Introducing: the self-care staycation.
As I sat on the couch wearing Infiniti Bra (although I'm no longer breastfeeding) with my feet up, candle flickering, face mask on and a beer in hand, the quiet rolled over me like a comforting wave.
It was, quite literally, the first time I’d sat down all day and it really felt like I’d “earned it.” I’d started the laundry, finished the laundry, folded the laundry and put the laundry away. I’d rearranged ALL of the furniture in the kids’ bedrooms, complete with moving mattresses and dressers. I’d washed the dishes, run errands, refinished our kitchen table(!), sewed a pillow cover complete with homemade tassels (!!), planted an herb garden and picked up dog poop in the backyard. All of this was completed in a 24-36 hour stretch of time without my tiny shadows around to interrupt my stream of productivity. It was the “vacation” I never knew I needed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am deeply uncomfortable sitting still. And I REALLY struggle with the idea of “earning” rest/relaxation. Let it be known that rest and relaxation ARE PRODUCTIVE. But, for a mom of a three-year-old and one-year-old, sometimes it’s nice to have time to do the things that USED to make me feel productive.
Before kids, I was a go-big or go-home gal. I had never run a race in my life and never run more than four miles, but I signed up for the Chicago Marathon because I wanted to see if I could do it. (I did. Twice.) I spent my weekends doing DIY projects that I could complete in just a few days. I used to find things in our apartment I could easily throw some chalk paint on and transform. I once repainted our entire living room, by myself, in a 36-hour period just because I saw an Instagram color I really liked. At the end of those projects and weekends, the endorphins sustained me for weeks. I felt accomplished. Productive. And like my truest self.
You can imagine the shock when I finally realized that way of life was all but impossible with babies and toddlers. As most moms know, even the simplest of tasks (Why did I come to the refrigerator?) turn into disjointed, half-assed finished products that feel anything BUT accomplished. I was finally getting around to accepting that just finishing a task was worthy of self-praise when I got pregnant with my second baby and that sense of productivity all but vanished completely. I struggled. A lot.
I talked to my partner and we found ways to get through it together. We made weekend lists and let each other know “hey, I need 2 straight hours on Saturday to get XYZ done.” And that helped. But it wasn’t the same. I craved those day-long projects that I could fully immerse myself in. Enter: the weekend the kids and my husband went to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
I spent the whole week at work sketching out lists of things I “wanted to do” and things that “needed to be done.” I figured out how things that could be happening simultaneously (laundry going while moving the furniture out of my son’s room). And I anticipated the lack of a schedule that revolves around everyone else in the household. I was on my own for meals and bedtime and could wake up whenever I wanted. There was no “Should I make chicken or mac n’ cheese? because Nora loves chicken but Jem only eats noodles.” It was like my brain was finally able to rest. And yet, I was the busiest I’d been in years.
By the time the weekend was over and the kids returned home, I was flying high on endorphins I hadn’t felt in years. I was ecstatic to snuggle my babies and return to the usual tasks of parenthood, but I was refreshed.
I got to see the woman I was before kids for the first time and it was like seeing an old friend. I didn’t even know I missed her, let alone needed her. So now, she comes back more often. We find those projects and lose ourselves in the productivity.
So often we hear about moms taking vacations AWAY from home. And I FULLY support that. There’s something about getting away and forcing yourself to relax that really helps the mind and body reset and refresh.
But something I learned from this accidental “vacation” is that sometimes, connecting with yourself, your old passions, hobbies and routines, is just as much of a reset as hopping a plane to some isolated destination.
Jillian M., Mom of 2