Already the newest But Not Unhappy Baby is getting demanding. Well, it's more like my uterus is getting demanding.(I guess it's not really a good thing that I can ignore hours of contractions. Except when I'm in labor. Then it rocks.) It's been so darn irritable the doctor put me on "moderate" bed rest--which is apparently defined as "only doing the things you HAVE to do."
My first question: What have I been doing that I didn't have to be doing? I mean I'd already pretty much limited my to do list to things that are either smelly (dishes and laundry), whiny (children and husband), or embarrassing (I'm pretty sure you can fill in that blank!). Now which of those am I supposed to let go of? It's been a real conundrum.
I actually got put on bed rest last Thursday but it's taken me this long to get my head wrapped around it. At first I was just stunned. Then I was frustrated. Now I think I'm glad.
Over the last 24ish hours, when I've actually been sitting down and resting, I've noticed something: I'm tired! As in exhausted. My body, my mind, my spirit, all of me is tired. Now, I know I've been blogging about being tired for quite awhile now so this isn't a surprise to you all, but the extent of my lethargy surprised me. With all of our selling-and-buying-a-house-busy-ness I've been running on adrenaline for months now. Being forced to sit down and take it easy has made me face what kind of toll that has taken.
After Baby J was born, almost 3 years ago!, a therapist told me I needed to rest. She wanted me to find someone to take my kids (including the 2 month old baby) for 36 hours and then go find a quiet place and sleep. The therapist actually said to me, "You're not getting more depressed. You're tired. Fatigue and depression look a lot alike. Get some rest." Since I was breastfeeding I wrote her off. Who can sleep for that long when they have a nursing infant? It makes my boobs hurt just thinking about it.
Then, after months of Baby J's sleep problems, our family doctor said, "Can't you find someone to watch your kids so you can rest? Do you have any family in town? Can your husband take a day off work? Get a hotel room and sleep. For as long as you can. You need to sleep." Again, I wrote her off because I honestly believed there was no one who would take my kids for that period of time. Or that my kids would go for it.
Our family doc brings it up every time she sees me and it gotten to be joke between us. But then, the second time I saw my psychiatrist, she said the same thing. She too wanted me to find a quiet place to sleep for at least 24 hours. It was starting to sound familiar. . .
I had an "emergency" session with my therapist last month and she pushed me to set up a few days at a hotel so I could sleep and rest. Just have the opportunity to do nothing. And I almost did it. My kiddos are all old enough that I wouldn't need to nurse anyone and they could all deal with me being gone for awhile. I spent a whole evening looking online for a nice, affordable, quiet place but then things got crazy with our house being on the market and I never actually made the reservation.
I think there's this anti-rest attitude that has been hammered into my brain that just won't let me slow down. I think it partly has to do with the whole "be not weary with well doing" idea. You know, we're supposed to wear ourselves out doing good works and serving God. Who are the biggest Mormon female role models? Pioneer women who practically died on the trail helping others and modern "pioneer-type" women who work themselves to exhaustion serving at the temple/church/cubscouts/whatever. Rarely do you hear a conference talk or read an Ensign article about a chick who said, "Well, I've done a couple things today but I'm beginning to feel a little oyshed so I'm gonna just put my feet up and relax. Let someone else get it done."
I don't think the Church is entirely to blame, though. After all, let's not forget "Good, Better, Best" and "There is a time and a season." No, I blame society at large too. America has long been a country that values hard work--you know, Puritans and boot straps and all that business--and that's not bad. I think those ideas have taken a strange turn over the last 20 or 30 years, though,
when it comes to women. Especially women who have children and stay home with them.
Since the feminist movement (which, for the most part, I am a fan of) women who choose to have children and then choose to stay home with them have to validate their choices. Very few people second guess a woman who goes into engineering or becomes a lawyer. Even women who choose more traditionally female roles like nursing and teaching are understood and looked at as contributing members of society. Women who stay home with their kids have to prove their choices and we usually do it in not so subtle competitions: who has the most children, whose house is the cleanest, whose kids are the best behaved, whose children score highest on different tests or exhibit the most talent, who is the most frugal, who is the most fit, who spends the most time volunteering, or which mommy can do all those things and still hold down side jobs that bring in bonus cash so that her family can have that nice car or fancy vacation. I can think of only one or two women who are secure enough in their choice to stay home that they don't buy into at least one or two of these catty comparisons.
(Now a woman who does one or more of the above may not necessarily be doing it strictly for competitive reasons, but I'm betting self-validation and approval of others factors in more than she'd like to admit. When I look back on the most meaningful conversations I've had with other women telling them that their choices are okay--that they have nothing to prove--is almost always an easily identifiable theme. For evidence just go look at other mommies' Facebook statuses. They really want you to click the like button.)
(Other parenthetical thought: Do men struggle with this kind of competition too? The busier you are the better you are? Seriously folks. I want answers.)
Some of us chicks maybe try to prove we are more savvy and that we don't buy into these ideas by avoiding housework or not taking on extra jobs. But even then we talk too loudly and too often about why we're doing what we're doing because we're still trying to get people to tell us that they approve of our choices, because we ourselves are not sure how we feel about them.
So now it's the end of March and I've apparently been hard enough on my body that my uterus is yelling at me. It's tired and wants to rest. Even if I don't. So I'm doing my best to embrace it. My oldest is at school. My preschooler and my 2-year-old are watching a lot of "educational" (you can see me rolling my eyes, right?) tv. And I'm writing a really, really long blog post.
Because, in all honesty, I'm trying validate my restful choice. You better leave me a comment telling me that you validate it too! (wink, wink)