Choosing to lose the pressure to ‘be productive’

On Tuesday I rather ‘overdid it’ with a Pilates class (still loving it!), lots of walking and a shopping trip. My head was feeling woozy the next day and I knew I just needed to stop for a while. So I decided to take the time while Tiny was at preschool to rest.

Lying on the sofa watching Call the Midwife, I realised this was the first time since she started preschool at the beginning of January that I had used this child-free time to take a chill.

Since she started, a certain guilt has been hovering in the background – guilt that I have this free time while others are at work. And worry that I may not be ‘productive’ in it. I have been filling those couple of hours when I have no parental responsibilities with ‘useful things to do’ – writing, cleaning, sorting, planning for the future. Even seeing friends for coffee has sometimes made me feel like I’m slacking off.

This new season of life has raised old fears and made me think about something we all struggle with: what is my value? Being a stay-at-home parent has always been a bit of a struggle for me – I like to feel like I am achieving something, and that’s a rare feeling when you’re raising small children! But to a large extent I have got over that and see the immense value in what I do every day.

My RA sometimes puts limits on my energy and capacity, which can compound the feeling of needing to be productive while I can. “What if I can’t clean the bathroom tomorrow? What if fatigue hits hard or my joints are misbehaving?”

Those precious hours I was so looking forward to should be freeing, but I realise I have been seeing them as a pressure.

So on Wednesday I felt proud that I had managed to take the decision to rest. Instead of being rooted in this self-imposed drive to be productive, my choice was based on what I knew would help me feel and be the best I could be in the following hours and days. It made me reflect on this unnecessary pressure I have been applying. I’ve written before about pacing myself and finding the pause button – definitely time to revisit my own words of wisdom!

My value cannot lie in what I do or what I achieve. So many of the messages that bombard us in the media or in the lifestyles we observe around us would tell us that it does, but I don’t believe that’s the truth.

I’m realising again that I need to choose something else – enjoying the things I do and the things I have for what they are, and not what they say about my productivity. I am not valuable because I can achieve things, but because of who I am.

And as a reminder I might put these words of wisdom on my wall – What would I save from a housefire? My engagement ring or my vacuum cleaner?!

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