Oh, how I can’t wait for January. Cold, snowy, boring January, when the halls are un-decked, the kids are in school, and the house is quiet. No gifts to buy, cards to send, or holidays to observe. The dead of winter is upon us, and my begging-to-be landscaped yard is blessedly covered in snow.
January brings a new year, a clear calendar, and no commercial holidays in sight. The kids come home from school talking about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and my husband and I talk about spring break plans and summer vacations. We use the fireplace, the crockpot, and Netflix. But if January is coming next week, why does it feel so far away?
Part of the problem, er, reason is that my family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas, making December quite a month in our house. From latkes to eggnog and menorahs to mistletoe, December is a joyful marathon of giving, singing, and celebrating. But someone has to make it happen, and that someone is me. I do my best to ensure that each kid has an equally wow-inducing pile of wrapped Christmas gifts, while also teaching the story of Chanukah and haplessly hoping that they appreciate the “spirit” of the holidays. I make latkes, invite friends over to light the menorah, decorate Christmas cookies, send holiday cards, coordinate teacher gifts and more, all while working fulltime. And then, after allowing four already overtired kids to stay up til midnight, the quiet of January finally arrives.
Some folks hate January. It’s bitterly cold and snowy, and everything seems dead. The kids are cooped up, the air is dry, the floors are cold, and there’s the flu. But if you look beyond this, there’s something else very important happening. Our small part of the world is asleep. It’s gearing up and gathering strength so that when the weather thaws, it’ll be good and ready to create the spring and summer that we’re all expecting. But it can’t do that without the respite of winter, and no one can stop it from doing so. And maybe that’s the reason I love January. It’s the calm after the storm. It’s nature taking a break, whether we like it or not; something that many moms, myself included, aren’t very good at.
For some moms there are “storms” 24 hours per day, and for others there are stormy shifts, stormy moments, stormy meals, stormy people, or stormy jobs. Some of us don’t have the luxury of being able to take a break, some don’t feel worthy of a break, some may have forgotten how to take a break, and some just don’t make the effort. But one thing’s for sure – we all deserve it, and we all need it. For many moms, though, taking a break can be a logistical nightmare. We are the center of our family’s worlds. We manage and execute kid management, housework, holidays, and often professional lives as well. In our universe, there is no January.
So what’s an overwhelmed and depleted mom to do? Well, number one, let yourself feel overwhelmed and depleted, because you are, and it’s ok. It’s what you do about it that’s so important, which leads to number two – start small – even teeny tiny is okay. It’s just critical that you begin somewhere. Start with 5 minutes per day, and do whatever it is that centers you – music, reading, meditation, yoga, daydreaming, playing an instrument, yodeling – remember – time for yourself doesn’t judge. It’s all yours. Do this every day – or at least as many days as you can, or can remember to, and you might just find yourself looking forward to it, or even extending it to 6 minutes, maybe 10. But regardless of how many minutes, the fact that it’s yours and only yours is what’s important.
So when the holidays are over and put away, try to be mindful not only of the post-December quiet, but also of how important the respite of January is to the natural world. And then embark on a plan to bring much-needed respite into your own little part of the universe. You just may be surprised at how beautiful January can be.
Abby Helman Kelly is the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Boston University and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University in Maryland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.