like this is your time to rest while you’re taking care of the kids. Like it just isn’t.”
Leave your location
Bob: And within that, let me add another thing that I thought of. Which I probably talked about before, but I think after having 10 different times that we’ve taken a sabbatical now it’s incredibly important. You need to leave your location and to not do this at home. I knew this last year, but we had our sabbatical at home.
Well, I knew this five or six years ago. And I was constantly telling people this. You have to leave. And I wish it wasn’t this way, I wish you didn’t have to. But in my experience, we just can’t do it at home.
Bob: And we tried this last year.
Linda: We did try.
Bob: Because what?
Linda: The book.
Bob: Yeah, because we were in the middle writing the book (Simple Money, Rich Life) and everything else, we ended up having our 2021 sabbatical at home.
Linda: We, we couldn’t travel.
Bob: Travel wasn’t gonna work out for one reason or another. Like, we’re gonna do the best we can, even though I know I’ve always told people not to do this. We’re gonna try it. And I was right. It was just…
Linda: It was terrible!
A break from work is not a sabbatical
Bob: It was a terrible sabbatical. It wasn’t a bad break. It still was a break away from work, but just a bad sabbatical. It was not the rest that I hoped for.
And that comes back to kind of what this question is a little bit like everything is the same and that’s the thing.
I’m just in the same routine when a home. Of cooking or whatever, doing the laundry. All the different things that we’re doing normally: checking the mail, noticing the busted thing on the house that we gotta get fixed. Like all that normal stuff is still there. And you need to get away from that.
So we do still cook. I still cook a lot when we go on the sabbatical. We still do laundry of course, but we try to reduce that.
Avoiding stress and finding rest
Linda: I think everyone can ask this question for themselves. What stresses you out the most? Honestly, on this sabbatical our dryer broke. So that made laundry even more stressful for me.
But what would it look like to have laundry service for the month? How much would that cost and would that be worth it? It might be worth it.
Bob: Yeah, and it’s the same thing with cooking, I actually enjoy cooking. But if I didn’t, then I would definitely be asking that question. It’s like, I don’t want to eat out every single dinner.
Linda: How can we save up enough until the next sabbatical to not have to make our food?
Bob: But if that is the thing that is gonna make this sabbatical feel not restful and feel not like it’s sabbatical then yeah, maybe we should ask that question. How can we find another way to get food? Maybe we fast our dinner every night. I don’t know. Linda probably won’t like that one.
Linda: I don’t think the kids will like fasting for dinner. Yeah, but I think that’s a good question. I’m actually going to ask that question for us next time about getting a laundry service.
Bob: That’s a great idea.
Linda: That that was one of the parts that just felt like a lot to me.
Staying organized with sabbatical checklist
Bob: So, getting a little bit more granular. I have a handful of like checklists that I go through each time we prepare for a sabbatical. Just asking my questions about the year. And, to get things planned out and structured. And I think that it might be good to pull that to together in a way that we can get that to people.
Focusing on family time
Linda: Another thing that we really try to focus on is family time. Because, in our minds, this is our kids sabbatical as well. So, we still did school work with Alden as he is homeschooled.
Bob: Which I would’ve been fine not doing that, but I just felt like I wanted to have a little time to be able to teach him myself and spend some time with him, you know? Because up to that point, I think you had been pretty much doing all of the schooling.
Bob: So I wanted to do it and that’s part of why we did continue with homeschool during our sabbatical.
Sabbatical benefits for the kids
Linda: But we also try to plan a lot of things that the kids are going to enjoy. So, even though the days I’m hardcore parenting, it’s still nice to have Bob come home around lunchtime and then do the rest of the day together.
That is still a huge benefit. And also be like, okay, well, what do we want to do with the kids? Like what memories do we want to be making?
Linda: Because even though they’re not sitting there just reading the Bible for hours. There’s still just family rest and family fun time that we can have with them.
I honestly think every single year that we’ve done this, I’ve noticed big changes in the kids. The first time we did it with Alden, he was a year and a half. And we took the month off. It was January, or not January.
