I just took a week-long vacation, and my favorite day wasn’t the one where I went to the beach, or the one where I hit the outlets for some shopping, or even the days where we went out to dinner. It was the one when it rained and I stayed inside, did some reading, and rearranged the furniture. There were no plans on the books; it wasn’t a beautiful summer day where I felt like I had to garden or hit the beach. My kids were with their father for a few days, and my boyfriend asked me over and over what I wanted to do. After three years together, he still finds it hard to believe I’m more than okay with doing nothing. In fact, it’s what I prefer.
Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered what the weather was like or if we did have plans that day; I needed a day to do nothing because it’s my favorite thing to do and has been since I became a mother.
We’d just come off four straight days of doing things. When my boyfriend suggested going to a concert, my stomach turned. I had been looking forward to a nothing day. And I think it’s because I’m a mom: Let’s face it, we don’t get a lot of time to do nothing, and so when the opportunity arises, I gladly take it.
Before I had kids I had a large social life. I really liked to go out and do things. If the calendar was empty, I’d fill it. My house was always open and I found great joy in decorating for a party, hosting a BBQ, or going away on vacation and running myself into the ground squeezing in every activity. I was afraid not to have plans, because I thought the silence would hurt my ears.
But the moment I had my first child, that part of me that demanded I stay busy stopped. When you’re a mom, you’re always working on one task and thinking about the next. The second you sit down to rest, you remember that bill you were supposed to pay, notice the weeds in flower beds, see the unfolded laundry pile, or you have to pee.
You are in charge of remembering to keep the kids up to date on their doctor and dentist appointments and make sure they eat enough before you drop them off at practice. You are expected to check their grades, make sure they aren’t acting like an entitled turd, keep up with your job, and don’t forget self-care! Sure, moms take days off from work, but there’s always something, and if you stop spinning one plate, it feels like all the others come crashing down. The key is to keep your head above water always so you don’t drown. It’s a delicate balancing act, and it’s exhausting.
Now that my kids are all teenagers, I have a lot of moments when they aren’t here and I could go get a massage or something. But more times than not, I choose to do nothing, because I know I need to store my energy up for when things get busy again — because they will before I know it. My mind is already occupied with all the things I need to do and that’s enough to keep my butt home on a day when my calendar is blank and really, having a day to do nothing feels like a gift.
I’ve had a few friends — who don’t have kids — tell me I seem old and boring. They don’t understand why I leave their birthday party by 9 pm or why I don’t want to go to a bar after we meet for dinner. They think it’s sad that I’m happy to sit at home on a Saturday night with a book and light my favorite candle.
Since giving birth to three beautiful human beings though, there is so much being asked of me that those times when I can do nothing and regroup are a means of survival. And I’m more than okay with feeling at my most peaceful when I can sit and do nothing. You can go to the bar without me because I know the only thing I’ll be missing out on is a chunk of my sanity if I push myself to go.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.