My children have an uncanny ability to sense the exact moment I try to squeeze in even a few seconds of rest. They know when I open a book, when I sit down with my (warm for the moment) breakfast, when I dare to prop my legs up on the ottoman. Mind you, I only attempt these incredible feats when I know the girls are playing happily, either together or separately, and there isn’t some other pressing chore I need to accomplish. They can be in another room entirely and if they get even a whiff of Mama’s moment of rest, they come running. All of the sudden, she took my toy, or she came in my room without asking, or she yelled at me.
As an adult, it can be hard to find time for real rest. Either we are surrounded by little people who demand our time and energy, or we’re at work facing deadlines and customers, clients and budgets. We have meetings, obligations, exercise schedules, lunch dates. We strive to make sure our kids get all the sleep they need while neglecting our own bodies and minds that need rest as well. We push ourselves to get just a little bit more done before work, before the kids get up, before we go to sleep.
For me, at least, a mental break, if not a physical one, is crucial to my ability to get through the day in one piece. If we’re going-going-going, I find my attention and patience wanes the farther I get from rest. This rest doesn’t always come from actual sleep, because who can really fine extra hours to sleep? A few mornings of “sleeping in” instead of my usual 5:15 wake-up time is nice, but the rest can also come from other things—things either added in or taken away.
A month ago when school started back up, our schedule was packed with Meet the Teachers, Parent Nights, and figuring out how early we all had to get up and go to bed. There were decisions galore—what to make for school lunches, whether to let my new kindergartener go through the lunch line, how not to lose my mind if my sweet, tiny 5 year old cried at drop-off. Not to mention some big book news that occurred at the beginning of that very packed week that sent my already frazzled mind in a zillion different directions. (I’ll have details soon!)
By Friday of the first week, my brain was shot. I had one of those “if I don’t get to the couch right now, I will fall asleep standing up” moments. I successfully got my youngest tucked into bed for her nap, then I collapsed on the couch until time to pick up my oldest. That crash made me realize that during a time of extra-busyness—perhaps especially when it’s mental and emotional busyness—it’s so important to be gentle with ourselves. To let ourselves take a mental break when necessary. To not beat ourselves up for skipping out on something in order to arve out time for that rest. For me, it meant taking a break from the rigid early-morning writing schedule and letting myself sleep in a little, then just read for a week or so. In any down time at home, I picked up a book and let myself get lost in another world, instead of feeling like I had to Get to the computer! Fold laundry! Clean the bathtub! The extra hour or so of sleep in the mornings and the blank space in my head helped soothe my mind so I didn’t feel so frayed. Then slowly, I found myself back on solid footing again. Not with feet slipping here and there, but more confident and in control. Still emotional at random times, but that probably comes with the territory: my kids are growing up (although I know 3 and 5 doesn’t sound grown up to many people!), good things are happening in my writing life (good things can cause stress too, right?), it’s a new season of life, and I’m trying to hold it together and do what I can to be a good wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend. As we all are. Just forgive me if you find me conked out on the couch for a hour with a book in my hands.