“I’m exhausted,” the young mom across the table repeated. I sipped my coffee and listened to her story of medical questions, appointments, conflicts. With each anecdote, she found herself saying it: “I’m exhausted,” acknowledging the repetition with a chuckle or a rueful smile.
Another mom told me about trying to keep her child on a healthy path while co-parenting with a partner who didn’t think the child had a problem. “It’s exhausting.”
Oh, I remember, mamas. That bone-deep, brain-deep fatigue.
Just a taste these days is enough to evoke the memory of the whole bitter meal.
I ache for these moms. These are not burdens they can put down. What kind of rest can they have? The parenting has to be done, the appointments have to be attended, the difficult discussions need to happen. For them, resting cannot possibly mean not doing the work.
Too often, the solutions offered look a whole lot like extra items on the to-do list. “Take some time and get a pedicure!” Okay, what time and with what extra money? “Get up an hour earlier and spend it in quiet meditation!” An hour earlier than the child who woke you up at 2 am because of extreme anxiety? “Have a date night with your spouse!” Sure, but how do I procure a babysitter for my fifteen-year-old who has suicidal ideation and can’t be left home alone?
The idea of rest provokes paradox in our culture. Everywhere we look, we find advice on how to rest, how to destress. Fueling sales of magazines, books, delivered groceries, and TV shows, the benefits of simple living, minimalism, and work/life balance appeal to us. At the same time, we can’t turn around without running into another study about how Americans are chronically short on sleep, our children over-scheduled, and our vacation days left on the table. The concept of a sabbath rest seems extreme, a little weird.
Is it even possible? Is the constant exhaustion escapable? And what would it look like? The Sabbath laws of bible times created a specific picture that included not carrying bundles, not lighting a fire, not transacting business. But Jesus frequently offended religious people by doing things they considered taboo on the Sabbath, especially healing people.
Maybe it’s time to rethink rest. Stay tuned for part two next week, and meanwhile, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!