Oh, weary mama.
You have been fighting so hard. I say fighting because that’s what everything feels like right now.
Fighting the decision fatigue that consumes you.
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Fighting the uphill battle of balancing your job with mothering.
Fighting back the omnipresent mess.
Fighting the loneliness.
Fighting the fear.
Fighting back tears.
The pandemic has indeed made life harder, but the truth is that you have been fighting for as long as you can remember.
Mama, it’s time to stop fighting and rest.
What if we thought of rest as productive? What if we thought of rest as a revolution?
You’re burnt out. You desperately want to feel better and you know that you need to rest. Don’t let anyone (not even the patriarchy) make you believe that rest is wrong, or that you have to somehow earn it. That productivity—making, creating, pushing and fighting—is the most important thing, even when it comes at the expense of rest.
Because that message—that rest is somehow wrong —has been omnipresent since your childhood, and is now interwoven into your subconscious. And ultimately, what that message is telling you is that everyone and everything else is more important than you.
This is why we feel pressured to fall into the motherhood-as-martyr role, or to work past 5 pm and on the weekends, or stay up late to make sure the kitchen is clean, or to say “yes” to helping a family member even though we’d really prefer to spend a quiet evening at home, or any of the hundreds of other ways that we prioritize others over ourselves.
In the battle between other people and self, other people win, every time.
That battle means fighting against yourself. Hearing your body whisper (or scream) for rest, but ignoring it because somewhere along the way you learned that other people deserve your attention more than you do.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. You are so vitally important, and it’s time to let yourself rest, guilt-free.
It’s time to trust the wisdom of your body over the pressure of society.
What if you allowed yourself the grace of unanswered emails that stay unanswered for another day?
What if you gave in to the urge to rest, over the urge to people-please?
What if we thought of rest as productive? What if we thought of rest as a revolution? Because the truth is that a group of well-rested, healthy mothers is the revolution our hurting world needs, now more than ever.
The first step is re-learning how to trust your body (something that the patriarchy has made hard to do). As you go through the next few days, pay attention to how you react to your body’s messages: When she tells you that she is hungry, do you feed her or make her feel guilty for always wanting food? When she tells you that she is sad, do you let her cry or tell her she should stop feeling so ungrateful? And when she tells you that she is tired, do you tuck yourself into bed or do you pour yourself another cup of coffee and “power through”?
Once you’ve identified how you react to yourself and your needs, focus on being one notch gentler with yourself—just one notch. If the first thought that pops into your head when you have a need is to push it away, can you stop yourself and just listen? The more you listen to yourself, the more you’ll start to see just how wise you really are.
And then, do what it is that you need. Right now, it’s probably rest.
Rest is productive—it’s when your body does many of its vital functions that keep you healthy and ready for life. Your need to sleep is not selfish or wrong or indulgent. It’s human and essential.
Think about the message you’ll teach your child when they hear their mother (who they adore) say, “Mommy is tired so mommy is going to sleep.” They will learn the importance of self-care over the urge to put others first.
So mama, please just rest. Intentionally and guilt-free. Because we are playing the long game now, and we need you here for all of it. You are important, and it’s okay to rest.
Check out these Motherly Shop items for whenever you need a reminder to reset.
A version of this post was published September 18, 2020. It has been updated.