Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Is your pause button broken?

"Let's go out to breakfast!" Dave said yesterday. I was off of work, and I'd just dropped Ben off at preschool.

But I had so much to do: Sabrina's bat mitzvah—her coming-of-age service and party—are happening next Saturday. I had a toast to write. I had to go to the bank and get money for tips. I had to put the final touches on the photo montage I made for her, which I've been editing and re-editing obsessively because summing up 13 years of your child's life in pics and video clips is no mean feat. Meanwhile, the house needed help: four out of five with us have had a stomach bug in the last week, and I wanted to Lysol it.  d

My pause button: It is broken. Despite my best intentions, despite the fact that I am fully aware I need to relax more than I do, I am perennially on fast forward. Is this you, too? There are eleventy billion things I have to stay on top of or get ahead of, down to noticing we are almost out of t.p. (and for that, I give myself and all of us props—here.)

Once, I researched and wrote an entire article on this topic. I stuck with the experts'  tactics for a while, then fell back into my decidedly non-lazy ways. The quote I most related to was from Ellen Langer, PhD, a professor of psychology at Harvard U.: "When people assume that if they don't get to their to-dos, their world will fall apart, that needs to be questioned."

It's true. If I fall behind—if I don't pick up all the toy pieces on the basement floor, if I don't get to that extra load of laundry, if I don't find the pair of scissors that has been missing for two weeks, if I don't remember to buy another box of our family's favorite granola bars, if I don't if I don't if I don't— then I might backslide into a point of no return in which chaos will consume my house and my kids will show up at school dressed in their footie pajamas or something like that.

I fear that. And so, there I am at 11:15 at night, emailing teachers and ordering gifts on Prime for parties my children are attending and doing JUST one more thing before I read and get to sleep, and then just one more and then...just one more. And where does this get me? Well, that's the thing: Where it gets me is that our family life does run pretty well, other than the occasional missed doctor checkup and that one time I forgot to pick up Sabrina at lacrosse practice. Everyone has clothes and sneakers that fit them, they are up to date on shots, they are fully stocked up on meds and important snacks and their writing utensils of choice. I attend the parent-teacher conferences. I fill out the camp forms. The groceries get bought. The house gets cleaned.

I feel these bursts of calm when I GSD. Crossing stuff off my to-list is my peace of mind, my salvation, my drug of choice.

But then: me. I'm dead last on my to-do list, unless you count brushing teeth and showering (and I sure hope nobody counts that as me time). As much as I may feel these bursts of resentment that Dave is not the person who notices we are running out of t.p. or knows when forms are due, he is the person who gets me to relax. (Well, other than his habit of watching Mad Money every evening.)

Yes, I have to prepare for next weekend. But there are spinach and Swiss omelettes to be eaten. And that's exactly when I had when Dave coaxed me to take an hour out of life on a Monday morning and we went to a diner and enjoyed.


  1. There are times where I wish I could be more like you. It might be my age (I just hit the big 60!) or just my personality. When I'm tired I have to go to bed. I don't care if the dishwasher will only take 5 minutes to unload, or that there are clothes to be folded. My house is undoubtedly messier than yours. But the big question is, does either extreme really work? Not for me. I need some of your got-to-get-it-done'ness :-)

    PS - I hope Sabrina will let you share about her bat mitzvah. Max's was so beautiful.

  2. Whatever you want to call it, I hope you don't let the demands to "relax" or "slow down" become another burden.

    I am not you -- I have a great pause button and always have. My ever present worry is that this would have made me less of a warrior on behalf of my child, if they needed it. This person that you are, without a pause button, is the same characteristic that has made you such an effective advocate for Max. I once had a children's hospital doctor describe the phenomenon to me -- that there were parents who gave up, who needed to be supported in every step of the way, when faced with health challenges for their child. And then, there were parents like you who found the strength to be there for their child in every way they needed.

    I'm glad Dave took you off for a break from what might feel like a hamster wheel (but isn't, because the work you are accomplishing is important, not running in circles).

    Maybe there are other ways of finding a break? Like, ordering TP on Amazon subscriptions, hiring someone to do pickup around the house, scheduling some time for yourself and using it to do whatever *you* want (including ordering party favors, if that's what you want to do)?

  3. Hi! I am just as fastidious, I can't stand a messy house or an ever growing pile of laundry. My husband is great at making me relax, but not as effective otherwise. After our second child was born, I realized that I had not only become overwhelmed and stressed, but, sadly, also very resentful. I started fearing for my marriage. BUT.... we took the best decision ever: we hired a live-in help, a lovely lady who quickly became part of our family. Fifteen years later, she is still with us. We travelled a bit less, we bought less fancy clothes.... but we never had to argue over house work, and to us it is totally worth it!


Thanks for sharing!

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