We’ve come up with a little survival strategy around here, and it dovetails nicely with the relentless structure and organization I impose on us. When we’ve had a rough night (babies up more than once), when we haven’t had an extra pair of hands to help in many days, when things generally feel awry, enter: Mercy Days.
Mercy Days are days when I tell the conductor in my head that he has the day off, and instead of fighting it, he shrugs and walks off stage. They are the days when I let myself off the proverbial hook, when I release the three of us from any need to accomplish greatness. In short, Mercy Days are days of, as Anne Lamott would say, “radical self care.”
For instance, normally I would never have the television on during my time alone with the babies. I may watch ten minutes while they face away from the screen as I’m feeding them, but apart from that, it’s off. On a Mercy Day, I am allowed to shamelessly stream You’ve Got Mail and Something’s Gotta Give, should I choose. The babies still can’t watch it, but it’s a mental break in the background for me to escape to as I hold a toy for them or watch them play on their blanket.
I do not need to get dressed on Mercy Days. There are clothes on my body, but they may be pajama pants or particularly unattractive leggings. If UPS comes to the door, that door will simply not be answered while the UPS man is standing there.
These days also involve treats. On regular days I eat meals made at home or leftovers, but on Mercy Days I pack the kids in the car and we get to drive through the only acceptable drive-thru and my guiltiest pleasure: Taco Time.
Please allow me to make an aside about Taco Time. Firstly, Taco Time sits in sharp distinction from Taco Bell. Taco Bell is cat food. Taco Time is America’s Mexican gift to itself. I do not order complicated items — it’s a beef taco (or two…I am still producing food for two other people, after all) an order of Mexi fries and I’m on my way. Those Mexi fries (tator tots given a more glamorous name) should be considered a drug, considering the opiate-like effect they have on me. Also! Not to be forgotten: the ice. Taco Time is the only place in the world I know of besides Evergreen Hospital to serve pellet ice. Pellet ice is just what it sounds like; little cylinders of textured ice that pops apart at the merest attempt to chew it. It is bliss for those who love to chew ice, as I do. I always order an ice water, just to get that cold, crunchy bite of heaven.
So you can see, Mercy Days and Taco Time go hand in hand.
Sometimes it’s the wrong time of day to visit a Taco Time, in which case, obviously, we drive through Starbucks. Starbucks in the middle of the day represents everything decadent about stay-at-home-motherhood that I always envisioned. I used to picture stay-at-home-moms having oodles of time to do whatever they wanted and Starbucks in the middle of the week was always a clear part of that picture. Now I laugh out loud at my misconception, but on Mercy Days, the stay-at-home Starbucks is essential.
Speaking of food, there’s no need to make dinner. Frozen pizza or calling the mister to pick something up on the way home is perfectly acceptable. Having a glass of wine at the ready the moment my man walks in the door also goes without saying.
You’re probably wondering how often this slap-dash day occurs. I’d estimate once a month. We’re not falling apart at the seams over here, we just need elastic waistbands once in awhile.
These days, rare as they may be, prevent the total breakdown that would surely await any mother who is very aware that her job doesn’t allow for a day off. My little alarm clocks don’t include snooze buttons. I can’t call in sick if I don’t feel like changing a diaper or pumping six times a day. So, I create respite when I need it.
The essence of Mercy Days is grace. My life is spent earnestly; I give everything I can to my babies. I read them every book we own, I teach them as much as their little brains can take in, I lead them through physical drills to improve their motor skills, I take them on daily walks, I talk and sing and dance and do whatever it takes to be the steward of them that I know I am called to be. But thankfully, mercifully, God created grace to fill the spaces when I cannot do all that I should. He created rest, and breaks, and tiny bouts of junk food to allow me to regain my sustenance to move forward with energy and gratitude.
Oh, and showering? Laughable.