Cheryl Jarvis wrote the book called The Marriage Sabbatical, which was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
What is a Marriage Sabbatical?
A marriage sabbatical is a "personal time out from daily routines for creative, professional or spiritual growth, reflection or renewal." A sabbatical allows women to get away from the noises of caretaking and judgment. In the stillness, you can find your own voice by going deeper within yourself.
Description of Jarvis's book:
The Marriage Sabbatical weaves together the absorbing account of Jarvis' precious time away from home with the stories of the rewards and challenges felt by other women who also braved social pressures and public scrutiny to temporarily take leave of their daily routines. The liberating experiences herein are as varied as the individuals who lived them—from a few magical weeks of immersion language study to six months of adventure travel to two years of Peace Corps teaching. Eloquently describing how desire becomes a departure date, how women reconcile their decision with family and friends, and, finally, how they come home again, Jarvis shows how a marriage sabbatical need not be a trial separation or a midlife crisis.
Without much more to go on, what do you make of this idea? Is this a uniquely female need or should men be just as free to say "I need time off - from the demands of working 40 hours a week, raising children, being married, being fully responsible"? I know lots of my readers are male so I'm wondering how it strikes you to read that women need time off. How would you receive it if your wife asked you for two weeks, a month, a year!?
I'm reminded of the book by Anne Tyler called Ladder of Years. In that story, the wife having not paid attention to her needs, leaves her family for an unplanned sabbatical of a year's length without warning, without admitting to the ways in which she has been complicit in her own life's deprivation. She winds up renting a room over a coffee shop in a small town and not calling home or even letting her family know where she is for the first month. (If my memory serves me right.) What was fascinating about that book was the way the wife/mother only had the courage to leave when she did so without any plan, without any permission or clarity or honesty in her relationships.
I can well imagine taking time off to serve, to pursue an artistic endeavor, to take on an athletic feat (like hiking Mt. Whitney or kayaking in Alaska). I do wonder more about long-term sabbaticals - two years in the Peace Corps while you still have children at home? How would you experience your wife telling you she needed a sabbatical of that length? Or your husband?
And I also wonder about the experience of leaving home and husband when the marriage is in danger. Thomas Moore wrote (in Care of the Soul) about a wife who moved out of her home for six months to repair the marriage. He explained that living alone for a period of time was a non-traditional solution to marital troubles and that he did not predict the outcome when she moved out (that it would necessarily lead to healing their marriage), but that her soul was asking for this experience and it needed to be trusted. In their case, the wife stayed in the same town sharing the responsibilities of child-rearing, communicating with her husband etc. as they worked through the issues that had led to her desire to leave.
I don't know what I think about this concept. I like the idea (I have wanted to have a month of undistracted writing where I lived alone to do it) on one level, but I also wonder about it on another. Is there a danger here of asking for time out to renew self when really one is testing time away to leave the marriage? Is that fair?
What do you think?