If your household runs anything like mine you find yourself running from activity to activity kids in tow, every day, all day. Then during those brief moments at home instead of taking a moment to catch your breath; you scurrying to do dishes, throw in a load of laundry, or put away that train set you've stepped on the last three mornings in a row on your way to wake your son up. Note to self, seriously put that train set away. Sometimes I find myself so scheduled if I do not schedule myself a moment of downtime I'll run myself into the ground before I realized I haven't stopped moving in weeks. I tell my husband all the time that my job as a mother is hard to balance because there are no clear clock-in, clock-out times. Even someone who goes to work early and leaves work late doesn't have to worry about their boss waking them up at 3am, cause their sock fell off, or deciding they need their butt wiped right as you jump in the shower.
Yes, there are times in the middle of the day on any given weekday that I may be able to lay down for a nap-but there are also times in the middle of the night, or at the crack of dawn that I will be called to mom duty, unexpectedly and angrily. My boss will hit me, kick me, scream, and I will clean up many bodily fluids that are not mine on a daily basis. As mothers, we are overworked and underpaid, yet we never question if we should get up and go to work because our job is our family. Finding your footing in this new role of mom can be difficult, I know it was for me. I'm guilty of both sides of the stay at home mom scheduling struggle. I have overscheduled us so badly that we are both exhausted by Wednesday. On the contrary, I have said no to everything and found myself at home with a bored toddler, wondering why I would torture myself like that. The challenge is finding your balance. The most important word there is ‘YOUR’. Your balance might not look like your friends, and that’s ok.
I've concluded recently that downtime is something that we all deserve, and need in my family-and honestly in the world. I found myself driving to yet another playdate recently, after a particularly busy few weeks, and as we drove down our street I heard my son whimpering in the back seat. I asked him what was wrong and he responded in the most pitiful little person voice you can imagine, 'home please mommy'. In the moment, I told him we can’t go home because so-and-so is expecting us, and attempted to get him excited about the playdate. However, after returning home and having my son take an insanely long three hour nap, I asked myself why I forced him to attend a playdate he clearly was not up for. Why did I feel like if we didn't go to scheduled playdates I wasn't doing my job as his mother? And more importantly why couldn’t I respect that we both could have used some downtime. Why is downtime associated with being lazy in motherhood?
I feel so much pressure to plan an enriching exciting day out of the home every day for my son. Fearing that in some way if I decided to stay at home I'm being a lazy stay at home mom. It took this moment of my son begging to stay at home for me to realize downtime is important too, for all of us. If every day is filled with some out of this world adventure those fun things turn into a chore for you, and your little. I shifted my way of scheduling and instead of filling every week to the brim I began scheduling downtime for each member of our family. This time is now built into our week each week so that no one has to feel like there's not time to recharge. We all work hard, this is something my husband and I consciously acknowledge to each other. He understands that while I'm not at work all day I'm still working, we both deserve breaks. And more importantly our son deserves a little extra downtime time here and there. Kids get tired too!
Since this shift in respecting the downtime for each member of our family we have all been happier and healthier. I no longer find myself scheduled into exhaustion because I know that I will have time to recharge during a prescheduled moment in the week. This isn't some amazing new concept. It's really the same idea as a girls night or guys night each week that you use to escape and let lose. I find that as a mother I am constantly doing a million things; when I have downtime I prefer to lock myself in my room with my craft of choice and just create something cool for a little bit. My husband would rather go to the gym one evening a week than go out for a beer. It really doesn't matter what this YOU time looks like, what matters is that you allow yourself to have it. As well as the rest of your family. Just because you don’t enjoy a girls’ night out doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice night in, maybe reading a book while your husband pretends you’re not home.
From my time spent with other mothers I find that we never want to take a break. Even moms who have grown children and should be relaxing never feel like they can take a moment to themselves. The second we have downtime we jump at the next thing on our never ending to do list. I think this pressure for moms to be the ultimate caretakers comes from a lot of different places, but I know for me-I’m my worst critic. I know in my case I was the only one preventing myself from taking time to recharge, I felt lazy taking a moment to focus on, well nothing. As a mother I somehow felt that if I was taking a moment to myself to recharge, I was being selfish. So I want all you moms out there to hear me when I say YOU HAVE EARNED THIS! Next time you feel like you cannot take a moment to yourself take a quick toll of what you've already done that day for others. I guarantee that list will be never ending-try comparing that to what you’ve done for yourself in a given day. That list is likely very small.
Start small if you need to; next time you put your kid down for a nap take a seat and enjoy a hot cup of coffee to yourself instead of rushing around trying to complete as many chores as you can before they wake up. Taking time to yourself is something you have to learn because as a mother you have likely rewired yourself into thinking there's no time for you anymore. I started with a hot cup of coffee during nap, now I have an entire evening to myself each week, as does my husband. In addition to this time off I schedule a day each week at home for my son and I to reboot. Since we are off adventuring the rest of the week he happily plays with his toys he's been missing all week, and I complete all those chores I'll be ignoring while I enjoy my hot coffee at nap time. We found a balance that works for us, and there’s a balance for you too!