In search of rest in an over-busy world

Next week is National Work Life Week. So how do you get some semblance of balance which allows you sufficient time to rest in today’s over-busy world?

a woman sleeps at her computer with post-it notes covering her eyes


Next week is National Work Life Week, which is the perfect time to talk about parental exhaustion. Usually parental exhaustion is associated with the early years, but when they tell you that it will only last a few months/years they are in fact bending the truth. This is reliant on 1) you only having the one child 2) that child sleeping soundly 3) you not having to work as many hours as humanly possible to pay for said children 4) not staying up for teenagers 5) you not hitting the menopause and falling into a trough of fatigue and 6) not spending half your waking hours on logistics, feeling a vague sense of unease that you have forgotten something important – or someone – and that the whole house of cards edifice of working family life could collapse imminently.

The old days of early retirement at 50 and years of leisure have long gone, if they ever really existed. So how do you get to the end of each and every week without falling asleep/getting ill and having to work even harder just to catch up because no employer now has any slack in the system?

Parenting is a long-distance marathon where you feel you might be reaching the end only to turn a corner and find that there is still a lot further to go – and it’s all uphill.

In fact, it’s not so much the parenting that is the hard part. It is what is loosely termed The Juggle, which sounds kind of fun and acrobatic, if you had any energy left and every fibre of your being didn’t just want to drag itself to bed for a six-month sabbatical [on full pay]. Not so much a duvet day – which is not nearly sufficient – but a duvet half year.

What you need is the parental equivalent of Kendal mint cake. Something that gives you energy, but doesn’t make you sick – or even more knackered. When I find that mint cake, I will let you know. For now I recommend mind over matter. I remember being in drama class as a child and being told to imagine a desert, imagine the sun beating down on me, imagine the dryness of the air, imagine the soft sand beneath my feet. The drama teacher said you could almost think yourself warm.

From that day I have never underestimated the power of the imagination. I am currently focusing on imagining Christmas. Not the presents and stuff, because that only makes me feel stressed, but that bit at the end of the year when everything is about slowing down and looking back. Of course, this year may be less restful than most, depending on what happens next, but it’s my imagination so I can blot out the politics and focus on an image of me under a duvet with the kids watching Agatha Christie on the tv, with no to do lists, doing absolutely nothing at all.

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