Back when I was pregnant with Ella, I went out of my way to spend a few quiet moments every day, thinking about where I was, how I was feeling, and the massive life change that was just ahead of me. I’d wait until my husband left for work in the morning and bring my bowl (or three…) of cereal into the nursery we’d prepared for the baby, and I’d sit by myself for just a few minutes before I needed to rush out the door to catch my own train to work. It was my favorite part of every day and having our growing family and my changing role in it at the front of my mind before I went out into the world each morning helped me keep the rest of our chaotic lives in perspective.
I’d like to say I’ve kept up that practice while we wait for Baby #2, but I’d be totally lying, and any of you who have children already probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.
Although Ella and I have gotten into a pretty good morning routine, there’s not a spare second in it if we’re both going to get where we need to go on time, reasonably clean, somewhat fed, and hopefully wearing all the appropriate clothes and footwear. And don’t even get me started on the sprint from daycare to dinner to bedtime.
It’s easy, then, to get distracted by chaos – and we’ve had plenty of it recently. Back in May, we bought a house on fairly short notice – an old one, in a new town. Suddenly there was a house to sell, a life to pack, renovations to plan, and a move to prepare for. Things got hectic, quickly.
Add to that weeks of brutal “morning” sickness and some persistent pregnancy congestion and by the time we finally got into to our new house, I was running on fumes – and still I couldn’t quite figure out how to slow myself down.
Funnily enough, when my head wasn’t able to get out of racing mode, my body took over. The day after the big move, I literally stopped in my tracks and announced to everyone that I had to take a nap.
And I did. I curled up on an arm chair in the living room, surrounded by boxes, and fell asleep for two hours in the middle of the afternoon, completely oblivious to Ella’s noise and our family who were there to help out.
It makes sense, really. Any time Ella is run down, she ramps right up instead of crashing. This is prime time for injuries and meltdowns, but it’s a black out zone for naps or resting. So, as her mom, it’s my job to make sure she gets some quiet time. She gets sent to her room, not as a punishment, but for a few minutes of less stimulation, to slow herself down physically. And, once her body isn’t in constant motion, she often settles herself mentally, too.
That’s what my body did to me after our move – sent me to my room for some quiet time. I needed it, badly, and I could feel the difference afterwards.
So now, three weeks later, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to get myself the quiet time I need, even if I can’t indulge in a bowl of cereal in the nursery every morning.
I’m in a strange place, personally. The baby we waited so long for is finally on our way, and I almost don’t know what to do with myself emotionally now that I’m not in constant angst about not being pregnant. We’ve been so wrapped up with the move that we haven’t thought through what our life is going to look like and how we’ll function as a family after the baby comes. I’m in a bit of a holding pattern even at work, not sure what my next priorities are or how I should be stretching myself.
Tara Mohr calls this “Chrysalis Time,” when you’re between stages. I’m trying to embrace it. And I’m trying to take it slow, because that’s what I need – even if my body knew it before my head did.
It’s hard to know how to honor that in-between feeling when you have so little time for yourself. So, in the midst of all our family’s chaos, here’s how I’m trying to get myself a quiet time out.
I’m spending time in my kitchen. Ella loves to help cook, so it’s not really down time, but I am finding that when I’m making food I’m excited about, I don’t mind the work or the company.
I’m reading a lot, whether it’s a book I read with my eyes or a book I listen to in the car. It means setting time aside at the end of the night when I put my phone down and pick up my Kindle instead. It means not using my commute for work or personal calls. But it’s recharging me, a bit at a time, so I’ve been happy to make those concessions.
I’m splurging a little. I sprung for a Stitch Fix delivery of some new maternity clothes, probably the only ones I’ll buy this pregnancy. But more than that, I’m keeping my hair appointments instead of rescheduling, even when I feel guilty about the time away from our tasks at home. I’m taking Ella to get our nails done together. And I’m finally using the spa gift card I got for Mother’s Day for an afternoon to myself.
I’m taking advantage of the summer hours at work. This has been amazing. We close at noon on Fridays, and since I work from home on Fridays anyway, I’ve been faithfully shutting that laptop down at 12:01 and letting myself take a nap instead of launching right into my errands.
I’m asking for time when I need it. Sometimes that means leaving work early, if I’m not feeling well, when otherwise I might push through. Sometimes that means staying behind when my husband takes Ella to the park. A small break here and there makes all the difference, and it seems to keep me from stretching myself too thin.
And most importantly, I am going to bed really, really early. Like, 8:30 early. As soon as Ella is down for the night, usually between 8:30 and 9:00 (did I mention she has a hard time slowing down? Must run in the family!), I am crawling right into those sheets. If I can, I read for a while. And if I can’t, I’m snoring in minutes. I miss my husband – we’re like ships passing in the night right now – but we’re looking for ways to sneak in more time together, which I’m looking forward to.
As long as it’s early…
And I’m trying to keep in mind that this is temporary. After we’ve recovered from the move a bit, after I’ve adjusted to this pregnancy a little more, after we settle into our new life somewhat, I might be back to normal. Or I might arrive at some new normal.
But in the meantime, I’m trying to mother myself and give me what I know I’d give Ella in the same situation. Just a little quiet time.