Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 21 seconds

Relax? As in, Why Don’t I Just…

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 21 seconds

(The phrasing in the title of this post is mimicking what Susan Watson recently wrote, when she said: “Time. As in, it’s been a long” (though hers is waaay funnier)

I believe it’s quite common for husbands of young moms to tell them, “why don’t you relax?” – I say this because I have talked to friends of mine who get similar questions: “why aren’t you sitting with us watching TV?” Or “why do you wake up so early?” Or “why do you sleep so late?”

So let me settle this once and for all, for whatever it’s worth. From my perspective.

I don’t have time to relax in the ways most people would consider relaxing (i.e. sitting down doing nothing or lying down in bed). But I do relax in other ways. But let’s start with why I don’t have time to relax:

1. I know. They tell you to try to nap/sleep while your child sleeps. This assumes that somehow, the child’s food, laundry, and other logistics will take care of themselves (or assumes you can do these things comfortably while the child is awake. I personally try, but can’t).

2. I need to do things for my own self. Like shower. And read for leisure. And get work done from home because I am going late to work today or left early yesterday.

3. I had to wash dishes with one hand while carrying my child on the other arm this morning. My housekeeper is coming tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait, because my mom was coming today and I did not want her to do them (she wouldn’t be able to stop herself) and there weren’t enough dishes to use the dishwasher for.

4. Sometimes I don’t sleep because my child’s occasional night waking is more exhausting for me if I am in a deep sleep than if I am already awake (believe it or not). When she was nursing this was easier, now it’s not.

5. My time is no longer mine, so I need to use it efficiently. This is difficult to do in relaxed-mode.

But I actually am relaxing…
You think when I am lying in bed tapping away at my iPad that I am not relaxed? I am! I am reading a kindle book, and reading relaxes me. I am tweeting with friends, and that relaxes me. I am writing my blog, my column, or some other thing and writing is therapeutic for me. I am looking at my students’ work, and teaching is relaxing for me. I am checking my email before going to work, and doing so destresses me for my work day. I am looking at other people’s blogs, people who’s ideas support or extend or challenge mine, and this feeling of my brain stretching in the early morning or late at night or during breaks in the day? That relaxes me. Multitasking, like trying to fit a google hangout in with people on Pacific time while I am making breakfast? That exhilarates me. Writing a blogpost while cooking (and I have done this a lot)? That energizes me. Using my commute time to read and work? That’s something I can’t live without now.

I am not the kind of person who can live on 24/7 babytalk. I’m sorry. I just can’t. In order to be physically and mentally able to “be” with my child and enjoy her when she needs me, I need to be with myself when I need me, which, being a mom of a 3-year old, isn’t always at convenient times of the day because I have no choice but to fit myself around her schedule (thanks to those who mess up the routines I put for her, like daycares that take long vacations on days I have to work and dads who have erratic work hours).

And this all entails relaxing in ways that nurture my mind and soul. I know it doesn’t look like relaxing. But believe me, it is for me.

So… Relax, why don’t you just?

6 thoughts on “Relax? As in, Why Don’t I Just…

  1. Hi Maha it’s over 30 years since mine were babies but this post really resonated with me! There was no internet in those days so I couldn’t browse or blog, but reading while cooking was my default mode. Just two things: please let your mum do the dishes when she visits – she probably enjoys being able to feel useful – and get your 3 yr old involved in cooking and housework – it takes longer at first but it’s a fun way for her to learn and will pay off later! Happy relaxing

  2. Maha, wonder if there is a a form of emptiness associated with the idea of “relaxing” that leads to a sense of disengagement? A non-activity as a “cure” for being “busy” when busy is the confirmation of life? We flutter or fall to the forest floor.

  3. Maha, I am 100% with you. Women are the ultimate “multi-taskers,” so what is relaxing to us might not look relaxing to others. nd having my “brain stretched” is important to me, too. I am not a mom who could have stayed home and not worked outside the home. I respect women who can do that, but I could not. Lke you, I was a better mom when I had other experiences.

  4. What if absence of women in the workplace was as fraught with emotional tooth-grinding and false norms as women working outside the home? Even my paternal Grandmother wasn’t a stay-at-home-Grandma, nor are any of the females in my family. We complete ourselves as we please.

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