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How to Relax – A Lesson for Moms

2012 November 7

So we went on our Palm Springs mini-break with some of our favorite friends and their kids. It was my girlfriend’s birthday, which semi-spawned the idea in the first place (though let’s be serious, I rarely need an excuse to go to Palm Springs for two days) so we packed up two five year-olds, two toddlers, two husbands, two SUVs and hit the road.

As mentioned, we rented a fab house for the weekend which was great in a lot of ways, but also meant we were responsible for meals, drinks, washing dishes, taking out trash, etc. We all chipped in to make it a group effort, and then when time allowed, we were free to sit and chill. Editor’s note: I am very good at this. I am blessed with a husband who is just as willing and capable of getting up to change a diaper or check on a tantrum as I am so we split duties. I believe that we work hard and therefore deserve to play hard…or relax hard, in this case. I have no qualms about sitting on a lounge chair, cocktail in one hand, magazine in the other, if I know that both of my kids are safe/entertaining themselves/not yelling at each other. So that’s what I did for most of the weekend.

My girlfriend, the birthday girl, couldn’t seem to do the same. If the opportunity presented itself for her to sit and do absolutely nothing, she couldn’t quite get there. She admitted that she is so busy in her day-to-day life that when she does find a minute to unwind, she gets wound up just thinking about it. She needs to find something “useful” to do — whereas I find working on my tan and reading about Kate Moss in Vanity Fair very useful. I made it my duty to help her figure it out – here were the key steps:

1) Give yourself permission. If you don’t give yourself a break (pun intended), why would anybody else? If you can legitimately find 10, 20, 60 minutes to sit and indulge in nothing useful, you need to give yourself a stamp of approval and do it. On most Saturday afternoons while our baby naps, we take “family quiet time.” Little D (now 5 1/2) won’t nap, but finds a way to occupy herself while skater hubs and I nap, read, write, whatever. We tell ourselves – and her – that we are taking some time to relax and she has learned to respect that and find her own way to wind down. If we didn’t claim it, do you think she would offer it up? Ya…no.

2) Let things wait. Yes, there may be dirty dishes in the sink. There may be laundry to fold. There may be a menu to plan. But guess what – it will all still be there in 30 minutes. I am not racing against time to win an award in domesticity, but I am racing the clock when it comes to personal stress, health and well-being. So if I choose to flip through a magazine now and let the dust sit just a little while longer, I am ok with that.

3) The kids will not die without you. I mean, obviously once the food, water and sleep stuff is taken care of. But seriously mamas, they don’t need you on top of them 24/7. I promise. Even Kai, who is not quite two, can hang on his own for a surprisingly long period of time, as long as I let him…he knows where to find me if he needs me, he’s usually just sitting a few feet away, but if I take a pause from constantly entertaining and stimulating his brain and instead focus on relaxing mine, he can do it on his own.

4) Partner up. This is a very important step. You and your husband/partner/significant other must be willing to work together on this. It will be rare that you both get time to chill together (our Saturday afternoon ritual is a happy exception) so you need to be willing to take turns. We give each other alternate days to “sleep” in (if that’s what you call it when two kids are stomping around outside your bedroom door), if I take a morning to go to The Dailey Method, he takes the next morning to surf, and when we’re poolside on a mini-break, we consciously take turns getting up to prep snacks for the kids and play in the pool with them while the other one…doesn’t. With the exception of trips for mother’s day/father’s day and/or birthdays when the honoree is free to do absolutely nothing the entire time.

5) Have a drink. It can be chardonnay, it can be café au lait…just indulge in something that indulges your senses. That forces you to pause and enjoy and relish the moment. To focus on the “task” at hand, to give yourself a much-deserved treat and to feed your soul for a moment while you’re not busy feeding a hungry mouth. And then, have another.

So did it work? Well, on our last morning in Palm Springs my girlfriend and I had wine and cheese for breakfast (ok, let’s call it brunch, it was like 10am). And she sat down and enjoyed it and didn’t worry about her kids or her husband or the dishes piling up inside. She didn’t quite do it long enough to read the Kate Moss story but that’s ok…I will lend it to her for next time. 😉

4 Responses leave one →
  1. November 7, 2012

    Great tips and ideas!

    I have trouble with #2. I really can’t just let things sit there and wait. I know, right?

    I am able to leave the kids be for periods of time. Freeplay it’s called 🙂

  2. November 7, 2012

    Yes. The permission – permission without guilt – is so very very important. It’s one of the hardest things in the world, and congratulations to you for finding your way to do it. And for sharing with the rest of us.

  3. liz duncan permalink
    November 7, 2012

    Love the advice! I do a lot of sitting around on Sundays with my family (official church and family day) and by Sunday night I always feel horrible about sitting around all day. I think that’s where your “give yourself permission ” rule comes in to effect. I’ll try it this weekend!

  4. November 12, 2012

    Much further north…I was having similar domestic thoughts today. As I wrote the names Gwenyth and Tracy, I thought of your blog. I’ve share a link back to this article because it tied in so well with today’s conversation. I, too, have been thinking a lot about partnering up and giving yourself permission (and others, too!). Well written and always giving me a smile. Enjoy that sun! People say snow’s on the way in Sweden.

    here’s the link to you:

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