my vow to be lazier

As I drag myself through my days on only an ounce of sleep, I realized something:  we live in a screwed up culture over here in America.

We are constantly telling each other to go easy on ourselves…to find “me time”…to take care of ourselves, yet…we continue not to.

Why?

Because being busy and/or productive is what is highly praised.

The more we do (and I can only speak from the point of view of women, because I am one.  But I feel like men probably deal with this too), the more people give us compliments.  At least that is how it is for me.

And the compliments feed my annoying need to say “yes” to every little thing.

“You are so organized!  I know you can handle this!”

“Wow! You are like supermom!”

“You are amazing at x, y, and/or z!  I would love for it if you would use that talent to help me out with this here project I have!”

“I can’t believe you teach full time and are such a great mom!”

“Ego stroke, ego stroke, praise for running yourself ragged.”

And at the same time, the same people are saying,

“Listen to your body, and take care of yourself.”

“Get more sleep.”

“Eat better.”

“Exercise more.  You will feel so much less stressed!”

“Seriously. Don’t be afraid to take a break.”

The funny thing is, if I was to actually take a break and do absolutely nothing for a day, or a week, I might get a couple people praising my decision, but if I started to take breaks regularly? It would turn into bitter responses:

“Must be so nice. I would never have time for that.  But GOOD FOR YOU.”

“I have no idea how you have time!  I do all these things and I could never give them up just to sit. But GOOD FOR YOU.”

And then they become unkind things said about you behind your back,

“Did you know Katie Sluiter has a cleaning lady?  Can you imagine? Must be nice. I could never justify paying someone to do something I can do for free.”  (For the record, we no longer have a cleaning lady due to needing that money for other things. But isn’t it sad I feel the need to clarify that?)

“Did you know Katie Sluiter gets a pedicure once a month even in the winter? Must be nice. I certainly don’t have the time or money to do that.” (Again, I don’t do this anymore since I am saving my allowance money for other things).

“Did you know she doesn’t even work and yet she pay someone to clean the house? MUST BE NICE.”

“Did you know she works full time and still goes out every Friday after work with her co-workers and let’s her husband put the kids to bed. She goes all day Fridays without seeing those kids.  MUST BE NICE.”

“Did you know she hires someone to babysit the kids even though she is home in her room writing and reading and napping? Who does she think she is? MUST BE NICE!”

(aside: none of those last ones were actually about me, but they are things people have said to me about other women. Sad.)

Women who stay busy and bust their asses to the point of becoming hysterical messes because they are so overwhelmed are praised.  And they are even sympathized with when they vent about the stress of their life.  But the minute they make an actual life/routine change so that they are regularly taking care of themselves, they get pegged for lazy, selfish mothers.

It’s not just women either.

It is fact that Americans work far more than any other country.  We take less time off and spend less time completely unconnected from our work.

Is it any wonder that we are a country who eats their feelings, has high diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and general burn out?

I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately.

I am threadbare right now.  I have brief moments of rest, but those make me feel guilty.  Saturday AND Sunday this weekend I took giant naps.  And I felt like a jerk for doing so.  EVEN THOUGH I had been up ALL NIGHT LONG with kidney stones (or something) and gotten about 2.5 hours of sleep Friday night, then threw a baby shower at 10:30am with over 20 guests. On Sunday morning before 11am, I did all the laundry and dishes, and prepped my school stuff for Monday.

Anyone would have told me I deserved to catch up on that sleep and rest my weary body.

Yet I felt lazy and horrible for leaving Cort without a partner to help around the house during that time.  For sending him for groceries while I slept.

What kind of example am I being to my boys?

When Eddie was Charlie’s age, I took a job teaching adjunct for our local community college.  I was gone 2 nights a week.  Cort was also gone those nights a week for his class.

I was working full-time during the day and part-time at night.  I had five high school English classes (including 2 honors classes) and a college English class.  I had papers and grading and planning coming out of my ears.

It was horrible.

Oh, I loved my work.  But I hated my life.

I missed MONTHS of Eddie’s first year (in reality, I missed the whole first year to a combo of depression, anxiety, and being over-worked).

I vowed to cut back.

Before getting pregnant with Charlie, I cut out all extracurricular activities and the high school where I work and stopped teaching adjunct.  It was just my day job and evenings at home.

It was lovely.

And now? I am killing myself again.

A lot of it is beyond my control with all the changes in my school district and with Cort being gone three nights a week.

But all the plans and crazy on the weekends? That is my inability to say no.

All the tiny “extras” I keep saying yes to?  That is my need to be liked and to have my ego stroked.

And where does that leave my family?

In last place after the grading and the planning and the writing and the time with other people.

This has to change.

