Everyday, come nap time, my blood pressure rises. What do I do? Nap (there is always an exhausted self waiting to be indulged)? Clean (the kitchen counter is cluttered and once it gets too bad I avoid it altogether out of fear)? Shower? Write (in my exercise book, or on this site, or in my email to people I need to respond to)? Decompress and put on some music? Maybe TV? Maybe I should do some exercise, get myself moving and breathing and stretching. I never know when the next nap will be, so my morning Free Time is extremely stressful. I also never really know how long it will be. Maybe an hour, but when it’s over at 40 minutes, it’s hard to face the day with any sense of gratitude. Sometimes the phone rings and I stare at it wondering if I should risk picking it up and end up spending my free time talking. Maybe I should eat?
Everyday, the negotiations that take place in my head are of high stakes, great value, and… in my head. It’s confusing, tiring and makes for many circles to think in. Sometimes I wonder if all stay-at-home parents have this, wrestle with it and feel like they lose to it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m developing OCD, that the lists in my head are becoming too important, too encompassing to move forward. Sometimes I remember the loving words of my mother who said ‘Just don’t be hard on yourself, rest, you have an infant’ and I almost fall for it, almost lie down; then remember that I put the laundry in the washing machine and have to get it before some klepto in the building decides to steal my underwear. Sometimes, on the really bad days, I’m in the process of deciding what to do, and he wakes up. Typically, it’s all downhill from there. Nothing gets done, the apartment gets messier, my timing is off, my shoulders round inwards, I worry more about all those things listed in my brain, I get cranky with my 6 year old, I get annoyed at my husband, and I watch the clock tick away until Bedtime.
So the morning nap is crucial.
If I were to write a book on motherhood, if I could add that to my list of things to do, I would include a chapter about the Dilemma of Free Time. As a single, childless woman, free time is a gift that is used without much weighted thought. Got some free time? Head to the mall, see some friends, read, go to the gym, get some beers with some ex-boyfriend, do some self caring, spend some money, have a JAWS marathon; the list is just as long, but the weight behind the decision is not as Olympic. As a mother, each moment of free time is like a bomb that must be treated with care because of the possibility that it will explode in your face. This chapter on Free Time would include coping techniques, emotional validation when you start to feel like you’re going crazy, and maybe some reassurance that you are not the only one. But I’d have to do my research, because right now, sitting here, choosing to spend my Free Time writing on my blog, I am 99% sure I am on the road to some serious mental breakdowns.