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.
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.”
“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.