6 Parents and Caretakers Share How They Squeeze Rest Into Busy Days

6 Parents and Caretakers Share How They Squeeze Rest Into Busy Days

For parents, rest is often a tricky, slippery thing. There’s the age-old adage, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” which sounds great in theory, but not so much in practice when there are emails to answer, laundry to put away, and a million other things that are only possible to achieve during those precious, quiet stretches of naptime. And when children are older, houses are very rarely quiet at all. But rest goes beyond napping or closing your eyes, and the definition of rest will always be different for everyone.

Apartment Therapy turned to some busy parents and caretakers to find out how they prioritize their own rest in the midst of their busy schedules, along with how they encourage their equally busy children to slow down and rest too. Ahead, check out some of their tips — and remember, rest is just as crucial for your mind as it is for your body.

What constitutes rest, anyway?

Like anything else, rest looks and feels different for everyone because everyone has different needs. But for the most part, it’s common to view rest as any activity that leads to feeling recharged. As Kate, a mother of two and yoga instructor explains, “Rest, to me, is something that feels restorative, rejuvenating, or nourishing in some physical, mental, or emotional way.”

For Kara Nesvig, a freelance writer and mother who lives in Minnesota, there’s an important ingredient for her rest: having alone time. “Being a parent is a lot of being touched, needed, and wanted — and while I love that, I also like to be by myself,” she says, adding that her restful activities are always changing, and might include taking a bath, reading a book on her patio, or even working out. “Over the past five months, I’ve also gotten really into exercise and have found that I feel so much more alive and recharged after a challenging spin class or weights workout, which was a big surprise to me,” she says. “So sometimes rest is exercise!”

A key component of rest is removing external stressful stimuli, while also trying to shut out any thoughts that might create anxiety or worry. Taylor Grothe describes rest as the ability to “unhook her brain” and take some time for herself. Grothe, who lives in Connecticut with her partner and two daughters, pointed out that the job of being a parent never stops. “Anytime I can just sit and not worry about the state of my small humans… is restful.” 

Similarly, Nesvig shares that she opts to unplug during restful activities to minimize distractions. “Rest is taking the dog for a long walk without Slack notifications or checking my email,” she saya. “Rest is making dinner or doing 15-20 minutes of stretching at the end of the day. It’s also going to bed, turning off phone alerts, and reading a book until I fall asleep.”

Why advocating for rest matters

Sneaking in chunks of rest can be difficult for anyone, and for parents or caretakers with nonstop schedules, it can sometimes feel nearly impossible. Jennifer Camiccia, a mother of four and grandmother, tells Apartment Therapy that it’s important to learn how to accept help. “If someone offered to take my kids, I would gladly say yes,” she reflects. 

Camiccia, who lives in California and is also a caretaker for her elderly in-laws, pointed out that it’s also crucial to schedule relaxing activities into your day. “If rest isn’t built into that plan in advance, you might find yourself depleted and exhausted,” she says. “I’ve felt this way too many times to count, so I learned to listen to my body and my emotions.”

For Dan, a father of two from North Carolina, advocating for that alone time is key. “The best thing my wife and I do is try to be honest when we need to take time for ourselves, even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes, and the other one is with the kids,” he says. “Obviously it’s not always possible to do this, but we try to give each other little breaks whenever we can.”

But it’s important to bear in mind that rest doesn’t have to be a big event — nor does it need to take a long time at all. And with busy schedules, sometimes little chunks of rest can also be valuable, as Kate has learned. “I try not to wait for big windows of rest,” she says. “Instead, I try to incorporate small pockets of rest into my day. I’ll flip through a magazine or do some gentle yoga stretches while my kids are playing next to me.”

It’s time to banish rest-associated guilt once and for all 

If you’ve ever felt guilty for resting, you’re definitely not alone. A “hustle”-obsessed culture (not to mention a capitalist society) can trick people into thinking that rest is unproductive — but that’s actually not the case at all. Rest helps keep your body healthy and ready to tackle whatever busy schedule tomorrow might bring. 

As MK Pagano, an author and mother from New Jersey puts it, “I’m of no use to anyone, least of all myself, if I don’t get enough sleep.” Pagano, who is expecting another child next month, pointed out that lack of sleep and rest has negatively affected her health in the past, so it’s rare that she’ll prioritize work over taking care of her body. “I’ve learned to set firm boundaries when it comes to work,” she says, adding, “Protecting my time and my health is more important to me. ”

Similarly, Camiccia says that she’s “learned the hard way” what happens to her body when she doesn’t prioritize rest. “I’ve suffered with migraines since I was ten, and a huge trigger for me is stress,” she says, explaining that she builds time into her day to either read or go outside and enjoy nature to keep her stress levels low.

