Before becoming a mom, I used to know how to relax.
I was good at it.
I could curl up with a book for hours on the weekends. I could go to Starbucks and lose myself in sugary caffeinated heaven. We took vacations and unplugged and were carefree. At work, when things got particularly stressful or when I was getting a headache, I would carve out 10 minutes, set the alarm on my phone, shut my office door, and I’d lay on my therapy couch (and even on the floor before I had a couch) and just focus on my breath. It did wonders for me, some days, or at the very least it allowed me to get through the day.
Even when I get a break, it doesn’t feel like a break. My kid takes one nap a day now, maaaaaybe two. Maybe. And I don’t know when the nap is coming. Today, it came early. Tomorrow will be different. I also never know how long it’s going to last. 19.5 minutes? 30 minutes? Once in a blue moon, it’s been 1.5 hours. And each time he goes down, I ask myself, How do I want to spend this time?
Sometimes I clean, do laundry, or otherwise get stuff done. Other times I try to relax – watch TV, drink iced coffee, read my book, write a blog post, garden, etc. Note the word try in that last sentence.
I’ve noticed that even when I try to relax, I just can’t. My posture is rigid, my breathing is shallow, my ears are perked. My son might wake up at any moment. Right now, my son is doubled over in the most uncomfortable yoga sleeping position not 10 feet away and I am trying to type as quietly and as quickly as I can and I am trying to pull words out of me even though I don’t feel totally motivated to write in this moment. But right now, this moment is all I have.
Let me be clear that, for me, this is not a guilt thing. I do not feel guilty for wanting to relax or for trying. And when I am successful at shutting the world out for a bit (including my son) I give myself a little pat on the back. Because everyone needs that, especially moms. And as an introvert mom, I need quiet shut-out time to recharge my batteries so I can be a better mom to my little snot machine when he wakes up, whenever he wakes up. At least I know guilt isn’t getting in my way.
It’s very tempting to use things to induce relaxation. I know it’s cool for moms to joke about wine and coffee, but I can totally see the dangerously slippery slope that is self-medicating when one is no longer in charge of one’s daily schedule. Ugh, I have to wake up now?! Better use some coffee. Poopsticks, today was tough and I only have two hours before I crash in bed, so if I want to relax RIGHT NOW, I’d better use some wine, because wine. Amirite?!
Sometimes I do this. Sometimes it’s TV or food. But I try not to. And I am also trying to feel okay knowing that I can’t just magically make myself feel relaxed when I want to feel that way, especially when someone else is calling the shots.
I want to remind myself that, sometimes, I end up feeling relaxed when I hadn’t planned on it, and wasn’t even trying. Which means…I don’t want to keep feeling like I am chasing relaxation, some feeling of peace that I may or may not get from a barista or a bottle of pinot. Chasing things always takes me out of the present, where I’m more likely able to create peace for myself. And that it’s okay when I can’t hurry up and settle down RIGHT NOW and for exactly 19.5 minutes.
With that said, he’s awake and screaming. This time I was given about 45 minutes.