One thing a mama's life lacks is time. Time to do this, to do that, time to oneself, time to breathe--there just isn't any of it, it seems. But if looked at closely, the fabric of a mama's day has these little pockets of free time tucked away here and there. Maybe it's naptime; maybe it's baby-and-daddy time. Maybe it's those two or five or ten minutes during which baby is engrossed in an activity, or bouncing in the exersaucer (affectionately dubbed the "circle of neglect" by a friend.) If the expression carpe diem had been coined by a mother, it wouldn't be seize the day so much as seize the instant. The free pockets of time in a mama's day are almost always unpredictable, both as to when they'll happen and how long they'll last. A gal has to be ready for them.
I was always astounded, in the first weeks of my son's life, how I became a marvel of productivity whenever someone would relieve me of baby duty. I would zip and zip this way and that, getting a bunch of stuff done with sleek efficiency, and still get time in for a hot shower and a mini yoga practice. In her wonderful book What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, Naomi Stadlen suggests that this is because we spent so much time feeding, rocking, holding our precious bundles, and that these activities afford us the luxury of almost endless daydreaming of what we'll do when we finally have a minute to ourselves. Time becomes such a precious commodity when you have so little of it, and a mama's focus sharpens to razor-sharp precision in order to answer this most pressing question: What is most needed right now? How best can I use these three, five, fifteen minutes of freedom to cultivate health, well-being and sanity for myself, and help restore some order and happiness in our family home and life? We likely all have our own lists, our go-to tasks, habits and practices that are given first priority when we are handed a blessed minute, or ten. Here is a partial list of some of mine:
::Sit:: Except on the most miserable of sleep-deprived days, the first thing I do when my son goes down for his morning nap is park my butt on the cushion for a ten to fifteen minute meditation. I don't know what kind of mother or wife I would be without this practice; I don't want to think about it. It's as necessary to me as water. Here is why you should meditate; here is how.
::Breathe:: Take a deep breath in. Feel the air fill the lungs, feel the belly soften. Notice the pause between inhale and exhale. Feel the breath fully exit the lungs; feel the shoulders relax. Don't you feel better? Lather rinse repeat.
::Make tea:: It's a long-standing joke in my marriage that I like having tea more than I like drinking it. So what? The ritual of making tea itself is so pleasant and soothing. Sometimes it's all that's needed--the making of the tea alone can be nourishment enough. I have a coaster that reads When there is tea, there is hope. So very true.
::Eat something:: I cannot function when I am hungry--it's always been true, but never more so than since I have been a mother. Between the hormones, the nursing, and the stress of caring for a very small person, no matter how cute or adorable he might be, I walk around like a loaded gun, and hunger is what pulls the trigger. My go-to snacks are smoothies, peanut butter toast, cottage cheese with pineapple and maple syrup, bowl of cereal. I strive for a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fiber. But I have been known to eat half a bar of dark chocolate, or fistfuls of smoked turkey slices. No judgement.
::Go outside:: Number two on my list of things that are guaranteed to lift my mood--and that of my son--is to go outside. It's not number one because we live in Texas, and half the year (this year, anyway) it's blistering hot out, which makes the enjoyment of the outdoors mighty difficult. But most days all I need is to venture out on the porch, and maybe walk out under the big oak trees that dot our property. Just being out of doors and gazing up at the sky can be all the refreshment necessary. Extra bonus points if there is soft grass in which to sink my toes.
::Play some music:: Number one on my list of things that are guaranteed to lift my mood is to play some music. Preferably loud music that makes me want to bust a move. Current favorites include Arcade Fire, Foster The People, Matt & Kim, The Avett Brothers, Florence + The Machine, and Phoenix. And, of course, there is always Madonna.