For the last few weeks I have been getting dangerously close to running on empty. I had been finishing projects and pulling everything together for my house tour photo shoot with Katrick Photography, so that I would have some snazzy new photos for my new site launching in June. I was sick, then my husband was sick, then my kiddo was sick. My kiddo did an about-face and after months of Dad putting him to bed, only Mom would do, and bedtime was long and drawn out with lots of hitting and screaming. In having to take over bedtime, I had lost my sacred hour of perfectly quiet alone time that had helped me recharge and refill for the next day.
Yesterday, I rushed around cleaning my house and pulling together all the last-minute details for the photo shoot. The whole day was accompanied by the hum of the totally maddening “Nehhhhhhhhhhh, nehhhhh, nahhhhh” whine of my son, regardless of how I tried to help take care of his needs and wants. It was a new noise, and so classically whiny it felt like nails on a chalkboard as I tried to keep the house clean around the whirling tornado of reusable food containers and banana goo that is my toddler. By the end of the day, I was spent. Thankfully we had arranged for a date night for my husband and I, and I got to waltz out the door in my photo-fabulous make up almost the minute the shoot was over, while my parents had a nice dinner at my house with my son. Over dinner, I told my husband that losing that bedtime quiet time was really taking a toll on me, and we agreed to both think about how to build in some different time for me to have alone and recharge.
Today was another day of stay at home momming, and feeling totally burnt out from the last few weeks, I realized my son was probably burnt out too. I announced to him that we were going to have a special day where we only did things he liked to do. We read his favorite books together napped together in my room instead of putting him down on his own in his room. We sat in the grass and watched our chickens. We walked to the grocery store and looked at all the produce. We had snacks for lunch instead of a sit down meal. We watched a couple of episodes of Puffin Rock, the second of which he took a cat nap during. We walked to the park and played with some friends. We came home and made a simple dinner together, noodles, his favorite. I mostly got nothing done. I got a lot of hugs though, and even a few kisses blown to me. Doing exactly what my son wanted to do was the most relaxing, recharging, heart melting way to spend my day.
Child development expert Madga Gerber wrote about the value of “wants nothing quality time” in which an adult is simply present with a child, instead of attempting to direct their activity or attention. While obviously it isn’t realistic to take this kind of approach every day, it was a good lesson for me to remember that sometimes the most relaxing way to parent is to just let go of any agenda, follow his lead, and bask in the glow of his feelings of validation and how much more we both enjoy each other’s company that way. I was wracking my brain last night, trying to think about how to get some “me” time in, but really, some “him” time was what we both needed. And you know what else? He was fine with Dad putting him to bed tonight.