When You Can’t Give a Whole Day

When You Can’t Give a Whole Day

Ever since I read David Cain’s stellar post on How to Take a Day Off I have been trying to figure out how to implement it. I believe in days off, and I haven’t had one in awhile.

My style used to be to go 110%– work hard and play hard– and then crash out. My life as a student and then teacher encouraged this. While teaching high school, I was horrible at boundaries during work time (coaching two sports, leading clubs and student trips, constantly writing new curriculum, being available to students at any time etc), and then during school breaks I would sleep in, get sick, veg out, and put myself back together.

As a mother of a young child with a part time salaried gig and an additional freelance gig working from home, I can’t remember my last day off. The old model doesn’t work. There is no spring break, no sleeping in on a Saturday, no vacation to recuperate. There are no days off of parenting, and to get my work done I work during naps and on the weekend. As a freelancer and parent, every day could be Tuesday or Saturday. Time with my son is time away from work and time at work is time away from my son, but I’ve had trouble finding time to rest, and I feel the need to build that time in. But how?

I have been trying to take one day a week, a day I am not at work, to stay away from my freelance contracts as well and follow David Cain’s rule of “no work, no goals, no attempt to gain anything.” I can follow all six of his his tenants: no work, don’t spend the day at home, involve loved ones, plan loosely, minimize electronic device usage, and enjoy the fruits of civilization. I’m a better mom on these days, and I’m a happier person.

Now, I can only follow all six principles if I don’t define being the primary caregiver of a six month old as work. It’s work. Can I really truly let the day unfold with a six month old to take care of? Do I feel totally rested at the end of these days? Not even close. They aren’t absolute days off by any means, but they are all I have.

To find a sense of renewal in my new life that does not leave room for crashing, I have had to get better at incremental rest. I don’t gets days off, but I do get moments off. The key, for me to make these moments stretch in their effectiveness, is being conscious of these moments, naming them, relishing in them, and counting them as deposits in my internal bank. Because I am actively looking for it, I see and feel renewal in places I never looked before. I am consciously grateful for each sunny day, each cup of coffee, each shower, each stroller walk, each time a friend visits or each time I sneak in a nap. I cobble together these mini gifts of renewal. Like Cain, it is the mindfulness, the being aware of the passage of time without trying to shape the future, the living happily in the present that can offer a sense of rest, even if it’s just one little tidbit at a time right now.