Bob: June, right?
Linda: June through July. Yeah. And Alden had been my little buddy. He had been my, my baby. And all of a sudden after that trip, it was like he and Bob just clicked and they were two peas in a pod from then on out. I think even still your relationship is really solid. And I think a lot of that is based off of that trip.
There’s just been a lot of stuff like that, where we’ve just seen the kids change. Because they’ve had so much time with their dad, which not every kid gets that you know. And there’s a lot of working moms where it’s true for you as well. So, that’s been really big, I think, too.
A sabbatical needs to be intentional
Bob: Yeah. And with that the family time, the one word that I think to take from this, if you want it to be a good sabbatical, as in really restful as in I think the most life changing thing, it needs to be intentional.
I think the intentional is the word there. Some people will go on a vacation and think that a sabbatical is the same thing. And they’re just not. Again, there’s no judgment.
I’m just saying that for us, we’ve taken vacations and we’ve taken sabbaticals. And they’re just very different.
Bob: So you can vacation. My definition of a vacation is just doing a whole bunch of stuff. Staying really busy. You’re not working, which is a benefit. But in terms of a restful perspective, if I’m going to Disney for 8-12 hours each day, and just the constant run run, run, run…
Bob: Like that’s just a different thing. And so what we do with the kids, we’re doing some fun stuff. But that’s not the goal. The goal is not to just fill the time with busyness and whatever. It’s really to have intentional time together. Intentional family time.
Linda: Yeah, we took the kids out for a date each week. Everyone got a date.
Bob: One on one time, like parent with kid type of thing. I think intentionality is just the most important part for who is wanting to do something like this.
Don’t be intimidated to take a sabbatical
Bob: I’ll add this because I know I would’ve thought if you had asked me 15 years ago… a month sabbatical? I would’ve been so intimidated by it. And You don’t need to be.
There’s just nothing that’s impossible for God. And even though your job situation might look like that’s never possible. It doesn’t need to be.
I would encourage you to pray about it and ask him. You’re only gonna find the answer if you’re actually seeking it out. So, it’s worth praying about and asking God “is this possible?”
And start small. Like start with a week then stretch yourself. Even if you’re not having a day’s sabbatical, start with just a day. Because the first week I did, I remember I was freaked out by that.
So it’s okay. It’s natural that it feels impossible that it feels like a stretch, but continue to lean in that.
Linda: And maybe you’re in a profession where it’s just not possible even to get a week off. I think there’s lots of different scenarios out there. But I would encourage you to think, “okay, what does it look like if I go to my job and then the time after work is over is complete sabbatical time?” Like complete rest time. Do that for a week. Do it for a month or however long you feel led to do it.
Linda: But. I think there are ways to get the benefits without doing it exactly how we do it. I mean, we are extremely fortunate. We understand that. We…
Bob: Yeah, but I think the intentionality is the key.
Bob: So without it, I just don’t think it’s gonna happen. And that’s where what you’re talking about is like, “if I’m choosing next week as a sabbatical like I have to go to work. Okay, great. So how can I rewrite those other eight hours of the day in a way intentionally to not let them be what they have been in the past. And create a new operating system or something like that for that phase.”
Linda: And I even think that this can possibly work while at work. What does it look like for you to be in rest mode at work? And I don’t mean being lazy or not getting things done.
I just mean the internal turmoil that is typically going on while there. If you let that rest, you know what I mean? Like for parenting, it looks like: normally I would not let them play with Playdough on the carpet. But today I’m just gonna chill out about it.
Linda: And let the way, I even talk to my kids about it is different when I just have that thought, you know, we can’t play on the carpet.
What if we put a towel down instead? You know what I’m saying is like, how can we rest even in the work that we have to do?
Bob: Yeah. That’s good.
Linda: That’s a message for myself right there. I’m not kidding, I’m preaching to myself.
Bob: I feel like we’re transitioning to rest. Well, yeah.
We need to be living in rest
Bob: But yeah, because we should be living in this rest and everything we’re doing every day.
