When I was in high school and college, I would nap every day. I also loved to lounge, eat snacks, talk on the phone, and watch endless hours of MTV. I had no problem staring out the window for a half hour. The art of doing nothing really is an art, and I had mastered that stuff. I had no desire to be busy or run around like an overloaded woman with too many irons in the fire.
When I entered the real world, got a job, and was expected to act like an adult every day, I missed my daily naps, but certainly caught up on my lounging during my time off. Sure, I had fun, sometimes so much so that the entire next day was spent lying on my sofa not doing a damn thing, and I loved it. I never once felt like an unproductive sloth. I certainly never longed to be busier. I was busy enough. And I never would have thought about doing more than one thing at a time. I rather enjoyed not feeling like my brain was going to explode. People who made multitasking a hobby pissed me off. I was constantly telling them to calm down.
Enter motherhood and I realized nothing throws you into the busy category faster than keeping another human alive. Your kids keep you on your toes every second of every day.
Multitasking is a skill women are born with, and when you become a mother, those skills reach new heights. You just do what needs to be done, even if you are doing something else (or 10 other things) because you learn really fast that is the only way you are going to get anything accomplished, and even then, you usually can’t make it all happen.
You lie in bed each night and realize you need to start mentally prepping for the next day, which is the opposite of relaxing. You tell yourself you can start a mental checklist as you are trying to fall asleep, because hey, you are a master at doing multiple things at once, but we all know how this goes: It is hours past your bedtime, and you are still wide awake, panicking because there are only a few hours of darkness left, and you are so freaking exhausted, but you can’t turn your mind off and just sleep.
And there isn’t just the physically busy, as we know. There is also the mentally busy. I found after becoming a mom, it was almost impossible to lose myself in anything — a book, a phone call, making lunch — besides taking care of the kids. This constant hamster wheel turning in my head wasn’t just happening when they were awake either. When they were asleep, or relaxed in their swing, I was constantly telling myself I should start prepping dinner because I had my hands free. I should get those dishes done, or make that appointment, because you should take the opportunity when you can.
My thoughts were unable to relax enough to, well, relax. Soon, any notion of relaxation was absent from my life all together. This has lasted for years, and as a result, I think I am addicted to the busy now. The go-go-go. Is that a thing? I feel like it should be a thing.
Having three kids really close together doesn’t allow for much down time. It took me a few years to get used to the never-ending swirling of activity that I was in charge of managing all the time. My body and my mind needed time to adjust to this of course. I was exhausted for a good chunk of time until it just became my normal. I have done more than one thing at a time for so long now, it is ingrained in my daily life. It is the only way I know how to do things. Give me 10 things and I can do them all at once. Give me one thing and I will screw it up for sure because somehow, it isn’t enough and I am bored and my mind is wandering.
Now that my kids are older and don’t need constant care, it has some nice advantages of course, but I also kind of feel lost. Being still and alone with my own thoughts is a struggle some days. I hate to admit that. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I am wondering if I forgot how to do it. How to just be.
When my kids are off playing for hours, or spending the night with friends, my body and mind have gotten so out of the habit of sitting still and being 100% focused on what I am doing that I find myself turning on the TV and making a grocery list in between folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom and Facebook surfing.
I got so used to cramming it all in during a few free snippets of time that I forgot how to be truly mindful and see one task from start to finish before picking up another. Like, right now, I am writing this and eating my lunch like some wild animal because interrupting a parent eating is one of our kids’ favorite hobbies. But guess what? My kids are at school and won’t be home for hours. I am creating my own busy here. I have seriously forgotten how to relax, and I kind of hate myself for it.
Maybe I just need more practice — it did take years for me to truly adjust to the busy. I was literally walking around in a zombie-like state for four years straight. So maybe it’s going to take another four years to undo it?
I should start by trying to take a nap, but only after I make that vet appointment and download that new book I’ve been meaning to read. Oh, and there was this new recipe my friend sent me that I just have to try. And I really should get ahead on the laundry.
Yes, maybe after all that I will try to learn how to relax again.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy