I’ve been reading two very poignant books to parenting lately – Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time and Mitten Strings for God – Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry. The first book is helping me understand a lot about my current state of constantly feeling overwhelmed as a new, working mom. The second book is giving me beautiful insights on the impact of slowing down for my mental state and the positive effect it can have on my family. It’s ironic because there are so many factors at play causing me to feel overwhelmed that it seems nearly impossible to pause and take a breath.
In the book Overwhelmed, research shows that families today are over-scheduled, over-stimulated, and thus overwhelmed. They looked at a collection of Christmas letters where people give their yearly recaps, and a majority of them boast about being busy and not having enough time in the day between soccer practice, summer camps, vacations, and juggling a million other things. It’s as if you achieve higher status by constantly being on the go, even if you collapse in a heap by 8pm at the end of the day. This is why people keep saying there isn’t enough time in the day. We don’t make time, we fill it and rush through it.
In the book Mitten Strings for God, a mom shares anecdotes about creating space for her kids to idle and experience leisure. It reminds me of how we used to get so bored during the summer that we would invent games or catch frogs. This isn’t at all a significant memory. It’s not in our family albums or on VHS, but I can vividly picture lifting the drainage coverings to find frogs, scooping them up with a net, and then letting them go in the yard to my mom’s terror.
“We are the windows through which our children first see the world. Let us be conscious of the view.” – Katrina Kenison, Mitten Strings for God
Life can be simple if we allow it; time can slow down if we let it. It’s all in the way we choose to live in each moment.
Andy and I had an argument last week about how I go in to autopilot mode and the frenzy that ensues and sweeps up anything it its path. I put Amaya down to bed by 8pm, and then I start going through my to do list: make bottles, wash bottles, load the dishwasher, fold laundry, make lunch, eat dinner…fall in a heap on the sofa and watch tv, go to bed. Since having Amaya, I don’t know how to relax. Watching tv isn’t even relaxing in a purposeful way, it’s more just to kill time because I have no energy to do anything else. And more often than not, that last thing on my mind is spending quality time with Andy or doing something restorative for myself like stretch/meditate/read.
Well after listening to his perspective and reading these books, I’m starting to understand how this impacts us. With all the doing and rushing, there’s no space to breathe and enjoy. I unintentionally create a lot of busyness for myself these days. I constantly feel the self-induced pressure to do it all, to be perfect at everything, and that there isn’t enough time in a day. It causes me to multi-task (ie. I don’t do any one thing well), and I also start things that I can’t finish (ie. I start with good intentions but end up causing more work for Andy and myself). My mind is constantly over-working, and my body can’t keep up. Andy even tries to go out of his way to help me – last week he washed all the bottles, made me dinner, then rolled out my mat and pointed to it. I crumpled down on the floor in pigeon pose with a sigh of relief. But it still took me nearly 30 minutes to slow down my mind and unclench my jaw. If you ask me what is my constant challenge as a mom, it’s not really parenting, pumping, teething, etc. It’s trying to get perspective on what is urgent and to create space to be present, rather than give in to stress, anxiety and expectations (internal and external). What I know to be true is that I can’t prioritize everything, or something gets de-prioritized. Today, it’s myself and my husband, and I know that has to change.
While I by no means have it figured out, after a really tough talk with Andy, I noticed some small, seemingly insignificant, but really incredible moments this weekend: I got to nap with Amaya in bed with me for the fist time on Saturday, and I got to lay in bed and watch the rain with Andy Sunday night. I was able to have these moments by not committing to any plans and by only doing the absolute necessary chores. This required me to decline invites to events, and it also took me and Andy having a discussion about when to load the dishwasher and wash bottles to minimize manual washing. I know this sounds silly, but it goes to show how a little bit of planning (or non-planning) can help me get out of my head and relax a little. I had to remind myself: when I die, I won’t remember the chores I accomplished or that the laundry was done and folded by the end of the weekend. I will remember how it felt to have Amaya flip over onto her belly and snuggle into me and what her hair smelled like. And I will remember the sound of the rain and the security and peace I felt while lying in Andy’s arms.
It’s funny how the most significant moments can’t be captured in a picture or placed in a scrapbook; they can’t be planned. But they will unfold with time and space if I let them. To my future self – don’t forget this!