Whenever mothers think about rest it can lead to guilt. The demands of motherhood are constant. Babies, toddlers, even teenagers can’t set their needs aside to give their moms a break. Mothers know they need rest, but how in the world are they supposed to get it and not feel bad about it when they do?
Setting Realistic Expectations for Rest
If the only understanding of rest is an entire day spent on a quiet beach or a three-hour nap uninterrupted by a baby’s cries or a sibling squabble, it will stay elusive and impossible to attain. The demands of modern life leave little room for down time no matter what your profession, and some of us end up packing more busyness into our time off than we experience during a typical work week.
Since time away from responsibility is hard to come by, and it’s easy to fill available time with errands and other work-like duties, realistic forms of rest need to be prioritized as necessary parts of our daily rhythms. The fact that humans have divided time into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years provides a natural structure to incorporate rest into our lives. It’s reasonable for a mother to find space in each day, month, and year to recover from her busy life and take some time for herself, but she has to initiate, implement, and fight for those moments.
Making Rest a Priority
Daily moments of rest may be as simple as five minutes of prayer before getting out of bed in the morning, a bath after dinner while dad watches the kids, or an hour reading when the kids are in bed for the night. Even when daily moments of rest become part of a family’s routine, it is still important to schedule time out once a week, once per month, and once per year for longer increments of rest. Moms will benefit tremendously from an evening out with friends, an overnight stay at a family member’s house, or a weekend retreat once a year.
Mothers can initiate those moments by communicating their importance to their husbands and then making them part of the family’s normal routine. Fathers who care about the wellbeing of their wives and children should recognize the value in giving mom a few moments of rest on a daily basis along with longer breaks throughout the year. When parents model healthy attitudes about rest and work, kids benefit from more refreshed caregivers, and they learn to respect the spiritual value of Sabbath rest.
On a personal note:
As a homeschooling mother of five, I had a hard time finding people I could leave my kids with and not be stressed out the entire time I was gone. I really only left my kids with my husband, mother, and in-laws until they were old enough to stay with a couple of very trusted teenage babysitters. My ticket to time away was a very supportive husband, and our date nights were based on grandma availability more than anything else.
I cannot overestimate the value of the encouragement my husband gave me to take time for myself.
Whether it was overseeing after dinner chores so I could escape to the bathroom for a bubble bath or hanging out with the kids in the evening so I could go to a homeschool support group meeting and stay out late with my friends, he made sure I had time to do things independently.
That support allowed me to be a very busy homeschooling mother for almost 20 years while still cultivating my own hobbies and friendships. It also kept our relationship strong and enabled me to return the favor and encourage him to take time for himself as well.
Our time away from each other gave us the space we needed to enjoy other relationships and experiences that enriched our lives and gave us fun things to talk about when we were together.
Don’t Feel Guilty Having Fun
Once you recognize your need for rest and create space for it in your life, take a deep breath and enjoy it. Parenting is a consuming job, and it’s a large part of your identity, but it’s not all you are.
Mothers are still people with their own desires, hobbies, talents, and dreams. When you have time to yourself, explore things you’re passionate about. Learn new things, practice your gifts, and develop yourself. Mothers who are active in their personal growth provide a wellspring of information, creativity, and inspiration to their children.
It’s tempting to want to bring your children and family along with you to experience the things you love, but having those moments to yourself and then sharing the story with your family has its benefits as well. Your ability to set time aside for yourself demonstrates valuable lessons to your kids.
This is part two of our three-part series: Maintaining Sanity and Developing Personal Spirituality as a Stay at Home Mom