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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Simple Things.—A Daily Rest

by S. F. S.
Volume 12, no. 12, 1901, pgs. 958-960


Ease, not effort, is the sign of strength. The latest word in science, as in mechanism, is generally in the direction of simplicity. It is the same in the experience of life, which teaches one to have more and more respect for things which are simple and easily attainable. This is especially the case with considerations of health. Such elementary matters as fresh air and pure water, warmth, suitable clothing and variations of diet, gradually come to assume a position of the very first importance. Within the whole range of simple remedies, there is probably no more efficacious and more generally neglected than the subject of this paper. Probably no one prescription would conduce more to the good health of the average middle-class woman than the simple formula, "Rest when you are tired." It would be still more valuable if worded, "Rest before you are too tired," and the practical application of such formula would generally point to some sort of rest in the middle of the day. Yet there is nothing which the average woman finds so impossible. Of course, there are thousands of girls and women in full strength, who can ride, golf and play tennis from morning till night, without a sign of fatigue. They are never tired and so do not need rest. But there are tens of thousands of women, who are perhaps only a little below the average in vigour, and who yet spend half their time feeling "tired, below par," languid in body and threadbare in mind, and possibly irritable in spirit, and it is to these that short rest in the middle of the day would be such a great and surprising boon. Those who have tried it know how inestimable is its value in the restoration of tone and vigour, but when one presumes to suggest it to one's friends who are obviously in a continual state of being overdone, the almost invariable answer is "Rest in the middle of the day! Oh, I cannot spare the time to waste in resting," delivered in a tone of conscious and superior virtue.

Two questions immediately suggest themselves, and though they have to be suppressed in private intercourse, I may ask them here—

1. What is the priceless nature of the work done during each half-hour of the day, that one of them cannot be better spent in restoring the forces with which it must be carried out?

2. What is the comparative value of work done with a weary brain and a fresh one?

If we honestly ask ourselves these questions, the honest answer will be fairly obvious.

The real truth with most of us is that it requires a little more resolution and a good deal more method than we possess to so arrange and carry out the work of the day, as to secure the resting time in the middle of it, and we are still more hindered in doing it by a lurking fear of selfishness. It would clear the ground to realise once for all that in the case of families and households nothing is of so much value as the general efficiency of the head, and a very slight rise in general efficiency leads far more to the comfort of everyone than constant weary efforts to please.

We mistresses of households are mostly given to think that everything will collapse unless we hang about in a more less effective way all the time, but I call to mind the example of a distinguished general, now serving in South Africa, who said he so commanded his station that he could leave if for a month without anything suffering, and I venture to say that the moment when we most feel that we cannot leave things alone is exactly the moment when we are least capable of dealing with them. Many a woman collapses utterly with a headache at five, because she stood about doing nothing particular for the half-hour that would have saved her at two.

Few people would accuse Napoleon I. of time-wasting or lack of energy, and yet he seldom passed a day without a ten minutes' sleep. And the power of obtaining that absolute form of rest which we call sleep is far more within the power of will and habit than we are disposed to think.

If it is important to use thought in order to take rest; how much more in order to give it! It is only fair to remember that a rest in the daytime is only possible by the cordial co-operation of the rest of the family. A frequent appeal to "just do this or that before you go," or even a long continued course of the sportive "Off to bed?" will soon put a stop to the whole thing, and the opposite course of insisting that the rest should be taken by a hard and fast rule, in season and out of season, nearly as bad. One would think these things too trivial to mention if it were not that many devoted relatives, who make great sacrifices for a "rest cure" or a "course," do not seem able to accomplish the same effort involved in arranging easily and unostentatiously for an equal boon at home. One rejoices that "want of heart" is so much less common that "want of thought" on moral grounds, but the actual consequences are equally disastrous.

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Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Feb 2009