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Back Off, Self-Care Mafia, I Don't Want to Relax

Photograph by Twenty20

We moms like to relax. Some days I feel like all I want to do is to get off my feet and sit down for a second. But there's never any time.

Last month, I asked moms what they did to relax. And the results were relatable and, at times, laugh out loud funny. (No 6: Archery. It's like yoga for Type-A people.)

I continue to hear from moms about how they unwind: Stacie Habib, mother of two and preschool teacher, told me, "I build Legos. We're talking 2,000 piece sets. I find it totally relaxing!"

So, we all find our ways to unwind. But not every mom wants to kick up her feet and lay back (or construct Legos, as the case may be). Jennifer Moss, mother of two and tax lawyer, has found her ultimate relaxation. And guess what? It has nothing to do with sitting down, or getting a pedicure or even taking a minute for herself.

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"I don't how to relax," she explains. "I don't like to relax. I don't even understand what it means to relax."

Really, she's serious.

"Trying to 'relax' is actually uncomfortable for me. My mind is non-stop. I need to be doing something at all times," she told me. "When I'm on the beach 'relaxing' without kids I'm running through my to-do list at home and at work and what I want to be accomplishing. While getting a massage, I'm thinking of what the rest of the day has in store for me and what I need to remember not to forget at the grocery store and how I wish I could ask the masseuse for a pen and paper to write it down. I absolutely suck at relaxing."

Jennifer told me it used to frustrate her and that she tried to force herself to relax because—of course—everyone needs to relax. Right?

True confession: when I'm especially busy, I'll write up a to-do list just for the satisfaction of checking things off.

"I tried yoga to clear my mind… Impossible!! I just kept stressing about how I couldn't clear my mind. I tried sitting on couch and just chilling but, after two minutes, I grabbed a computer to order things online and pay bills. I can't even sit through a movie without multitasking ('Who wants to play cards with Mommy while we watch the movie?!'). I read books, but it's always with the goal of: how fast can I finish and get it done?" she said.

Then, a few years ago, she had an epiphany. She realized, she doesn't enjoy relaxing, it doesn't make her happy. Rather, than letting it stress her out, she started to give in to it. "Turns out, productivity is my relaxation. Woo hoo! I finally found it."

She said she has embraced the insanity and no longer stresses about how to relax like everyone else. And that self-awareness and acceptance? "It has truly relaxed me!" she said.

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So, maybe relaxation isn't for everyone. Maybe for some people, it's about what works for you, what makes you happy. For Jennifer, it's being productive and checking things off her to-do list. And you know what? That actually makes me happy, too. (True confession: when I'm especially busy, I'll write up a to-do list just for the satisfaction of checking things off.)

Perhaps we should be talking about this whole relaxing thing differently. Maybe we should be asking a different question. Instead of, "How do you relax?" we could ask, "How do you make yourself happy?"

Because a happy mom is always a good mom.

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