Saturday, January 16, 2016

MOPS Talk: Embracing Rest

Last week, I was asked to share my thoughts about "Embracing Rest" to my MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers). A few friends have asked me what I shared, so I thought it might be worth sharing here too. 

When I told my husband that I was sharing today about embracing rest, he said “but you don’t do that.” And he’s right. But it’s something that I’ve been drawn to lately. So, I come here this morning, humbled, and fully aware I have no answers to give. Only my own thoughts and hopes for finding and embracing rest with you.

How many of you heard this advice when you became new moms? “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”  I can’t even count how many people told me that. But I couldn’t do it. When the baby slept, that was my chance, sometimes my only chance to use the bathroom or eat a meal. Sometimes I just wanted to read or journal about my frustrations. And when I did lie down to sleep, my mind was racing with thoughts about what I needed to be doing or reliving some terrible memories of my labor. Even when my husband, mom and mother-in-law took turns watching the baby so I could rest, I just couldn’t let my mind stop.

When I started working from home after my maternity leave, rest was the furthest thing from reality. Between nursing, pumping, diaper changes, getting baby to sleep, feeding myself and fitting in six hours behind the computer and phone, the only thing left to do at the end of the day was collapse into bed praying baby slept for at least two more hours. There were many weeks where I felt like a zombie.

And I remember exactly when that feeling changed.  After I reduced my work hours and William started sleeping through the night, I felt alive. Those were two major changes that coincidentally happened at the same time. And the combination was life changing. I was beginning to feel like a real person again. 

There were a few other things that added to this restoration: I made some changes in how I spent my time with my son. Instead of trying to multi-task watching him and working at the same time, I made the decision that when he was awake, I was with him. When he was sleeping I was working. This didn’t open up a lot of time for ME per say, but it made me able to focus on both things better. This also opened my schedule up for taking walks outside every day, and meeting up with friends for play dates and coffee. Having this new flexible space really helped rejuvenate my soul. I still haven’t figured out how to spend more time with my husband as I typically work in the early morning and in the evenings.

Would I say I’m rested? No. If you asked me how I’m doing today, I’d say, “tired . . . busy.” This schedule of mine has gotten a little more challenging as William doesn’t nap as often now. So, it seems like an ongoing battle.

My husband has tried as hard as he can to give me space to “rest” but what I end up doing is more work, more cleaning, and finding more ways to keep busy. He even arranged for me to have a weekend by myself, no midnight feedings or early wake up calls! Did I sleep? No! Did I work? Yes!

I just don’t sit still very well.

But is that what rest means? Sitting still? That has to be part of it, I’m sure. We need physical rest! Sleep, reading a book, writing in a journal and spending time in prayer are all things that rank high up on my “rest” list. Unfortunately, they aren’t things that happen often in my week. So what else is considered rest?

Getting a break from running around with our to-do lists and children is definitely an important part of it. We need time to ourselves – maybe an extra nap, or an afternoon getting our nails done or a massage or something. Maybe we need to sit alone at a café with our favorite drink and a book. Or we pull out an old hobby we desperately miss! We do need to feel like more than “mom” and we need space for ourselves.

I also think “play or fun” can be a part of rest. Maybe what really gives us the feeling of being alive and rejuvenated isn’t always solitude. Having a date night or a girls night can fill that need too! Having meaningful conversations with adults, talking about fun things or even hard things can be just what our soul needs to feel refreshed. Today, MOPS is my time of rest!
Sometimes, when the days are too full for an actual appointment with rest, we need to find ways of creating that space in the midst of our routine, even including our little ones. Before my son started walking and he’d sit in the stroller for a while, I would choose to take him to a park a little farther away, pushing the stroller while listening to music on my phone would be a mental break, and getting outside and walking was a good physical push at the same time. I arrived at the park happier and ready for more play.

My son loves reading books and often I feel stressed because I have a lot to get done that I don’t feel like I should sit there and read another Dr. Suess book . . . but, if I take a deeper breath, grab my tea, and realize I’m sitting down on a fairly nice couch, with a pretty handsome guy, it doesn’t have to be a stressful time and it can feel pretty restful. A change in perspective, a pause, a breath, can really help in creating that space for rest.

I have never had an easy time resting. And if I am resting, I probably feel bad about it and I’d call it “lazy” instead of resting. But as I’ve been reflecting the idea of embracing rest, I have seen its value. If we are rested, or at least giving ourselves regular opportunities to find rest, we are better able to love and care for our families, homes, and ourselves. So, I do think it’s important to figure out what our needs are for rest. How we feel most rested and do what we can to make that happen in the midst of our ever-changing routines. I think it’s important to look for ways to truly embrace rest.

So, as we begin this new year, I want to ask you, what does rest mean? And how can you make space and time for that to happen on a regular basis?

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