Why I Can’t Take a Day Off
(This may seem hypocritical coming from someone who hasn’t updated her blog in over a month, but bear with me.)
If you’re a mom, you’ve probably heard it said, “Moms don’t get sick days,” or “Moms aren’t allowed weekends,” or my personal favorite, “Moms can’t take a day off.”
That’s so not true.
Okay, in a way it is. There are certain things a mom has to do to keep everyone, like, alive. Or happy. And if you live in a house like mine, it might as well be the apocalypse when everyone is unhappy. These beautiful little effers are demanding. Food, milk, diapers/butts wiped, teeth brushed, naps and bedtime. You know the drill of necessities.
But trust me, I can get away with doing very, very little on the mom scale on occasion. Will the dishes tower above the sink line? Sure. Will laundry become a fire hazard? Yeah. Will dog food be experimentally consumed? Rarely.
In the last five years of motherhood, I’ve prided myself in balancing work, personal goals, my marriage, and my family in above-amateur status (I’m striving for Olympic level…and don’t tell me there isn’t an Olympics for this thing, I see judges EVERYWHERE). But I proved my theory of just how little I could do as a mom a few weeks ago when I was weakened by the stomach flu and confined to the floor with little to comfort me except Mitch Album made-for-tv-movies and my blessed little angels.
(If you’re a Golden Girls fan, read the first sentence in Sofia Petrillo’s voice…)
Picture it: 2016, Austin, Texas. My husband just loaded up our moving truck with all of our earthly belongings—minus a few necessities such as blankets, clothes, and that closet in the bathroom I had yet to confine to cardboard—and hopped a plane for a weekend of job training, leaving his pregnant wife, two young daughters, and stressed out dog to embark on a cross-country move without him.
Don’t feel bad for me. I gave him my blessing to go (even if he didn’t need it), and my dear dad—whose offer to take a week off to help with the journey made him appear like a glorious hybrid of Sir Lancelot and Captain America—was due to arrive the next day.
(Unfortunately, due to an outdated policy by Delta, which should have been amended in the 1960s, my well-intentioned father’s trip was delayed by more than 24 hours. But I’ll spare you the asinine details. After all, it seemed much of my life at this point was a true comedy of errors. I could write a whole post on the hilarity of it, but honestly, I’d just assume forget and move on. Doubt I’ll ever purchase a Delta ticket again, though. Insert hand gesture.)
So, there I was, stomach spasming, a To Do list longer than my ledger of enemies, and a house that needed to be bleached for more than one reason. Instead of accomplishing anything, I ordered eight servings of egg drop soup from Mama Fu’s, curled up on a blowup mattress, turned on the tube (because I obviously hadn’t packed it yet, either), and let my girls wreak havoc.
In reflection (days later, because my brain was preoccupied with the repetitive desire not to puke again), I realized just how little I could do to keep my family alive. Cardboard boxes make great toys, as we know, and it’s apparently super fun as a kid to yell in an empty house with vaulted ceilings because the echoing acoustics are amazing. I didn’t have a headache or anything.
I also understood that I do not want to live my life like I’m perpetually on imaginary bed rest. It was fun for a hot second.
In the days that followed, I made the absolute most of each day. Not because I wanted to—though I did—but out of necessity. By the time we squeaked out of Bat City with a stomach full of last-chance Torchy’s Tacos, I crammed in as much work as humanly possible. Seriously. Not only did I have to finish packing and cleaning for the move alone, take my oldest daughter back to school for a few more days, and care for all the fun, logistical nonsense that accompanies a move, I also had a huge project for my [now previous] employer to repaint every one of the directional signs on the educational campus by hand. Both sides. I also sold numerous items on Craigslist that wouldn’t fit in the truck, handled a new case of hives that sprouted in our house following the stomach flu, jumped through a few hoops to get last-minute medical records for myself, my unborn son, and my kiddos, and even managed to visit a few dear friends and a museum I’d been meaning to view but had never quite got around to.
It was exhilarating. I fed off of the fear that I wouldn’t get it all done, knowing deep down that I would. I created a perpetuating energy within that drove my next move, increasing with each hour until a four pages of tasks was done and my body was exhausted.
There’s nothing special about me or my circumstances. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all surprised ourselves with handling manic days of overwhelming, bell-to-bell madness.
But, here’s what I noticed about the whole episode…
The energy it took to brush my teeth while sick was the same amount exerted to make twenty trips up and down two flights of stairs to load the last of our crap in the car. Granted, I was sick in the first example, but the principle is the same. It’s the whole Newton’s First Law of Motion thing. An object (please don’t comment about how I’m objectifying myself, I know I’m a human) in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest… UNLESS and external force is applied.
Are you at motion? Am I? If I hadn’t had the external force of a daunting move at my toes, would I have accomplished as much?
Ever notice that when you “take the morning off,” it’s hard to get anything done the rest of the day because the act of getting moving requires so much energy that you might as well wait until tomorrow? I do it all the time, and my task lists grow because of it. I also give myself forty mental lashings every time I fall into that trap, but never seem to learn.
Open any article about habits of successful people, and you’re bound to see at least one of the following:
1- Rise early.
2- Start working early.
3- Get your butt up and moving.
4- Eat your frog (tackle the task you’re dreading the most first).
5- Work now, play later. Or play now, work harder later.
(Okay, that last one is a gem from my dad, but it holds true in terms of relevancy and sound advice.)
In said articles, you will of course also see things like “Recharge” and “Take time for yourself.” That’s a given. But as a glutton for the couch, I have to be proactive by operating on the side of accomplishment, knowing the rest will follow. Otherwise I’m all, “Seven days off in a row is good for me! I need to do absolutely nothing except breathe for as long as it takes for an external force to be applied to get me moving.”
Don’t lie. You’ve been there, too.
But the truth is that when we find what our true purpose is—our greatest passion in life—and work toward it, it is energy giving not energy draining. I wouldn’t advocate for running yourself into the ground and becoming sick from working too much. Being sick sucks a plastic hamster ball.
Know your limits, but if you aren’t stretching past them every once in a while, how will you realize what you can truly do?!
So, what am I going to do now that the chaos of moving, settling in, and starting our lives all over has ebbed? Funny you should ask, I was just making a list:
- Make some revisions to my currently submitted book (I thought I was done, like, five times).
- Decide between editing/rewriting a shelved book that grabbed some agent’s interest a year ago but was beyond my then-current skill level, or finishing my work in progress. It’s still beyond my skill level, but what the hey. Stretch past your limits, right?
- Continue illustrating my picture book.
- Help my husband to grow the small real estate business we just started in addition to his corporate job.
- Push out my third baby (8 weeks and counting) and keep my girls adjusting and growing.
- World domination. I haven’t decided how to accomplish this yet, so I’m going to focus on block domination—which should be easy because I live next to some golden gals—and work my way up to neighborhood. Also golden gals. I’ll rule over my Ensure-drinking minions soon.
In no uncertain terms, I just can’t stop. This object is staying in motion. Even if it gets boring or tedious or difficult or impossibly redundant and heartbreaking. I’ll make mistakes and keep moving. I’ll learn and keep moving. I’ll do better when I know better and keep moving. I don’t want to wait for an external force to catapult me into action. Even if it means letting the dishes occasionally pile above the sink. I’ll keep a firm lid on the dog food, though.
See you soon, world!