Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.
What are you doing right now?
If you’re a mom, and you gave a one-word answer, I don’t believe you. OK, I’m being dramatic, but in a conversation with some friends, I realized that it’s a rare thing for any of us to be doing just one thing at any given time.
You’re watching TV? I bet you’re also folding laundry, organizing the stuff on the coffee table or sifting through some flyers. Talking on the phone? You’re probably doing dishes or cleaning off counters or packing lunches, too. On your way up to bed? I know you’re collecting stuff from around the house to put in its proper place en route to the bedroom.
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That’s me, anyway. I sometimes wonder why I’m so exhausted at the end of an average day, but I think it’s all mental because there is no downtime, even when—especially when—my “work day” has wrapped up. And I’m not even talking about us being too connected to our smartphones, because for me, it’s not even that. I leave it on the kitchen counter most of the time once I’m home. And I do find myself plunking down in front of the TV on many evenings under the guise of “doing nothing,” but I very, very rarely just watch TV. There’s always a blog post to write, forms to fill out, things I’ve printed out to read and haven’t gotten to, cleaning and organizing to do in little piles around me. All these tasks need to be crossed off the list during my minimal at-home evening hours, and multi-tasking keeps me on top of things. I’m combining work and play. This is good, right?
It’s not good. It sucks the enjoyment out of my evenings because it’s go-go-go and then suddenly, it’s bedtime. Half the time, I don’t even know what happened on the show I was watching. I had to stop watching shows “with” Twitter for this very reason, though I know lots of people love to do this. I found I couldn’t really enjoy the show I was watching or the conversation I was following because I was having to use too many parts of my tired brain. It was all happening too fast. It’s stressful!
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This point was brought home very poignantly on Sunday night. Do you watch The Good Wife? If so, you know where I’m going with this. If not, a very major surprise plot twist happened Sunday night. A character I adored (for real) unexpectedly died at the end. And it wasn’t until he died that I realized I’d barely been paying attention to his very last episode and all the moments that led up to his death. And now it’s gone. He’s gone. (Oh, I know I can go watch it again online, but that’s not the point.)
I could turn this into a big analogy about what we’re missing out on in life (more important things than TV, of course) when we’re too busy being busy, but we’ve all heard that. We know. We just don’t necessarily know how to fix it—things need to get done and sometimes, we’re the only person who can do them. What I do know is that we all deserve some downtime in our days, or at least in our weeks, to chill out and stretch out and clear our minds. I’ve decided to make this a bigger priority in my life. It will mean, some days, ignoring the to-do list and recognizing that if it doesn’t get done today, there’s always tomorrow. Or the weekend. No one will die if the laundry isn’t folded. (See what this character’s death has taught me? RIP)
How do you find ways to carve out some downtime? Tweet me @T_Chappell.