I am drowning, I wrote to myself in my journal. No, that’s not right. I’m being bricked in. It was a few weeks after Beatrice was born. I was already back in the swing of things–I had been since her second week. Schooling, housekeeping, childrearing, everything. I had sent a text a friend saying I felt “thin”, like Bilbo with the ring. To another, I confessed, Number Six may be the one that does me in.[Read more…]
A while back I began telling the story of my long wrestle with the word rest. And it is a long one, with many steps and milestones, I think, so that I stopped with the promise that I would continue in another post. It only took a few months, but here is that post, at last.
In the last installment of thoughts on rest, I–mother of two-under-two, with copious amount of Me Time but a heavy case of Burnout–was beginning to get the inkling that everything I thought I knew about rest may be wrong. According to the Internet and other mothers I asked, the solution to my exhaustion was to carve out more time to myself, but I already had carved out several hours for myself and was more exhausted than ever.
There had to be another solution.
It was Friday evening, the end of our visit to Florida; Jeremy and I were trying to decide what departure date and time would be best for avoiding the nightmare of post-spring break traffic. Would we wake everyone early, before the sun? Would we take our time leaving, knowing the highways would be jammed no matter when we left? Which day would be worse, Saturday or Sunday?
It’s the worst part of vacations, having to pack up and go home and drive for a day on a mindless, boring stretch of highway. I dread it, in a way, and I always try to get through it as quickly as possible. In fact, not one week before, someone had asked for tips on traveling with small children and I had said (among other things) to try and stop as little as possible. More stops make for longer trips and longer trips–well, they make my blood pressure go up.
So secretly I hoped we would opt for Sunday, since it would delay the grief of a day spent in the car as well as give me an extra day to dawdle about packing. In the end, however, we decided we would just take our chances and leave Saturday morning, though not in a rush.
When I first read about slow living–or began seriously overthinking it, truthfully–there was one aspect of the lifestyle that I couldn’t reconcile with my life as a full-time homemaker and mother-of-four. It was the question of where routines and schedules fit in with the concept. In eschewing “busyness”, was slow living attempting to throw off living by a clock? How so? And how much? And was that really possible?
If you have small children at home, you know how quickly things can devolve into disorder if there is not something–or someone–uniting all things in a common purpose and steering everyone’s attention toward that end. Without that anchor, my children (or, really, the three that can move independently) are like ships tossed on the waves of whatever their whims are at the moment, and I am reduced to herding and chasing and nagging and then yelling to get everyone back together. And it always takes longer in the gathering than the scattering.
It has to be said that there really are times that they should be able to pursue their own interests and let their feet run off to wherever their minds will–that’s what our copious amount of time for outdoor play is for, really. But times when it’s time to eat, or sleep, or brush teeth, or whatever things have to be done because they must be done? What then?
I wrote this about a week ago, in the midst of our packing:
I have just gotten Elvie to stop crying and go to sleep and am sitting for a couple of minutes in the silence. It is late for the boys–usually they are up by this time–but they must be especially tired to be sleeping late. And as if on cue, that thought is followed by the appearance of Ephraim, bleary-eyed and bed-headed, dragging his blanket over to where I sit. We exchange our good mornings, huge and kisses; he goes back out, and Clive comes in for the same morning treatment. After he wanders towards the bathroom, I get up to get Anselm out of his crib, where I can already hear him protesting his brothers’ absence.
When everyone is changed, dressed, hugged and with teeth brushed, we head downstairs for breakfast, a chatty row of ducklings still clutching their favorite blankets and talking about oatmeal. We eat–I’m last because I’m waiting for my coffee to finish–and one by one they ask to be excused and trot off upstairs. Once they are all squared away with toys and a show so I can focus on another day of packing, I hear Elvie begin crying from the other room.
Some days are just like this. Not every day–yesterday wasn’t–but some days I seem to bounce from child to child to child to child, kindergartener to preschooler to toddler to infant, in a sweet and essential cycle of hugs and kisses and meals and ouchies and nursings and what’s this? and where’s that? and sorries and forgivings and several other words I could also make up right this moment. There’s no exasperation in days like this (well, except for when Elvie is inconsolable for no apparent reason) but it certainly feels very busy.