Monday, February 14, 2011

Up Days and Down Days

Daniel has been sick with a stomach virus for several days, and we've all been having a tough time of it. I had a bunch of social plans and appointments last week, but I had to cancel all of them to prevent spreading the virus around. I had to make myself (and Daniel) take several "down days" last week, so we could have enough energy to make it through to the weekend.

The concept of "up days" and "down days" was introduced to me by the leaders at my new parent support group: Some days you can go about your regular life with your child, running around and doing errands and whatnot (this is an up day). But other days, it's a good idea to take a break from that and give yourself permission to lounge around during the day and do nothing but the essential tasks of daily living: eat, sleep, cuddle with your kid (a down day).

Daniel and I usually have a need for a down day if one of us is sick or didn't get any sleep the night before. On these days, I try to be as gentle as possible with both of us. I just have to pretend my child is a brand new infant again and provide the opportunity for both of us to rest and recuperate.

Sometimes it's hard to make myself take a down day, because it seems like they always become necessary when we're knee-deep in things to do. I'm starting to think that maybe it's not a coincidence that it happens that way. It might be that the need for us to take a down day is an indicator that our life is getting a bit out of balance, and I need to take a day or two to refocus and build up my energy to get going again.

On down days, after taking a shower (because that helps me to feel refreshed) I put on pajamas or other very comfortable, soft clothing. I only do the essential chores (diaper laundry, but no other loads, for example) and I eat foods and engage in activities that feel nurturing and restorative to me. I make sure to take my vitamins and have tea time. I try my best to take at least one nap with Daniel, and I stay home all day. I sometimes watch movies or television, and I don't feel guilty if Daniel gets a lot of "screen time" those days (even though he doesn't really watch the TV yet) because if that's what helps us get through the day, then so be it. I don't write and publish new content on my blog on down days (even though I might publish something I've already scheduled). I do often find myself writing a lot on down days, though, because it's one of the big ways I process things and reflect on my life. I find it cathartic.

I thought I might be finished having down days by this point in my child's development, but I think this might never end. Though they are becoming less frequent, I'm sure they will continue to be necessary through the end of my life. I think it's why some companies provide their employees with "personal days" or "mental health days" off, so they don't have to dishonestly call in sick when they need to take a down day to feel refreshed again the next day.

Do you ever take down days? What's your favorite down day activity (or non-activity, as it were)? I'd love to hear about it!

"Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."
Robert Fulghum

This post is part of my series on balance, inspired by the October Carnival of Natural Parenting. Without balance, we feel burned out, we lose perspective...we fall down. How do you find balance in your life? What does it mean to you to be in balance? Does it come easily to you or do you have to be more intentional about it?

I'd love to host your guest post for my series on balance! Contact me at anktangle (at) gmail (dot) com if you're interested in participating.


  1. These are words of serious wisdom.

    Many times, when I take a down day, I am not as intentional as I should be about it. Instead of doing purposefully restful things, I just excuse myself from my to-do list. Then I fill in the time blanks with random other tasks that catch my eye. Silly! I wind up as annoyed as ever, because I was still busy but didn't get anything from my precious list accomplished.

  2. I'm having a down day right now, after a couple of days of not-quite-enough sleep. I did my blog post, but only because I consider it like the laundry these days: the minimum must-do. For now.

    My oldest is 11, so I wouldn't count on phasing them out any time soon, if I were you. :)

  3. This is lovely. Most weeks, my 3-month-old and I have 1 unscheduled day where we just sit at home. Usually, this happens by chance, but I think it might be a good idea to schedule them in as well. I find, though, that I start to get a bit cooped up around 6 or 7 pm if I don't leave the house all day, so I try to take a short walk outside if it is nice weather as well. A bit of work to get us dressed for the cold, but worth it later--and I'm right back into my "house clothes" upon return!
    (PS. Just started reading your blog; came over from Code Name: Mama. I am really enjoying it!)

  4. Down days usually involve more screen time for us too - but the nice part is that we usually watch something *together*. On any other day when Kieran watches a video, I'm often doing something in another room. So screen time on down days is one way we connect.

  5. We've been sick and we've been sick and we've been sick, all month long, and I'm so so tired of the down days! Today we went for a walk around the block (no farther, because I'm still sick), and being out under the sky felt so strange. It may be that our down days need to include at least a walk around the block, if no farther....


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