Linda: We should be, it’s really hard.
Bob: I remember hearing somebody talk about sabbatical and saying something to the effect of :
“if you live your life in a way that you have to have a sabbatical, then there’s a problem with how you’re living your life.”
Bob: And I think that there’s some truth to that for some people. But at the same time, I feel like taking a sabbatical rubs off on how you live the rest of your life or it can’t.
Bob: And I feel like it’s done that for me. Because when you take a month off away from work, then you’re in a situation where….I mean, it’s like bootcamp. Where you go through this thing that otherwise would’ve seemed really difficult or impossible.
Bob: And now you’re faced with this other challenge and you’re like, well, that wasn’t that big of a deal. I just took a month off. So I can go to the hospital because something came up and I’m not able to do X or Y or Z for three days straight. It’s like, well it’s not what I wanted, but you know, I’ve taken a month off. I can do that, you know?
Frustrations and expectations
Linda: The other thing that I will add, every single time I have taken sabbatical… during it I’ve been like this is not doing anything. I don’t know why we’re doing this.
This feels like there are parts of it that feel frustrating to me. Do you feel like this or is this just me?
Bob: I don’t think it’s as much as you, I have a lot of fun.
Linda: I feel frustrated because I always expect it to be thing different than it is.
Bob: Yeah that’s true. That’s a good point.
Linda: This is where we’re different. It’s like he has his expectations probably set in the right spot. And mine are just different. The first couple days it just feels really like, I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to do.
And this is one of the things that I think we could do better at is picking the same place each time, because the first time we do it, I’m like, I don’t know what coffee shop I wanna go sit at.
I don’t know where anything is. I feel just a little bit like lost. And I think every time we’re in it, I’m like, I don’t know what I’m getting out of this. And then after it’s over, I’m like, oh, okay I see that it was this, this, this, this, this. And I look back and hindsight is 20/20 for me every single time.
Linda: Every time.
God does big things through really small things
Bob: That point about expectations, I think is really important too, because I think it’s like this a lot with what God does in our lives. It always seems to be like he does these big things through really small things that seem insignificant.
And it feels like a lot of times it’s a seed planted. Maybe a tiny little seedling where it’s easy to go into and be like I’m taking a month off to seek the Lord. I’m expecting Jesus to show up, and just to be like the biggest thing.
And it’s easy to get in that mindset. To be honest, since we took that year off in 2017, we took the entire year off as a sabbatical year. And that entire year I was really disappointed because I thought, all right if God’s calling us to take a whole year off we’re gonna get something great.
Linda: It’s gonna be amazing.
Bob: Literally it wasn’t until I think two days before the end of the year that I finally got something that I thought was that could be fairly significant from God.
Linda: And it has been.
Bob: And it has been. It’s single handedly been the biggest thing in terms of reorienting and refocusing our efforts for our business, for our life and for our future.
All in God’s timing
Bob: I don’t know that there’s been anything bigger than what I felt like God spoke to me in the two days before that year sabbatical was up.
But most of that year people would come up to be like, well what are you getting from God? You’ve been taking the whole year off on sabbatical that God called you to do What’s he telling you? I’m like I don’t know nothing.
Linda: Right. And I think that’s scary too is because we have other people expecting something to happen. That’s not happening. And it’s like, you can’t manufacture stuff. Like you just have to wait on the Lord. You just have to wait.
Linda: And he will reveal it when he is ready and when he thinks that we’re ready, so.
Bob: Yeah. But that’s part of it is getting in the position to be ready. And which requires the decompression, the stepping away from the noise like all this stuff.
Bob: Sometimes it takes a while for us to get in a position to be ready to hear.
Linda: Hopefully that’s helpful.
Bob: That is everything you wanted to know about our sabbatical and more and how we do it. Hopefully this is helpful. Send this to somebody you know who is wanting to take a sabbatical. Again, our encouragement is just seek God in this. We’ll be praying for you.
Linda: There’s power in it. There really is.
Bob: It’s a really special thing.