The Luxury of Leisure: The Benefits of Doing “Nothing”

img_1873.jpgA few months ago, my husband and I watched the new “Christopher Robin” movie, and one of my favorite quotes from it is, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” Doing nothing has become a very foreign concept to me. It wasn’t always, but I rarely find myself doing nothing these days. And when I do, I generally feel like I need to find something to do. It wasn’t always like that though. When I was in grad school, I still found time to watch an episode of some TV show before going to bed each night, a much needed 50 minute opportunity to unwind after an evening of studying. When Andrew and I got married, I worked from home a few days a week, providing me with the luxury of sleeping in late (8:30am), watching TV while I ate breakfast, and going for a run each morning before showering and settling down for a day’s worth of work. Even after John was born, Andrew and I still watched an episode of one of our favorite TV shows while we ate dinner on the couch every night. It wasn’t exactly doing “nothing,” but it was as close to it as I’ve ever gotten. I remember the days of TV watching, reading, and sleeping in, but they’ve been gone a long time now.

I can’t remember the last time that I slept in, and the only reading that I do is while John drinks his morning and post-nap cups of milk every day. I do watch TV during nap-time and for a bit in the evenings after my run, but I always feel compelled to do something else- to take an online survey, fold some laundry, or work on a blog post. I generally don’t feel like I have the luxury of leisure time anymore. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t work anymore. When I was working, I had no qualms about spending an entire hour, and sometimes even two, in the afternoon reading on the couch while John slept. I knew that I was putting in a 40-hour work week, taking care of a baby, preparing multiple meals a day, and keeping our home clean and livable. I felt entitled to a little bit of leisure time, but now that I don’t work, it’s harder to convince myself that I’ve earned a bit of rest.

IMG_1863.jpgThere are some days that I am absolutely certain that I deserve a break. Take today for example: my daughter learned how to open her diaper pail, removed a very soiled diaper, and proceeded to smear its contents on her crib, dresser, laundry basket, diaper pail, and herself. By the time I had cleaned up the trash, wiped down the surfaces and my daughter, and tossed her hamper in the washer, it was nearly nap-time. I spent the next 60 minutes watching TV, and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. But most days are not like today. Most days, by the time my kids are in bed, I am ready to go for a run, take a shower, and do some cleaning before settling down to write or answer surveys while I watch TV. I just feel guilty when I just sit and do nothing while my husband works his second job in the next room.

Recently, I’ve come to a realization though. I don’t need to feel guilty. We were never meant to work nonstop. There’s a reason why 1/7 of our week was meant to be dedicated to rest. Even my husband, who works two jobs, does what he can to preserve the integrity of Sunday. Andrew will play video games while John watches and acts out the plot with his stuffed animals, and while I read in bed, he’ll play on his handheld beside me until well after I’m asleep. Everybody needs a break every now and then, and when you work as hard as my husband does, a full day to rest and recuperate is necessary. We would all burn out otherwise.

There is a fine line between enjoying a break every now and then, on the one hand, and being lazy on the other. As a stay-at-home mom, the line can be blurry at times. After John was born, I succeeded in watching every episode of Gilmore Girls in just a couple of weeks’ time. Between bottles and my often-failed attempts to get him to fall asleep, I watched a lot of TV. Fortunately, it was only temporary, and once John started sleeping better, I was able to use my free time in more productive ways, namely, with work.

IMG_1829Now that I don’t work, I try to balance “doing nothing” and “doing something” during my free time. I try to limit my TV watching, opting for more stimulating, but also restful, activities, like reading and writing. I try to gauge the proper balance according to the challenges of the day. On a day like today, after a demanding morning cleaning up poop and children, I let myself do nothing for a little while. I needed that break to ensure that I was prepared to finish out the day as best I could. But today is not my normal. My normal is much more relaxed than that, and I usually can do the type of nothing esteemed by Pooh- the kind of nothing that leads to the very best something, like my blog posts, my kids’ baby books, and one of my personal favorites, finding new Pinterest recipes.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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