Motherhood is amazing, awesome, beautiful, and stupendous. It’s also a lot of really hard, constant work. There are the physical demands, especially with young children: carrying children everywhere, picking all the toys off the floor, changing diapers, and bending over to tie shoelaces. There’s also the emotional demands: dealing with tantrums, sorting through all the different parenting ‘styles,’ wondering how much to protect and how much to let go. The list goes on and on.
It’s not hard to see why motherhood takes a village. The day-in-day-out monotony is wearing (no matter how wonderful it is). It’s beyond question that mamas just need a break sometimes! The word “rest” comes quickly to mind… and it sounds fabulous.
Recently I’ve been asking myself this question. What do my breaks look like? Do they look like rest? Or do they look more like escape? When nap time or evening time finally rolls around, what am I — what are we — doing with the time off?
It’s probably different for each person, but for me, I have noticed that there’s a clear distinction between using my breaks to engage in meaningful rest, versus using my breaks to try and escape the difficult realities that my day has brought so far.
So what’s the difference between resting and escaping?
I believe that rest involves a conscious engagement— purposefully choosing to use the time to be renewed. The how might look different for each person: taking a nap, going for a run, journaling, taking a hot bath, prepping dinner for the night in peace, etc. But the why of the activity is a conscious effort to renew, rejuvenate, and restore.
On the other hand, escaping feels more like this to me: The kids have been crazy all morning and I’ve not done the best job remaining calm. By the time nap time rolls around, I feel like I’m shoving them into their rooms and closing the door, demanding that they “stay there until it’s done!” I roll downstairs and plop onto the couch, mindlessly opening and consuming an entire sleeve of Oreos while I surf on the web for nothing in particular. Before I know it, the hour has passed, the kids are awake, and I’m barely aware that I had any time off.
Have you felt the difference? The difference between taking space to breathe versus trying to block your mind of everything that happened this morning.
The funny thing is, one activity can go both ways. I can enjoy a delicious treat (homemade brownie, anyone?) in a way that is restful. Stopping to slow down, enjoy it, be thankful, and take a beat. Or I can eat it almost mindlessly as I tell myself all the reasons I’m entitled to it. The reasons add up like it’s been such a hard day, my kids are crazy, life is out of control, I’m awesome for surviving, etc. In the first scenario, I acknowledge the challenges of parenting in a healthy way. In the second scenario, it’s almost as if I pretend they never happened, or I eat (or watch, or drink, or whatever) as though I can make the difficulty go away. One is proper enjoyment; another is a crutch that I use to pacify.
Ironically, the first option— slowing down for a moment to actually rest— feels difficult. Too hard. Who has time for that? The second option of escaping sounds much more alluring, much more promising that it will actually deliver rest. But honestly? It often does little to heal the soul and much to compound bitterness, resentment, and frustration at my circumstances.
Us mamas need more than just breaks…we need rest.
So— what brings you rest? What helps you to slow down, even for a moment? How do you recalibrate after a difficult morning or day? Or what are you naturally tempted to use as an escape or to ‘pacify the pain’ after a hard day?
We won’t always get it right. Some days, escaping might be the best we can do 🙂 But here’s to noticing the difference and to seeking more intentional rest in the spaces we are able.