A few months ago, a little yoga studio opened up in downtown Harrison, just a few minutes drive away from my house. I had been searching for something I could go “do” to recharge–as I’ve struggled with prenatal and postpartum mood disorders for four years–and for the first time in my life as a mother, I simply told my husband, “I’m going to yoga at 6 o’clock for an hour.” And so I went. It was in those few short weeks that a special skill I had been trying to cultivate seemed to finally click with me: the art of relaxing.
Relaxing isn’t something that I consider myself to be good at. It’s not something that I regularly make time for. But it is something that I’ve realized is essential to my health, after reaching one too many “breaking points.”
I’ve found myself in the car, after what feels like an eternity of squabbling with my toddler about how he has to get dressed so we can go to the doctors, unable to take a full breath. I’ve found myself with my head buried in my hands, glancing up at my kids splashing in the bath, on the verge of a fight. I’ve gone to a thrift store by myself to look around, only to walk in and out within five minutes without the endurance to get distracted from shopping. I’ve laid down in the bath and stared at the wall, listening to the crying and whining of my kids outside as my husband does dinner. All the while, I’m constantly asking myself: why can’t I relax?
Because I have a pile of laundry on the bed, a pile of unopened mail on the counter, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes.
Because I have three appointments this week, two play dates, a business meeting, and a full to do list.
Because I just got an unexpected bill in the mail I don’t know how I’m going to pay.
Because my kids need creative play time, structure, learning activities, and lots of snuggles.
Because I need friends in my life.
Because I love my husband and I want to cultivate our marriage.
Because I’m pregnant with my third child.
Because my mind is busy making plans for tomorrow. For this week. For the this year.
Because my 14 month old puts everything he finds in his mouth.
Because if I don’t clean my house ten times a day, it looks like I haven’t cleaned it in a month.
It’s true. I have a lot of reasons I can’t relax. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try. In fact, I’d say that the more we have on our plate, the more reasons we have to relax, don’t you think?
Mom life is such a huge undertaking that relaxing feels wrong. You wonder: who’s choking on something that’s not even food? Am I forgetting something? I should really be doing the dishes. I hope the kids are behaving okay. What if I didn’t leave enough food. What if they are being horrible and they need me?
And it’s not as easy as doing something nice for yourself. If you can’t relax, that trip to Target is fruitless. If you can’t relax and enjoy the moment, that date night is disconnected. You can spend an entire yoga session completely somewhere else, worrying about the kids or the house or work.
It’s something that requires practice. Flexibility. Patience. And for us mamas, it’s not something that will come naturally. But it’s something that we have to learn to prioritize, right along with our mountain of laundry and phone calls and business meetings and grocery shopping trips. Relaxing requires the mind, body, and soul to be fully present, loose, and open. It requires us to let go of our worries and live in the present moment, enjoying whatever small slice of heaven we can make for ourselves.
It’s like anything in this life. The first time doing it is the worst. Uncomfortable, awkward, questionable even. But then we come back and our kids are alive…and happy to see us. We see that they are not traumatized. That our world didn’t crumble. When we truly let go and simply enjoy our small moments and really relax, we come back to our messy, unpredictable, busy lives better able to handle it.
When it comes to relaxing, it’s progress–not perfection. And the more we do it, the easier it gets, and the more creative we get at finding simple ways to let go and live in the moment.
Mamas work hard, and sacrifice a lot. But our mental health should no longer be put on the back burner. We deserve to have peace. We deserve to feel autonomous. And better yet, our whole family deserves us at our best. So today, find some peace.
Cue coffee on the porch in the mornings, while the kids play in dirt. Or smashing play doh between your fingers on the floor with your kids. A trip to the bookstore and coffee shop, without an agenda. Yoga in the backyard. A massage, facial, pedicure. Losing yourself in a craft (I just learned some simple macrame!) Relaxation can be found anywhere, and it’s waiting for us to accept it.