The following originally appeared in July of 2011. It seems fitting during this busy season of life to post it again as a reminder to take downtime where we can get it. Best wishes, Kara.
The importance of downtime has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I am currently having about four medical appointments a week (don’t worry, the baby and I are doing fine, this is just a precaution) and those busy days are making the “off” days a real treasure.
A recent conversation with a stressed-out friend, the emails in my in-box from exhausted parents wondering how to disconnect, and my own desire to turn inward during this third trimester of pregnancy have all served to remind me of the value of taking time to recharge – the genuine need for a mental and physical break.
As I’m entering my 38th week of pregnancy, I find myself experiencing bursts of energy. My first instinct is to use this extra energy to take care of things around the house, but experience has taught me that this is not the time to re-arrange the closets, weed the garden, or strip and wax the kitchen floor. No, this is the time to rest and save my energy for the work that lies ahead of me – the work of birth and the early days of life with a newborn.
However, the late days of pregnancy are not the only season of life when rest is important and women in the third trimester aren’t the one people who need downtime. Many of us need to give ourselves permission to “time out.”
Who Needs Downtime?
Parents need downtime. We need time away from the duties of parenting. We need some time, and occasionally space, to just be still. A few moments of peace and quiet at the beginning of the day. Time alone, or with our spouse, after the kids have gone to bed. I need those daily pockets of quiet anchoring the end and the beginning of my day to help me keep up with the “joyful noise” that happens during the middle of it.
Sometimes we need more than just moments of down time in a day. I have a friend who takes a weekend retreat once a year, all by herself. She says she needs one weekend a year when no one calls her “Mommy” and she isn’t expected to pick up after anyone but herself. I can understand that. I have visions of a weekend getaway to a knitting retreat someday, myself.
This past Spring, my husband and I took our first vacation alone in over a decade. Having a few days together, knowing our kids were in good hands with my parents, was a gift for our marriage, yes, but it was also good for both of us as parents. We missed our kids, but he and I agree that we each needed that time “off.” I think it will have proven to be a great help to us once the new baby arrives that we took the time while we had the opportunity to rest and recharge ourselves.
Kids need downtime.
Kids need moments of peace and quiet, too. They don’t need every moment of the day to be filled. In fact, some parenting experts argue that we do our kids a disservice by not giving them the “gift of boredom.”
From one of my favorite books, Simplicity Parenting:
“Think of boredom as a ‘gift.’ … boredom is often the precursor to creativity. Think of a bridge between ‘doing nothing’ and the sort of deep creative play … The bridge is almost always paved with (the frustration of) boredom. ‘I’m bored.’ Now that is when something interesting usually happens.”
We need to give our kids the gift of down time and yes, even boredom. When we give our kids those seemingly “empty” spaces of time, creativity and imagination have room to grow and flourish.
Families need downtime.
It is tempting, especially in the Summertime, to try and attend every fair, extended family gathering, amusement park, and local sporting event. However, every weekend doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, fully scheduled. Families need some lazy weekends and time off.
I know that right now, what my family seems to need the most is simply time spent together, at home, living these remaining days as a family of five before we become six Flecks.
So, I’m taking my own advice and fighting the urge to re-arrange or take on major pregnancy “nesting” projects, and I’m resting. The baby doesn’t need re-organized closets and alphabetized cans in the kitchen pantry (not that I’ve thought about doing that or anything. Ahem.)
This baby needs the essentials: food, shelter, clothing, and love. And that last one especially I know we’ve got in bulk.
If it isn’t essential, it can wait, while we take some down time.
Are you finding room in your life and schedule for downtime? Do your kids have downtime? If you struggle with this, as I sometimes do myself, how do you shift things so that down time can happen?