A Rest Day is a rest day is a rest day. Except when it isn’t. Except when your precious, much longed for rest day turns into anything but. The very notion of a rest day should be fairly straightforward. It should involve a day with the feet up, a good book, some nibbles and maybe a box set or two to watch on television. Nothing too strenuous, nothing too taxing, nothing too overwhelming or demanding either. A good day, with nothing to do and all day to do it. Sounds just about heavenly.
So why then is it so difficult to come by? In my world, and the world of most parents, a rest day is just a day off work. But a day off work isn’t a day off work per se. A day off work is just a day to do other work, different work, work that exists away from the actual workplace. In fact it feels almost a waste of a day off if there isn’t work of some sort done and crossed off the list.
However, the benefits of an actual rest day are huge. There is so much to be gained from some down time, scheduled or not. A little headspace, a little time to yourself, a little break. It is beyond valuable and is not to be overestimated. So why do I feel I need to plan in advance, make a family announcement that I’m having a day off and tell the whole world that on this particular day I am unavailable for anything even slightly useful and vaguely productive whatsoever.
Lying on in the bed reading or browsing the internet with a nice cup of tea is my idea of absolute heaven. But instead, I get up to put the washing on, put on the dishwasher, do the shopping, drop a child hither and yon and do other various tasks that are necessary but exhausting all the same. It’s supposed to be a rest day. A day of rest. That doesn’t mean I’m available. It means I am having a day of rest. The clue is in the name. But this resting up business is seen as being available. It is assumed that just because we are not running around like busy little bees we are at the beck and call of the family and free to fulfill their every need.
But our need, as busy parents, is to take a little time out, in the comfort of our own home without apology or explanation. It really shouldn’t be this hard to do. “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds floating across the sky is by no means a waste of time.” (John Lubbock, The Use of Life). Now I just have to figure out the best way to impart these words of wisdom upon the family. Generally a day of rest, with me attempting to read said book, is never complete without three other people joining me. Which is all very pleasant until they decide to have the chats and the banter at the top of their voices. Then they become unable to refrain from swatting at each other or taking lumps out of each other and it gets to a stage when the sanctitude of the kitchen beckons and we all retreat downstairs to carry on my day of rest by doing jobs I have been avoiding. Sometimes it’s just easier to carry on as normal. Maybe that’s where I will get my downtime, my headspace because there’s a certain comfort in the mundane after all…