When I was pregnant with my children, the advice we’d invariably receive from well-meaning fellow parents would be: “Sleep when the babies sleep!”
This sounded like a good plan before the twins were actually born, but it became quickly apparent that when you have two children whose natural sleeping rhythms are wired entirely differently, this advice is not so practical. Far more often than not, when one baby was asleep, the other one would be joyfully (or not-so-joyfully) awake, and my hopes of using that time to sleep myself were routinely dashed.
However, what I did learn to do during our asynchronous naptimes was to treasure the time I had with just one child: I’d pretend, for an hour or so, that I was like the other singleton mothers I secretly envied on Instagram, wearing their single babies around the house while cooking or cleaning, or nursing them without having to go through the acrobatics of juggling a child on each breast. While these moments were always too short, they were precious: it was (and is) such a gift to get to know my children one-on-one. Absolutely worth the seemingly endless days and nights of lost sleep.
It’s only in the past few months, well over 18 months into the twins’ lives, that they have mostly synchronized their naptimes. It feels miraculous. Hard-won, and miraculous.
When I realized that their synchronized naptimes might be more than an occasional fluke, I was so tempted to start planning to use that time to check off as much as possible on my to-do list. I’d mentally calculate how much I could get done in each increment of time that they slept: 15 minutes to clean the bathrooms. 10 minutes to take out trash. 30 minutes to respond to emails while the laundry finishes drying. 5 minutes to post on Instagram. 2 minutes to text back the friend I forgot to respond to.
It didn’t take long for this to become exhausting.
And fortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to remember that I get to choose how I spend my time.
I miss my early afternoon single-child rendezvous moments, but now, I finally get to sleep when the babies sleep if I want to. Or use that time to read for pleasure if I want to. Or catch up with a dear friend. Or watch a favorite TV show. To be sure, I almost always do some kind of household tidying or business-related work during naptime, but not before I’ve done something for myself.
My house is messier for it, but one of the best lessons for me in this season of life has been that sometimes, it’s ok for things to be a mess. As much as I’m wired to love organization and anything that can fit neatly into a box or spreadsheet, what I’m learning is that sometimes, letting the mess be the mess is the very thing that allows the joy to be the joy. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve postponed joy in order to accomplish just “one more thing.” (And there is always, always, always, just “one more thing” to do.)
As a loved one reminded me yesterday: this is supposed to be a season of joy, not a season of tidiness.
(Not just the holidays, but our whole lives. What would be possible if we approached our whole lives as if joy mattered more than how clean our homes are or how much we had checked off our to-do lists?)
These days, when I’m home when the twins are napping, I’m practicing prioritizing joy instead of picking up the toys or sweeping the floor for the 6th time in a week. Choosing deep conversations with friends and family, taking my own naps, or reading books for pleasure instead.
And I have to tell you: it’s helping me to feel a lot more in love with my joyful mess of a life.