insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

“rest more”

I’ve reached a breaking point for single piece of advice that boils down to “rest more”. It has variants: “adjust your expectations of yourself”, “do less”, “take more naps”, “get more rest”, “take it easy.” They all boil down to one idea: Do less.

And it’s a great idea. I *am* very tired. I am pushing the limits of my own capacity. Pregnancy is hard work, and I’m not really enjoying it. I’d love to do less, take more naps, get more rest, and take it easy. I would love to spend today lying on the new couch doing nothing but staring at the ceiling. I really would.

I also understand that the people who are telling me that this is what I should do are telling me from a place of love, concern, and caring. I DO understand that.

My problem is that it’s misplaced energy.

As I said to Justin when I got pushed too far this morning, I have cut back. I am doing less. I’m working 40 hours instead of 60. I’m not bringing work home. I have a to-do list the size of Montana that isn’t even being touched (hope you weren’t expecting wedding thank you notes anytime soon and/or not in conjunction with baby thanks), and I’m prioritizing very carefully about what matters, and what doesn’t. Today’s list of tasks — about which I felt, and feel, very good, is:

sanitize all the linens, assemble crib, hang nursery curtains, do the dishes, feed the Swarteomans cats, nap on the new sofa.

And my response to the suggestion that I do less today was essentially this: This is what it takes for us to get done all the things that need doing in our home and life, because that matters to me and I have to work tomorrow. I mean, we need to eat, so clean dishes after having the pipes frozen and dishes pile up matter. I would like to sleep in my bed instead of on the pullout, so sanitizing the sickbed sheets matters. Justin and I are excited about setting up our nursery, and we want to do that together. And I should go do my catsitting, because allowing my best friends’ cats to starve while they’re in France seems unkind…

What should I skip? The nap?

Part of what’s rubbing me raw is delivery. I spend an inordinate amount of time considering my delivery and word choice when talking to other people. Part of that is because of what I do (carelessly delivered commentary can hurt when it’s meant to help, in the workplace), and part of that is who I am (I know how aggressive and abrasive I can be if I let myself, and I also don’t want to be that person, so I work not to). And so I hear word choice and delivery even when it comes from people who don’t think about it the way I do. I hear things that are unintentional, slights and aggression where none was intended — it simply wasn’t something the speaker considered. Most of the time I can listen charitably and hear the intent rather than the delivery, but sometimes — like today — my bucket of charity is empty, and I got nothin’ other than reaction.

So, for example, when I’m simply told “do less” or “take a break” or “take more naps”, I, on days like today want to say, pointedly and without any inflection, “Fuck off.” Because it’s not helpful. It doesn’t acknowledge my life. It doesn’t acknowledge the pressures I’m operating under. It doesn’t offer me any practical help or advice. It doesn’t feel like caring. It feels like impossible expectations.

On the other hand, when my friend Mary, who was on medical leave for most of her pregnancy, commiserates that she too had a hard time sleeping and took a lot of naps, I can take it in the spirit in which it was meant. Being able to take a lot of naps is great, and it helped her. I bet it would help me, if I too weren’t in my office 8 hours each day, specifically the ones when naps would be awesome. I can’t really nap at work. What I can do is take breaks, build some quiet time into my day, and take care of myself as best as possible in the framework of that job which I simply must do. Which I’m doing. And she’s not telling me, flat out, “Take a nap.”

On days like today, when I have a list of about 20 things I’d like to get done before I go back to work tomorrow, please know: I’ve already prioritized thoughtfully. I’m not going to do any library work today. I’m not going to try to tackle the wedding thank you’s or the wedding album or investigate writing a will or repot the plants or make bags of old clothes to take to the thrift store or finish knitting the baby blanket or finish felting Justin’s slippers or put away all the Christmas presents or scrub the microwave or brush the dog or print pictures for all the Slades or cook anything at all. I chose the most necessary tasks and I’m doing them.

And I’m happy about it.

Please don’t add to the list of people whose advice feels like thinly veiled accusations that I’m doing it wrong.

7 Comments

  1. ranger

    Man, I’m just blown away that you’re doing this at all. Growing a baby, getting married, working 40 (40+, if I know you at all) hours a week. You’re an amazing person. I wish you could take more naps, but the space time continuum does not allow.

    Reply
  2. I was chairing a search committee and had candidate visits during the last month of my pregnancy. It was also the crazy time of Spring term for instruction and I was the head of instruction. The world doesn’t stop because we get pregnant. You just do the best you can and you hope your partner will pick up some of the slack at home. I can’t imagine going through pregnancy without the support of a partner. We’re lucky to have great partners-in-crime for this sometimes exhausting adventure.

    And people will understand when you let things slide, both now and in your baby’s first year. I felt horrible about all I couldn’t do and had to back out of after having Reed, but people were really cool about it (especially my colleagues at Norwich who were awesome).

    Reply
    1. Jenica Author

      People, by and large, are really understanding about letting things slide. The challenge I’m facing is that people keep telling me to let things slide, but there are some things that I just *can’t* let slide, you know? Some things simply must get done. (Like running a search committee.) I wish people were as sympathetic to the “gotta get done” stuff as the “let it slide” stuff.

      And all I can think, on some days, is “thank god I’m not doing this alone.” I don’t know how single mothers do this, or how you do this for a second pregnancy while caring for the first child, too…

      Reply
  3. Mary Carmen

    There’s a reason it’s called “assvice.” You wanna tell everyone to blow it or shove it up their ass.

    You’re doing great! Just do you, and whatever you need to do you.

    Reply
  4. Jenica, I love reading your posts because of their honesty. I’ve not been pregnant, but your post echoes some of the experience of being chronically ill. Many people have been disappointed at how long it has taken me to figure out what my ‘rest more, do less’ look should look like. It has taken me the better part of two years to make my own adjustments; for you to find your best way in such a compressed time period is impressive and hard work.

    I think that is what many don’t understand: resting more and doing less is HARD WORK, for some of us.

    Reply

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