It’s time for me to shrug off everyone else’s opinions of what I should or should not being doing.  It’s time for me to nut-up (as Cort says) and just say no once in awhile.  Even if my reason is “because we just want to sit at home and do nothing.”

Usually it is in those “nothing” days that the most wonderful family moments happen.

So this is my promise–in front of everyone I know and don’t know–that I will be lazier.

I will lounge with my family and just be silly.

I will take time to do nothing and not feel bad about it.

I will have moments in my life that are unplanned and not organized.

And I will just be.

Because I want to show my boys that what is most important in this world is the time spent with the ones you love, not with the piles of work I can’t say no to.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Wow, you took the words right outta my mouth (not to quote Meatloaf, or anything). I am breathing a sigh of relief for you. I know exactly where you’re coming and how HARD it is to turn down work. But I’m missing so much already, working full-time. It’s hard enough to squeeze it all in the few hours that bookend the workday. Good for you for recognizing and acting upon what’s best for YOU!

  2. I completely get what you are saying. I come home from work and after the basics are done, I SIT ON MY ASS ALL NIGHT LONG. AND I DON’T CARE. 😉 My house may be messy, but I’m tired and I’m going to take time for me. Every day. As long as the house isn’t going to kill us, we will survive.

  3. AMEN. Why is it that for such a little word, “no” is so dang hard to say?!? Sigh…

  4. I stay home with my boys and I still have a cleaning crew of 2 come in once a week for 2 hours. I do the basics daily, I do laundry, I cook and bake, I look after the kids, one of who happens to still be nursing & not sleeping through the night.

    So if anyone judges me for paying money to someone else to clean my house? They can come live in my shoes for a day.

    Yay you for going lazier!!!

  5. Amen, sister!! Congratulations for being truthful with yourself and, well, everyone else. These ‘standards’ that we (especially women) put ourselves up to are IMPOSSIBLE.

    The more you give yourself permission (look at me being all Dr. Phil!) to take time for yourself, the more the guilt will subside. I had to learn this the hard way. I WAS a hysterical mess, and it took me becoming a hysterical mess before I realized I should take it easier.

    Because, you know what? If people are all judgemental, or even if it’s your inner voice being judgemental, who f%#^ing cares!?!?! Shut up judgemental voices…your HEALTH will tell you to slow down.

    So, I’m working less. Damnit, if we were making more money I would hire housecleaners in a heartbeat and NOT feel guilt about it. Not one bit. If you can get housecleaners, DO IT!!!

  6. Good for you mama! I had the same problem of not being able to say no, and my husband really helps me with it. You will feel so much better and be able to enjoy your boys. At least it really helped me. We’re always here if you need anything! 🙂

  7. I don’t know what it is about our culture…maybe it’s our society, maybe it’s human nature…but we insist on comparing ourselves to others. Everything you say is absolutely true…but I’m just as guilty. I’ve been working very hard at not judging people. But there’s always that first instant when my mind leaps that way, then I have to pull myself back. It’s like it’s ingrained in me. And it’s not just “laziness.” When someone overworks I immediately think “His/Her poor kids.” Why would I do that? I don’t have an insight to their actual lives. I’m seeing just a snap shot.

    It’s something I’m working to correct, but it can be hard. I think it’s easier to blame others for what we feel are our short falls.

  8. Ahem…I know this first hand. I was under too much stress and got SHINGLES. LIKE A FREAKING OLD PERSON. If that isn’t the time to reevaluate your life, I don’t know what is. I think I try to just figure out how I can multitask or “hire out” when needed and screw what people say. Yeah I pay the vet $20 to wash the dog…so what? We eat a lot of take out. We have the luxury of cash flow…and I use it to help. Sue me.
    But I think the major supporter (for me and should be for others) is their spouse. If they can see you need a break and be willing to almost force it on you, all the better. Kevin has fussed at me to leave the house. Not in a “you didn’t make the sammich the right way” leave but “you need to do something else besides MOM” leave. On top of that, an army of mom friends offering help AND TAKING THEM UP ON IT.

    I’m rambling. I got little sleep last night. Me sorry.

  9. Dude. Yes. I work full time, attend grad school full time (two nights a week of class and the rest with homework), am raising a toddler, and gestating a baby. When I turn down activities or when I tell someone that I FINALLY have a free weekend? “Oh, I wish I had time to do nothing! We’re just always running running running.” Which effectively makes me feel like a shit-tastic parent for taking a weekend off from doing ALL THE THINGS. So my free weekends are spent trying to fill Aric’s world with enriching activities which really just wipe me out.

    In America we live to work, not work to live. My dad used to tell me that we have to work hard now so we can live better later. But really, by working so freaking hard now, aren’t we missing out on the best parts of the “now?”