But it can be challenging to put one’s well-being first. Grothe admitted that prioritizing her rest is something that she struggles with, describing it as “a balancing act.” However, she knows that rest is valuable, and she uses a variety of self-talk to encourage herself to recharge without worrying about other things that need to get done. “The house will eventually be clean, and doesn’t need to be right now,” she explains. “Sitting outside [or reading a book] helps me broker inner peace, so that I can be a better mom.”

The busiest members of any packed household might be the children themselves. Daily schedules can be filled with school or daycare, activities like ballet lessons or sports, camp, vacations — the list goes on. Rest, then, can and should be a family affair, one that’s modeled and encouraged for all ages. 

Just as she builds rest into her own day, Pagano makes sure it’s part of her three-and-a-half year old daughter’s as well. “I implemented a schedule and a routine for bedtime, naptime, and sleep, and used things like white noise and blackout curtains,” she says. “It seemed to work; my daughter has always been a good sleeper.”

For older children, rest can be more activity-based — and away from the distractions of screens. “All my kids love nature,” Camiccia reflects of her now-grown children. “Going on hikes, watching the sunset, going to the beach are all ways they relax. I was always a big believer in having quiet time to read without phones or the television constantly on and I think that helped as well.”

Like most learned behaviors, rest can be habit-building, and parents have the opportunity to mold the way children view and prioritize the concept. Grothe hopes her daughters will understand that rest is something people choose, plan for, and prioritize. 

“Rest is an active thing,” she says. “It’s a real part of the day.”

De Elizabeth

Contributor

De is a writer/editor specializing in mental health, motherhood, lifestyle, and pop culture. She’s obsessed with all things ’90s and ’00s nostalgia (and even has a newsletter named after the best sound on AIM).

Responsibly Dispose Of Toys With Mattel’s Toy Takeback Initiative

Responsibly Dispose Of Toys With Mattel’s Toy Takeback Initiative

Arielle Tschinkel

Contributor

Arielle Tschinkel is a freelance pop culture and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared on Shape.com, WomansWorld.com, FirstforWomen.com, Insider, HelloGiggles, and more. She loves all things Disney and is making her way to every park around the world, and is a die-hard Britney Spears fan for life. She’s also obsessed with her Bernedoodle, Bruce Wayne.

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10 Tips You Learn About Laundry in the First Year of Parenthood

10 Tips You Learn About Laundry in the First Year of Parenthood

While there’s no way to make washing a mountain of baby laundry fun, there are little tricks that will make it bearable. And luckily, new parents like nothing more than sharing their hard-earned words of wisdom. 

I received two pieces of baby laundry advice when I became a mom that I’ve since gifted — and this advice is so good, I do consider it a gift — to every new parent I meet. The first: Because newborn poop is so thin that it gets everywhere, invest in a bunch of washable changing pad liners. Or, if you’d rather go for something disposable on your most bleary-eyed days, get a bunch of puppy pee pads from the pet store. (Apologies to the planet, but occasionally convenience wins when you’re running on two hours of sleep and baby is on his fifth blowout of the day.) The second: Use waterproof mattress pads and crib sheets in three alternating layers so you can quickly pull off pee-, barf-, and/or poop-covered (it will happen) bedding in the middle of the night and have a fresh set ready to go.

Read on for more tried-and-true pointers from people who’ve been there.

1. Simplify sorting with one color palette.

“Buy things that are a similar color: If you’re starting from scratch with baby clothes, sheets, and blankets, it’s easier to do the frequent loads of laundry required with a newborn or infant if everything is around the same color. For my second baby, we tried to stick to whites and light-colored items. Everything dirty went into the wash together, and we didn’t worry about sorting. (That is, if you care about sorting things, which I have cared about since my mom turned all my whites pink when I was a kid.)” — Melissa Maleske, Chicago, mom to a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old

2. Use folding as an excuse for watching TV.

“I never thought I’d be the type of person to do laundry multiple times a week, but here I am. And it’s actually a lot more manageable than blocking off an entire day of marathon laundry. I do two to three loads over the course of the week and then try to fold on a night when I can relax with an audiobook or stream something.” — Steph Pituc, Minneapolis, mom to a 2-year-old

