I just got back from a week of hiking and camping in California’s Sierra Mountains. In many ways, I really “got away from it all,” as they say. There was no TV or email. And cell phone reception was spotty. I even resisted the temptation to buy newspapers (JonBenet? Snakes--and terrorists--on planes? I missed it all). But while I got a break from my normal life, there’s no way you could call my vacation remotely relaxing. The reason: my travel companions—otherwise known as my sons—are unbelievably hyper 3-, 6-, and 8-year-old boys.

I’m not complaining. There’s no way I’d trade our hikes amid glacier-filled lakes, wildflowers, and snow-covered peaks for a week at even the swankiest spa. My older two enjoyed both the hikes and beating me to the top. My youngest had a blast on the gondola and trolley rides we took on our less active days.

But after transporting my 35 pound three-year-old for three miles in a “baby” backpack…. After two cross-country plane trips with three kids and no screens…. After a couple reclining poolside during “kid swim” complained that my kids were too loud....After a million verses of The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” on our mini-van's CD player …. After countless airport lines, a few knock-down brawls, and constant requests for “Mom!” “Mom!!” … well, let’s just say that I need a vacation from my vacation.

Happily, that’s just what I’m getting. Where? At work. To maximize the amount of time our high-octane bunch spends outside New York City each summer, my husband and I stagger our vacations so we each take the kids away solo for a week. Then, the whole family goes away together for another ten days.

I felt sad watching them drive off without me yesterday. But my husband and I also share a secret love of our once-a-year week “off” from parenting. As my husband said while loading up the car, “It’s so nice not to feel constantly rushed, as if you need to cram two days of work into an afternoon, or to be constantly interrupted by someone yelling “Daddy! Mommy! Come quick!”

So, while I’ll be at work all week, I doubt I’ll be too upset about it. In fact, I may even stay late. It’s the only time of the year I don’t have to feel guilty for doing it.

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