Do you know how many battles I chose not to choose today? Too many to count, that’s how many. It is Saturday, and it has been a long week. Three kids, one parent, and zero effs left to give. I made it through the week: Every day I alone got four humans ready and out the door by 6:58 a.m. Not one of us received a tardy slip! (Woo-hoo!) Homework was all finished (even if it was in the morning before school on the day it was due). Every school-related form was sent into the office on time, the kids took showers and were fairly-presentable each day, teeth were brushed, laundry was done, and I kind of kicked butt at work. World War Three was averted almost every day as the kids argued over whose turn it was to sit in the front seat of the car, or who got the last piece of watermelon in the fridge. We did it.
We made it through another week, even though every morning, I thought, how the heck are we going to get it all done? I made it through the week and all I want to do is sleep late, binge-watch Netflix, and get a well-deserved mani/pedi.
But, nope. Today is Saturday, and I am a single mom to three kids who play way too many sports, never sleep past 6:30 a.m., and suffer from severe sibling rivalry. We have birthday parties, and hockey games, and soccer practices. It may be the weekend, but they still need to eat three meals a day, and my pantry and fridge are dead empty. My body hurts from head to toe as if I have just completed a marathon, but I have not done an ounce of cardio in God-knows how long. I am merely exhausted from doing exactly what I need to do to keep this household afloat. I may not be able to sleep late and take a trip to the spa, but I sure as hell can take a “Bare Minimum Day.”
Parents: It’s Time to Take a Bare Minimum Day
What is a Bare Minimum Day, you ask? It is exactly as it sounds. Every now and then, when I feel completely defeated, exhausted, and run down upon awakening, I declare to myself — and to only myself — that today will be a Bare Minimum Day. Once I have made the commitment to this declaration, I vow to myself to feel no guilt at all, and I promise myself that I will not second-guess my decision to do only the absolute bare minimum today. I choose NOT to choose any battles today. I become a much more passive version of my usually controlling, strict, and stern self; I let it all go down a notch (or seven) in the name of self-care. I need a break both emotionally and — and the only way to get one is to freaking take it.
Not all days are eligible to be a Bare Minimum Day, mind you. If your child has a playdate planned, for example, the house will require cleaning, and your child and his friend will need you to be at your best, or pretty close to it — not a good day to go Bare Minimum. A prime Bare Minimum Day is one where there are little to no activities scheduled and the house is in pretty good shape to begin with, so that one day of laziness won’t set you back too far. These days should be reserved for once every few months. But don’t worry, if you’re not sure when to take one, your body, mind, and spirit will tell you loud and clear: Today is the day!
On these rare and so appreciated Bare Minimum Days, I do only the things that absolutely must be done for myself, the kids, and the household in general. The dishes can stay in the sink until tomorrow. The laundry must be ignored. We can eat at McDonalds for lunch — and Burger King for dinner! Whatever makes the day as easy as possible for me is what I do (because, quite frankly, I could lose my you-know-what otherwise). I may stay in bed while the kids make a messy breakfast of ice cream sundaes. They look at me and wonder who stole their mother and where did they put her as I laugh loudly and say, ice cream for breakfast? Yum, bring me a sundae! They may yell or argue and I will simply murmur please stop — but then I go back to my relaxing. If they don’t stop, I don’t sweat it. I don’t have the energy. Kids, go brush your teeth, I say. And then, I look the other way! On these Bare Minimum Days, I don’t watch to see if they brushed their teeth; I don’t go and do the toothbrush test-feel to be sure the bristles are wet because god-forbid they didn’t brush their teeth — today, I just don’t care. I know If I hound them to find out if or how well they brushed their teeth, it will become a battle. It will require nagging, and it will end with a But, mom — and today, I just don’t want it. Today, I can’t do any but moms. I can’t and I won’t, so I choose not to choose this battle. Instead, I say (once), Kids, brush your teeth — and then I go about my business and assume that they did indeed brush their teeth.
Mom, Nora pinched me! On a normal day, I may pull Nora aside and have a face-to-face chat about this incident. I would seize the opportunity, and use it teach her about life and relationships and apologies. Not today. Today, I say, Oh, I’m sorry, that must have hurt. Nora, please stop. And I turn the other cheek. I choose not to choose this battle, either. The kids survive.
For one day, I give myself a freaking break. I stop controlling. I stop nagging. I stop doing. I do one thing and one thing only: the bare minimum. The kids get to their commitments, and I keep them safe. I say the right things so the kids think I’m still there, momming away— but really, I am giving myself a break. Because If I don’t give myself one, no one does.
This essay was written by Suzanne Hayes.