The Art of Doing Nothing: A Mother’s Guide

As a mother, there is so much to do. When you bring home that bundle of joy, there are so many feedings, diaper changes, clean-ups of all kinds, etc. As a mom to a toddler, you must run every which way to keep up with them—and there are still all those feedings, diaper changes, and clean-ups of all kinds. This continues as your child grows. Except, of course, the diaper changes do stop. But I’m here to tell you, you must find time to do nothing. The “nothing” is the best! The “nothing” is when you really learn, experience, love, and see your family. 

When I used to wake up in the middle of the night with my babies, I sometimes just stared at them sleeping. I loved watching them sleep—their little chest moving up and down and the adorable thumb sucking. Sure, I wanted to get back to my bed and get to sleep. But those “nothing” moments were amazing.

I would also sit on the floor and sometimes just watch my toddler play. I wouldn’t try to teach him/her anything or play with them. Those “nothing” minutes taught me how my toddler played. Banging, shaking, and throwing nearby items was fascinating. Sure, I was going to have to clean that crap up, but it was so interesting! 

Those times I did nothing as I watched my husband hold the kids while they fussed or crawled on him… I loved him more because I took a moment to do nothing but see how he dealt with the kids. 

When baby number two came around, it was harder to have time to do nothing. But I took the time to watch my kids interact without interfering. I stood nearby doing nothing but watching. I watched as my son would hand toys to my infant daughter. I watched as he showed her how things worked. He would squeeze a toy bunny so that the ears would fly up and narrate what was going to happen. As they got older, I loved just walking behind them doing nothing but watching as they held hands. My heart grew in seeing that. 

When my children started school, it wasn’t easy to find time to volunteer. But whenever I had a chance, I went to their school to pass out snacks, clean up something, or help the teacher herd children in the right direction. But it was especially nice to find a moment to do nothing so I could hear the children talk to each other. What were they talking about? How did they interact? What was funny to them? You can learn who is the class clown, who is the sweet kid, who needs extra help, etc. You might be surprised where your child fits into the picture. 

Sometimes you can hang out outside of the house doing nothing when your kids are playing outside with others. Yes, I know there is yard work to be done. But when you are in this state of nothing, you can listen in on the kids talking and interacting. There is a lot to learn from this. You’ll learn who is the leader of the pack and who are the followers. These positions might change depending on the activity the kids engage in. Again, you might be surprised at the roles your kid takes on. 

As kiddos start doing extracurriculars, it’s great to volunteer. I say “great” and you say ”crazy.” But, nonetheless, you are at the games/meetings/rehearsals. Do all you need to do, but don’t forget to take that quiet moment to really watch your kid’s expressions and especially listen during those car rides to and from these activities. This is a great time to learn how your kid is dealing with the wins/losses or the challenges of the activities. Let them talk and vent. You will get a better feel for how they are processing these new learning opportunities. 

Middle school and high school are times when it seems so easy to do nothing. But here’s the thing: kiddos tend to be less open and talkative about what’s really happening at that age. They also tend to not want their parents around, so it’s harder to get a peek into their world. So the “nothing” is making sure that our tweens and teens know we are there for them by just watching for those moods. You don’t need to know everything that is happening—and you won’t—but you can offer that bowl of ice cream silently when the mood is down. You can just do nothing but give that quick hug, head rub, fist bump, etc. My high schooler is super busy, but sometimes I do “nothing” but send him a funny meme to stay in touch. I might pop onto the couch next to him without saying anything to see what he’s watching. No judging is allowed! 

Find your own “nothing” moments and relish them for what they are. They are memories, learning moments, insights into your family, and simple connections. Try to perfect your own art of doing nothing.

Texas born, small town girl who always felt like I had lived other lives in other places. I went off to college and somehow ended up in beautiful San Antonio. I met my future husband who had lived other lives in other places. After getting married, we moved out of state. Once we had our little souvenir, we moved back to Texas with a baby boy. Later, we added a daughter to complete the family. I work full-time as a school librarian and, on occasion, find time to do a little traveling and a little sleeping.