I am a body in motion. Tonight, while cleaning up after dinner, I scolded my 2-year-old for pushing the kitchen chairs around. She lined them all up and said, “I’m taking away all the chairs. You can’t have any chairs, mama!” The 5-year-old then chimed in gleefully, “Guess you’re just going to have to stand up for the rest of your life!”
Her statement felt painfully true. Whoever invented the stereotype of the stay-at-home mom leisurely folding a basket of laundry while watching “Days of Our Lives” deserves some horrific punishment: an eternity of stooping down to pick up choking hazards off the floor or listening to creepy kid’s music or being slowly buried under a mass of children’s drawings and coloring pages that are too special and important to EVER be thrown away.
Describing the life of a stay-at-home mom, or any mom, as “leisurely” is kind of like saying that children are generally calm and reasonable. In other words, it’s a false statement. Personally, I tend to complete my everyday tasks in a manner that I would love to call “purposeful,” but is more often in the category of “frenetic,” “harried,” or “borderline manic” – anything but leisurely.
With three children ages 5 and under, rest is not a thing I’m good at. I can be better, though, better at everything, more centered, joyful, and at peace, if I can manage to find moments of rest in the everyday frenzy of my life. Those moments are there already; I just need to recognize them, appreciate them, and allow them to restore me.
In my everyday life, when do I feel most at rest?
When I get out of my disgusting house. I could spend my girls’ entire childhood in an endless cycle of cleaning up after them and then gritting my teeth as I watch them destroy all my good work. Going outside kills a whole bunch of birds with one stone: I put the mess out of sight and mind, I take a few deep breaths of clean, good-smelling air, and best of all, I keep my children from doing any further damage inside.
When I connect with a friend. I have an amazing neighbor who also has three children. Luckily, her three kids and my three kids enjoy spending time together as much as my neighbor and I enjoy spending time together. Sharing my absolutely normal struggles with another woman who understands them, because she lives them, that’s freeing. It is, no doubt, a blessing.
When I remind myself to be thankful. It’s usually triggered by some small detail – a two-toothed smile from my baby, the way the sun shines through my backyard trees, a conversation overheard from the playroom. I think to myself, Not everyone gets this. This is something I need to remember. It lasts for no more than a minute, but it helps me get through the next sibling squabble or messy diaper or marathon time-out.
When I act like I’m a human being too. How strange, that moms have to eat and sleep and perform bodily functions. How unfortunate that these physical demands impede their ability to respond to their offspring’s every beck and call. I am often so busy trying to keep my children happy that I shush the voice in my head (or stomach, or bladder) that tells me what I need. When I give myself permission to do the things that I need to do – like eat my breakfast sitting down, and shower at least once every few days – it feels good, and that should count for something.
When I watch my children playing together. I gave birth to three daughters so I could love them and support them and instill them with values that will hopefully benefit humanity in some way. I did not, however, bring them into this world because I had a dream of becoming the greatest entertainer the earth has ever seen. So when they tire of asking me, “Mom can you…?” and play with each other instead, I try to stop what I’m doing and observe them, hear the voices they use when they’re pretending, watch the baby crawl after her sisters, and know that as I do the work of motherhood, they do the work of childhood.
When they finally go to sleep. Because I can have a conversation with my husband. I can put my feet up without having to jump up to fetch something for someone. Because I have had a full, full day of doing my job, and now I deserve to rest.
Jenny Dunn Pray lives in Anderson, SC and is mom to three ridiculously cute little girls. When she isn’t changing diapers or supervising time-outs, she documents her diaper-changing and time-out-supervising on her blog, mommyidentitycrisis.com.