My daughter started nursery school this year, which means that two mornings a week, both she and my son are out of the house from 8:30am until 11:45am. Which means that twice a week, for three whole hours, I am completely enuncumbered by children and I can do whatever I want. When I first realized this, I immediately made a list of the things I could do without children in tow: grocery shopping without using a cart shaped like a fire truck, showering without an audience, folding and putting away laundry without "help," writing my blog without interruptions, running quick errands that actually ARE quick. But over the past month, as I've learned the true value of these precious hours alone, I've added what is probably the most precious and the most important thing of all to my "to do" list: Doing nothing.
Anyone who has ever been a stay-at-home parent - or a parent, for that matter - has firsthand experience of what a constant responsibility it is. There is no coffee break, no pause between meetings, no lunch away from your desk, not even a two-minute mental break while you use the bathroom. Instead, you try not to let running children knock your coffee out of your hands while you attempt in vain to drink it before it gets cold, you don't get a breather between trying to stop the kids from flushing stuffed animals down the toilet and scrubbing maple syrup out of the carpet, your lunch consists of the crusts cut off their peanut butter sandwiches washed down with the milk they didn't finish, and your two minutes in the bathroom are punctuated by loud pounding on the door, small faces peering underneath it, and repeated yells of, "Mum? Mama? MUUUUUMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!!!"
There are no breaks when you are in a house with small children (at least, not when they're awake).
The only times that I really do get a moment to myself to catch my breath are after my kids go to bed. But those are also the only times that I get a moment to talk to my husband, or to run on the treadmill, or to fold laundry, or to write my blog. So some mornings when the house is empty and quiet, the dishwasher and the washing machine and the email can wait, and I just do nothing.
I do nothing while I drink my coffee. I do nothing while I sit in the back yard and watch the breeze shuffling the leaves on the trees. I do nothing while I watch the birds at my bird feeder. I do nothing while I sit on my front steps and watch the neighborhood bunny nibbling at my lawn. I suppose that reading a book doesn't exactly count as doing nothing, but considering how rarely I read a book without also doing something else like stirring a pot on the stove or running on the treadmill or eating breakfast, reading without multi-tasking feels like doing nothing.
The hardest part about doing nothing, though, is not feeling guilty about it. Because whenever I'm doing nothing, there's always something else on the "to do" list. There are always dishes to be washed, laundry to be folded, floors to be swept, toys to be put away, blogs to be written, beds to be made. There is always something that seems like it ought to be more important or higher priority on the list. But sometimes I need that nothing to recharge my emotional and physical engines. Sometimes taking a few minutes to do nothing saves me a lot more minutes later on when I actually DO do something.
So I put "do nothing" right at the top of my "to do" list. Because doing nothing really IS doing something. And now if you'll excuse me, there's something I need to do.