Parenthood in 2019 feels like a constant shlep.
Not just to birthday parties and hangouts, but to clubs, play rehearsals, math tutoring, Spanish tutoring, choir, jazz ensemble - I've yet to mention the big one: sports. My two kids don't have a single day during the school week when they can come home, flop on the couch, and do nothing for a few hours.
We're not in a healthy state when our children's schedules are busier than Wall Street professionals.
As a parent, I can't watch my kids go numb, going from activity to activity without taking a breath. In fact, I'm going numb chauffeuring them from place to place 'til night.
It was only when my son got a C on a test that I knew I needed to do something. I lost my cool, and he broke down crying. What was wrong with us? C is supposed to be an average grade, not a failure. With today's competition, we'd forgotten that. We had to reorganize our priorities.
As an entire family, we sat down and looked at our schedules. There was no breathing room - humans need time just to be, especially small ones. I talked to each one about what they genuinely liked and what activities made them just go through the motions.
Sara loves the musical, but not the play - why was she auditioning next week if she didn't even like it? Garrison is president of the Student Leaders Club, but he leaves 5 minutes early every week to go to saxophone lessons. He doesn't want to continue with the sax after high school, so why were we torturing ourselves?
We got caught up in the rat race because in this gig economy, more is better. The more skills you have, the more useful you are. I'm finally saying, screw it.
I'm building the art of doing nothing into my kids' schedules. Not 'watching TV on the couch for 8 hours,' but literally, truly, nothing. They can come home, take a nap, snack mindfully, and talk to me about their day for an hour before they start homework, and go to bed. They're happier.
When it came to my schedule, I asked myself the same questions. Why was I juggling so much? As moms, we're so concerned with proving we can have it all, and we never stop to think whether we even want it all. I have to keep a clean home, make nutritious dinners, raise two children, have an ambitious career, a creative side job, and look like I haven't birthed 3 kids??
My habit of never stopping was a little harder to break, so I sought some help. I sent out a "hey, anyone else exhausted and unable to relax?" text to some friends, and one told me she's barely keeping afloat.
We went out for coffee together when we had a free weekend day; three weeks later. We bemoaned about our schedules over our overpriced pastries, laughed about our wonderful, messy children, and I realized I hadn't confided in another woman in so long.
When we were nearly ready to part (and the staff was giving us the eye), she gave herself a face spritz. "What's that?" I asked. She showed me a hydrating facial spray by Grace & Stella, which she got from her FabFitFun subscription.
"Here." She told me to close my eyes and take a deep breath. I waited and was greeted by a gentle mist of rose spray. I exhaled out, and I could literally feel my stress melting with the soft floral scent.
She told me the only times she felt in control during her week was when she took a moment of kindness for herself - a super long shower, a walk through the park, or doing an eye mask or something from FabFitFun.
By golly, I needed an excuse to take some time for self-care. Not to one-up my kids, but I'm definitely busier than them.
I invested in some bright pink strolling-through-the-park sneakers, and signed up for FabFitFun with my friend Jemma's discount - four times a year, I'd get a box of 8-10 lifestyle and beauty products delivered to my doorstep.
I needed something to force me to relax, and these really did. For a very affordable $49.99, they send a box of self-care to my door that's worth over $200 - in some cases, over $300 or $400, depending on how you customize (I just let FFF pick everything). Here's the latest Winter box:
I've seen singular products that are worth more than the cost of the box! These are things that used to feel out of reach because of the price point, but FFF lets me splurge.
I've gotten a floral robe that I wear before flopping into bed, eye masks that fool people into thinking I'm less busy than I am, and pink silicone wine glasses that look great filled to the brim with wine. I even got a yoga mat that allowed me to start meditating, something I try to do with the kids now.
With a little extra nothing in our day, my family's going to be just fine. Better than fine. The difference between 2 and 3 after school clubs is not going to be a deciding factor in their success as human beings but teaching them how to relax and be content with themselves? That's invaluable.
My mother said something to me when I was Garrison's age, and I finally think I understand it: Flowers don't bloom year-round, so why should you? I say bring back the days of doing nothing. Be a couch potato for a weekend, and let the dishes pile up an extra day, go for a walk in your bright pink sneakers, and don't feel bad about it. Once you unlock the power of doing nothing, you'll feel like you can do anything.