As humans, I think the need to feel productive is directly linked to our sense of self-worth. As a stay at home parent, I think it is even more important to keep yourself going in order to avoid a breakdown. Most of us just feel better after a day of crossing off the to-do list and making things happen. But what about the days we don’t feel productive? What about those “mental health days” we all need from time to time? Should we feel guilty about them?
Today it was just Avery and I all day. I was looking forward to playing with her outside and playing dress up and just giving her my full attention. But I was also looking forward to her naptime. That was when I planned to take a couple of hours to get ‘er done and make things happen.
I knew I needed to do the dishes, do the laundry, mow the lawn, and then sit down with my laptop and make some money for the family. Try to guess how many of these things got done today. Yep, you guessed it. Zero.
So what happened? Well, we spent the morning outside in our inflatable pool. We splashed and giggled. It was fantastic. Then we came inside for lunch. We sat at the table together, TV off, just the two of us. Avery told me so many animated stories, none of which I could really understand.
After I cleaned her up and just threw the dirty dishes onto the kitchen counter, she asked for milk and wanted to watch Moana. I was happy to pour a sippy cup, grab the remote, and settle in with her for some snuggle time and a movie. Halfway through, I noticed that she was no longer singing along to the songs and I heard tiny little baby snores. So, up the stairs we went. I laid her in her crib and snuck away.
Once downstairs, I noticed I was feeling sleepy myself. I was determined to push through it though. I simply had too much to get done. So I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a few minutes. I could see the cluttered counters and full sink. I could peek into the adjacent laundry room and see the piles. Where would I even start?
Then I thought that if I went outside to mow the yard, it may just wake me up enough to complete my other tasks. So I put on some shoes and went to the garage. I pulled out the mower and went through the whole pull start routine about four times. No use. It wasn’t starting.
So then I came back inside, grabbed my laptop, and got comfortable on the couch. But I got too comfortable. And the next thing I knew, it was 4:00 and wailing from the baby monitor woke me from my deep sleep.
Did I need a two and a half hour nap? Apparently so. But do I have guilt about it now? Oh, totally. In fact, I am awake at midnight with anxiety about all that I did not accomplish today. The battle unfolds in my head. On one hand, I tell myself to just calm down and that I work hard taking care of little ones. It’s okay to be tired and it’s okay to take some time to rest.
But on the other hand, a louder, much angrier voice is telling me what a piece of crap I am. It is screaming about not having to work a conventional job outside of the home and how lazy I must be for not at least making us a little money today. Or tidying up so my husband, who works full time and very hard, didn’t have to come home to this messy house and knee high grass and dandelions in the front yard.
Guilt is one of my least favorite feelings. Guilt always comes along with shame and worrying and regret and anxiety. It never shows up to the party alone. And tonight I feel guilty. I shouldn’t have snoozed the day away and wasted the opportunity to be productive. But … that’s exactly what happened.
So, for now, I tell myself that feeling guilty just means I am human, but that tomorrow is another day and another opportunity. And I will roll over and attempt to get some sleep.