    I don’t know. I think I’m getting off topic (hooray for little sleep plus gas station coffee!). In any case, I totally agree with you. We can still work hard AND take time off. And no one should make us feel like jerks for doing so.

  10. I LOVE THIS POST. My seizures are triggered by fatigue & stress, and PPD/A finally taught me to take care of myself. If that means a night out, a pedicure or working out and leaving the husband alone with the kids–so be it. Our sanity is worth it.

  11. Oh, damn. That “what kind of example am I setting” line felt like a knife to my heart. There’s been so much going on lately (so, so much) and I’m letting it all happen, running my days from sun up to sun down without time to breathe. I’m grumpy, I’m annoyed and I’m probably not much fun for my kids or my husband or my inlaws. All because I won’t just open my mouth and say, ‘this isn’t working for me, I’m not happy’ or ‘I need a little help’ or “OMFG can’t someone else unload the mother effing dishwasher once in a while.”
    And now I’m thinking that I’m showing Chessa that it’s OK to be miserable rather than rock the boat and Lord only knows what I’m showing Cole, but it’s probably not good.
    Shit.

  12. Just a thought…having unplanned, unstructured time does not equal laziness! Once you, others and I can accept that, we all might be able to slow down and feel good about it! You deserve to do anything that works for you and your family. No one else deserves the right to criticize or judge you for it!

  13. I completely understand

  14. So hard for me. I feel judged and judge myself. So I started doing it secretly and not telling anyone. OH I’M VERY BUSY RIGHT NOW CAN’T ANSWER THE PHONE OR TWEET. (hehehehe totally in my pjs reading a book or watching a stupid movie)

  15. If I had money, I totally would. Really. My house looks like Chuck Norris Karate chopped his way into my home and fucked up the laundry.
    I have no idea what is living in my fridge right now.
    And I’m certain that the dog hairs that are clinging to my carpet are mutating.
    I need to do more for myself. I’m going nuts…wait…I am nuts.
    Beautiful and enlightening post my friend
    xox

  16. My husband and I just had this conversation on Friday. I just became a stay-at-home mom and I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I feel like I have time that others don’t. But that defeats the purpose of me staying home. The purpose was for me to spend time with our children – hence, stay-at-home MOM. But somehow that got lost in translation. So, I have to take a break and let go of a lot of commitments and stop saying YES! It’s so hard.

  17. Oh Katie! Yes!!

    My kids aren’t in soccer. The amount of grief I get for this decision is ridiculous. No matter how often I try to explain that, to me, family time does not constitute spending three hours out of a week that is already tight at a soccer field. And by saying that, I don’t mean that it’s wrong or not something families enjoy together, but it’s not something OUR family enjoys together. I’d rather spend that time going to the beach, playing in the yard, putting together a Lego castle, reading books, playing games, even grocery shopping! Just spending time with my children in which we interact. But I’m critisized by 90% of the people I know for this decision to slow our lives down a little bit.

  18. As a reformed work-a-holic and someone who cherishes her ‘me’ time… Amen! This post is so true and you need to stop feeling guilty. You work hard and you should rest hard. Stop listening to those people, they are only jealous.

  19. Oh how I recognise this challenge! And it is only us that can make a difference. It doesn’t matter what others’ think of us, it matters what we think of ourselves. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing of all. Wonderful post, thank you. Rest, rest, rest. And I will make time for rest too, in honour of you. Thank you.

  20. This is me, giving you e-fist bumps right now.

  21. Amen, Amen, Amen! I feel like I constantly have to remind myself of this. So easy to get caught back in the trap. Have fun relaxing this weekend!

  22. AMEN. Just amen. As women we need to take a stand to stop perpetuating this crap. Seriously.

    • “As women we need to take a stand to stop perpetuating this crap.”

      I was just thinking the same thing. We do this to ourselves, really.

      OK, ladies. Let’s forward this blog post to all of our girlfriends so the veil can be lifted. I’m pretty sure they’re all feeling the same but don’t want to admit it.

  23. I’m still at home with my little one but I’m seriously thinking about getting a cleaning lady every two weeks for the big jobs. Some days are just so overwhelming and I don’t have a full time job out of the house. But I am trying to build a business and that takes time. Reading this is one of the reasons I love blogging… knowing there are others out there who feel the same!

  24. I think too many Moms struggle with jealousy. From the outside it looks like everyone has their lives SO TOGETHER. Either they’re getting all the things done and we are in awe, or they are resting and relaxing and we wish we could too. I think all of those comments are just a reflection about how we feel about our own lives.

  25. I need to take this vow too! Being lazy and having ZERO plans is so underrated in our culture. We need to take more cues from the Europeans and slow way the heck down; savor life, food, art, music and most of all FAMILY!

    Thank you for the reminder.