Each night after an exhausting hour or two of night time schedules, tucking in, one more story, extra drinks of water, a last baby nursing, and getting everyone settled in just right, the house is finally quiet. It is the sweet sound of silence that makes me feel like I just conquered the world, and this is the reward.
My days are filled with serving young children (I have a few). They start bright and early, and I go all day long with meals, cleaning, diapers, driving to and from, comforting, and lots of unexpected chaos to keep things lively. But then, even if just for a few minutes before I fall into a much needed slumber, I am off of mom duty. This blessed time every evening is a time of calm–spending time with my husband, blogging, reading, or watching a show. I do whatever I need to do to feel rejuvenated and ready to face another day, but it didn’t used to feel that way.
A few years ago, I had lofty ideas about how I thought I should use this time. I always had more on my to do list than I could do. It seemed perfectly logical to knock out that pile of laundry or get to work on something that was easier to do without the “help” of little ones. Or maybe I could get in that workout I never found time for that day. Every day I thought about all the things I would get done once the house was quiet. But every night, when the quiet would come, I just didn’t have it in me. I was finished. I needed to unwind and recover from the hustle and bustle, so I chose to do something relaxing instead.
Even in relaxation mode, I couldn’t help but think about what I should be doing instead. The kids were asleep! It would be crazy to waste this precious alone time doing something unproductive. The guilt of wasting time at the end of the day always lurked in the back of my mind, and it did not feel good. It weighed me down and added to all of the other guilt that we moms tend feel about most everything we do or don’t do.
I am not sure what brought on my epiphany because it was a few years ago, but one day I consciously realized what I was doing to myself. I was not giving myself a break. I needed a break! Sometimes, I relaxed at night, but not without a tremendous amount of guilt. I realized that I actually deserved to have a little time to just be me. Not a housekeeper, or a nurturer. That was the day I let go of the guilt. For me, evenings were the best time of day to have a break. I was already tired and ready for it. I announced to my husband that after 9:00 PM, I was off duty. If the dishes weren’t done, so be it. Whatever was not checked off my list would just have to wait until the next day.
At first, I had a hard time with this new mindset. I heard so many times that it is bad to leave things undone and wake up to a messy house. Although I would try to compensate by working a little harder to finish up the day before the kids went to bed, more often than not, it was not done. I realized that in the morning when I am fresh, I have much more energy to do housework, so that was really my best time of day to get things done.
This new-found freedom of letting go of guilt was amazing. I never looked back. To this day, unless we are leaving on a trip the following morning or I am finishing details for a birthday party or something urgent, I am off the clock once that blessed quiet time comes. Now, I have more children and life is even more busy, and I think that guilt-free time is what keeps me sane. I look forward to it and do not feel an ounce of guilt for hanging up the figurative or literal apron each night.
And you know, I may not have a perfectly tidy house because of it, but I am a better mom because of it. Isn’t that more important anyway?
QUESTION: Think about your typical day. Is there time during your day that you tend to unwind or give time to yourself, but feel guilty about doing so? Maybe for you it is early in the morning or during nap time.
CHALLENGE: Give yourself permission to take this time for yourself each day without feeling guilty.
Edited by Sarah Monson.
Image of dishes from Pricilla Dickinson.
Feature image from Shutterstock with graphics by Julie Finlayson.