3. But remember that folding too carefully is for chumps.

“Don’t worry about folding your baby’s clothes too well. Like many others, I got really into the Marie Kondo-style folding to maximize space. After doing our baby’s first load of laundry, I spent lots of time folding everything neatly. By the third load, I ditched that and just folded everything in half once, and sloppily.” — Michael Sewall, Chicago, dad to a 2-month-old

4. Buy a lot of onesies, and buy them cheap. 

“In terms of having a boy, you get a whole lot more leaks. They have different parts and they spray out. Every night he has a wet onesie. I have to wash so much more often [than I did with my daughter]. Under 1 year old, they grow out of clothing so fast, it’s just ridiculous. I like getting it cheap, used, or on consignment and giving it new life with soap and laundry bars.” — Nicole Musillami, La Grange, Illinois, mom to a 7-month-old and a 5-year-old

5. Take advantage of sunlight to revitalize yellowed whites.

“My daughter loves blueberries and raspberries. Even with a bib, you can’t control it. I use Dreft Laundry Stain Remover spray. It gets anything out of everything. And then I put [the clothing] in the sun. Especially whites — breast milk or formula spit-up yellows the clothes, but I leave [them] out all day and [they dry] pretty white. It’s literally the best.” — Rachal Baillie, Manalapan, New Jersey, mom to a 16-month-old

6. Find out right away if new clothes are going to shrink.

“A friend provided this piece of advice to pregnant me that was valuable: When gifted clothing, especially for babies, wash it immediately so you know how much it shrinks.” — Marisa Bassett, Rhode Island, mom to a 5-year-old 

7. Know that it will become a habit — eventually.

“My husband is very committed to cleanliness in the house. When my son was born, we did laundry basically every day. We have a laundry hamper in our son’s bathroom, and so at night we take his clothes, put them in the hamper, and then give them a wash. [Now] we do that every two or three days, whenever it’s full — in-unit laundry is obviously a privilege. All of those things combined with a general ethos that clean is good has made it a habit at this point.” — Tyler Greene, Bay Area, dad to a 2-year-old

8. Take babies along for the ride.

“For apartment living without an in-unit washer/dryer, wear the baby in a carrier to do laundry. [Mine] both loved being in the carrier. It did mean I needed to find some crazy angles to reach the bottom of the top loader. A fun hamper can get a toddler into helping put the dirty laundry in the right place. We feed the froggy!” — Kerry Middlemas Bartlett, Hudson, Ohio, mom to a 6-month-old and a 4-year-old

9. Treat stains immediately.

“I gift every new mom with a few OxiClean Max Force Gel Sticks because that shit gets the shit out of the shit! Also, because I had that, I learned the importance of rinsing and treating as quickly as possible, if you want to save the outfit. I also love my Woolzies [dryer balls], only found when pregnant and researching sensitive baby stuff. I’m a basic-level laundress, so these discoveries made me feel like Martha Stewart.” — Jennon Bell Hoffmann, La Grange Park, Illinois, mom to a 7-month-old and a 4-year-old

10. Breathe: The laundry might not be as bad as you think.

“I’d heard lore about how terrible it would be. It really wasn’t. There was a lot of it, but the clothing was so small we’d throw it in with ours. We always wash baby clothes in cold water, so we only put it in with nicer clothes, like blouses and pants, not towels and sheets, which we always did in a hot wash. It was a bunch of stuff, sure, but it didn’t feel like a lot because it was itty-bitty clothing.” — Zoya Arora, Ames, Iowa, mom to a 2-year-old, with another baby due in October

Apartment Therapy’s Laundry, Sorted vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Samsung.

If Green Cleaners Aren’t Cutting It, You Might Need a Cleaning “Re-Set”

If Green Cleaners Aren’t Cutting It, You Might Need a Cleaning “Re-Set”

Shifrah Combiths

Contributor

With five children, Shifrah is learning a thing or two about how to keep a fairly organized and pretty clean house with a grateful heart in a way that leaves plenty of time for the people who matter most. Shifrah grew up in San Francisco, but has come to appreciate smaller town life in Tallahassee, Florida, which she now calls home. She’s been writing professionally for twenty years and she loves lifestyle photography, memory keeping, gardening, reading, and going to the beach with her husband and children.