I've asked her to guest post today and I love the topic she chose to delve into. It's made me think hard this week on the motivations of my heart to always be accomplishing something.
We all need the reminder that God:
13 "As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust"
If I wasn’t a multi-tasker before motherhood, then certainly the ability to use each of my appendages to their utmost efficiency has become a new pastime since having my girls. Motherhood asks…no, demands that women develop the ability to do more than one thing at a time. Like an octopus on steroids, we acquire the skills we need quickly after childbirth to hold a baby, slip on shoes, text our husbands, change the channel, and stir the scrambled eggs on the stove all while managing one more sip of coffee between breaths. Even after my husband gets home from work for the day and I get to “rest” and look like I am “only” nursing the baby on the couch – we all know that’s not the case. Behind every tired, nursing mother’s eyes is a giant system of cogs and wheels that endlessly turn in preparation for the next event: What’s for dinner? Has the baby had enough to eat? Did I remember to send out that birthday card? What is today? Okay, I think I’ll make enchiladas. Did I thaw out that chicken already? What should I wear tomorrow? Is it clean? I need to sweep the kitchen.
Prep, prep, prep. On and on and on. Check, check, check. And then, as soon as the baby is finished nursing, it’s back up we go – standing, burping the baby, getting dinner ready, trying to genuinely listen to our husbands tell us about their day outside of the house (attempting to get a glimpse beyond our afternoon at home), and a zillion other tasks all before the sun sets. And, it doesn’t end. Ever. And we get up and do it all again the next day. And these are good days, when everything goes mostly as expected and nothing breaks down or runs a fever or throws up in the middle of Wal-Mart.
No wonder we’re exhausted, right?
Not too long ago, a friend of mine got her hair done. She looked lovely and was telling me how she went to the salon and got a great deal, etc., and I casually just said “How fun!” and she just kind of paused. After a moment of thought, she very honestly said “I guess so. At least I got it done, anyway.” And, as soon as she said it, I thought I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN!
It used to be fun to go get my hair done or go out by myself. In fact, before I was married, I had no problem at all going out just me, myself, and I. To the movies, to the grocery store, to the beach, to dinner, to coffee, or shopping…I took enjoyment and gained confidence in just being alone and doing things that were “all mine”.
But now, if/when I get a moment’s peace to myself, the first thing on my mind is GET SOMETHING DONE! If I’m able to (hallelujah) actually leave the house, I might choose to grab coffee and a pedicure with a friend, hit up the grocery store without a screaming child, or work on a new blog (ahem) or some other project that bears needing completion. I can’t seem to just do nothing.
It’s been said many times that motherhood is a lonely vocation. Certainly, staying home with needy, little children can make you appreciate the outside world…a magical land where people, places, and things make it inappropriate to shout things like “you pooped again?” (even though we might forget that sometimes).
Before I had babies, I never feared the lonely stereotype of being a stay-at-home mom. Even now, there are many days when I could very easily call up a friend for a playdate and I actually choose to be a homebody with my girls. (And, frankly, sometimes it’s just not worth the trouble of putting on make-up and hauling the stroller in and out of the trunk again.)
But, be it laziness or sheer introversion, it can also be very easy for me to get in a rut of staying home too much. I’m supposing it is this “lonely factor” that contributes to my need for social and productive activity. There have been some weeks where I will finally get time to get out of the house by myself and I’ll get into my car thinking “I haven’t driven in four days!? Who am I?” and then I will drive off to complete some task that has been weighing on my brain. Another check box marked off for the week, because the alternative of being alone and sitting still would just feel wrong. It would feel inefficient and unproductive. It would feel selfish and boring.
It would feel like a waste of time.
When was the last time you did nothing? And “nothing” can look like different things to different people. Maybe that’s journaling for you, or going to a movie by yourself, or literally just sitting in silence and watching the sun set…but, I think the key to doing nothing is that it should accomplish one and only one simple thing: a sense of restoration.
Grocery shopping by myself might be a luxury (compared to toting two wiggly little girls with me), but it does not restore my mental peace. Getting pedicures with a girl friend might be a wonderful chance to catch-up without yelling over the noise of a toddler…but, it doesn’t create a calmness in my heart. Even blogging might fulfill a creative outlet I need to use skills I’m working hard to develop…but, it doesn’t hush my spirit.
It’s hard for me to find the balance between “the art of doing nothing” and “the pursuit of laziness”. It’s difficult for me to stop and be still and not feel the urge to check my iPhone or Facebook or start making a new list in my head for yet another series of tasks to complete. As mothers, we were created for multitasking (and thank goodness!) Through some miracle, God blessed us with the knack for staying one step ahead of the next need (or at least trying our best to do so!)
But, of course, as we sip our coffee and rub our weary eyes, we can all take a deep breath and admit freely – we have needs too. Needs that go beyond a hair appointment or a pedicure. Needs that watching another Grey’s Anatomy won’t solve. Needs that even a glass of wine shared with a loving husband can’t cure.
I know it sounds crazy…that after a long day of being “alone” I think that what I truly need is to sit in silence. That, after hours of singing Old McDonald and reviewing colors, I could be in genuine need of a mindless activity like going to see the latest RomCom in the theatre or just listening to music and flipping through a magazine.
[And, I can’t write this blog without mentioning that certainly I recognize the benefits of getting in “actual” quiet time – building our relationship with God, the one true healer and source of restoration, spending time in the Word and praying. If I’m being honest, though, I’ll admit I struggle to not make even that just another check on my to-do list…but, rather, that I am genuinely choosing to spend time talking with God.]
I’m still new at this stay-at-home mom gig. I’m still learning how to juggle the balls and balance the plates and put out fires at the same time. I’m still struggling to keep my sanity and my style and form complete sentences after a night of no sleep. I’m still searching for the balance between who I am, who I want to be, and who I think my children actually see me be every day. It will be a long journey, and one I’m determined to enjoy and appreciate along the way. It will be hard and happy, messy and magical, and at some point not long from now I’ll be wondering how it all went by so quickly.
I don’t want to just check boxes every day. I don’t want the days to fly by with big X’s on the calendar of my life. I want to fully engage and sufficiently rest, accordingly. I want to listen fully and learn deeply. I want to be still and feel confident that my time is valuable…even my restful time.
Let’s stop feeling like we have to be doing “something” all the time. We’re going to just get burned out or resentful or too tired to care. Let’s embrace the occasional act of restoration, the necessary art of nothingness, the temporary pursuit of laziness. And let’s check the guilt of inactivity off the list for good.
Read more at: Pardy Mama the blog