Parenting means rethinking relaxation

In college I knew how to relax. In between classes I had no problem watching Days of Our Lives, taking a nap, or spending hours chatting.

But I haven’t come close to that feeling of relaxation since I gave birth to my first daughter 11 years ago.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I write about it, I talk about it, and I’ve made attempts to practice it, but I can no longer touch that relaxed existence.

Chalk it up to maturity or a shift in priorities, but whatever the reason, that old feeling is history.

It’s been said that suffering is an inability to accept what is, and I find I’m often unable to accept that parental relaxation is nothing like pre-kid relaxation.

This becomes clear in the baby phase when taking an uninterrupted shower or getting three hours of sleep a night is relaxation.

Then in the kid phase, having 30 minutes to yourself at the beginning or end of the day is relaxation.

Then in the teen years, relaxation is about hearing the door open late at night and knowing everyone is home safe.

Regardless of what stage you’re in, relaxation is different. I have fought hard against this idea; for 11 years I have longed for that old dream-like relaxation space I used to inhabit.

But it no longer exists. I have filled up those spaces with people.

The concept of loving people every day has its share of challenges -there is a reason they call parenting the hardest job in the world -but I’ve never questioned its importance.

And I haven’t given up on relaxation; it’s a priority.

I have to let go of how I think it should be.

Relaxation is listening to music in the car five minutes before the kids run out of school; it’s watching a 30-minute sitcom right before bed (with an occasional “tuck-me-in” interruption); it’s lounging on the couch while my kids are on an errand with my husband.

I will always romanticize those early years of open time and space, but I’ve found peace with my current situation. I’m learning to appreciate the stolen moments and the quiet times.

They are brief, but they have become an opportunity to reflect on how real and beautiful life has become.

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