Yesterday while snuggling S as we rocked before nap, I whispered in his ear, “This is my favorite part of our day.”
He grinned. And so did I.
But after we finished reading and I tucked him into bed, I closed the door behind me and thought about what I’d said.
Why is the pre-nap ritual my favorite moment of the day? Is it because it’s a comforting routine that winds us both down from busy mornings? Is it because the “going to bed” books are some of my favorites? Is it because it’s one of the rare moments when my busy toddler will snuggle?
Yes, yes, and yes. But then I realized the honest truth.
The time before nap is quiet. And signals the arrival of more quiet to come. And I have come to love quiet.
Daily doses of quiet are how I’ve survived the newborn days this time around. Lately I’ve been realizing they’re the only way I’m going to survive the return to work after maternity leave as well – carving out a little space for silence as my days get even busier. Quiet is my new addiction.
At first I felt a little guilty about this. My favorite part of the day is when I get to shut my child in his room for several hours? What kind of mother does that make me? Wouldn’t it be better to love the moment when I first greet him in the morning or the moments filled with play and laughter throughout our day? Do the mythical Better Moms (who exist only in my mind, I know, but still) love these moments instead?
Now that I have two little ones to fill my days, I crave the quiet even more. Whenever both boys are sleeping at the same time, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I breathe deep and I grin wide. I revel in the silence and the calm, the lack of incessant toddler questioning and newborn shrieks of hunger.
But does that make me a lousy mom?
I long ago realized I am not one of those mothers who needs to be with her children 24/7. I am a better parent – and frankly, a more pleasant person – when I get regular time away from them. Time for myself, time for my marriage, time for my passions. I recognize that not every mother feels this way, and that’s fine. But to keep myself healthy, I need time and space apart.
But I’ve come to realize that even within the time and space that I spend with my kids, I need some (small) amount of quiet and calm to function well. On the crazy days when I don’t get a second’s pause to find my own thoughts, we all pay the price: I’m short on temper and long on frustration. Nobody wins.
So I’m starting to let myself enjoy the quiet when it comes, rare as it may be some days. Before I launch into writing or working, cleaning or cooking, I allow myself to listen to the silence, to soak up the lovely space of a house now free of cries or whines. Soon enough the lively noise and the lovely chaos will swirl back up around me. So taking a minute – or ten or twenty – to feel as close to alone as I can during this busy season reenergizes me to be decidedly un-alone for the rest of the day.
Sometimes I still feel a little guilty about loving the quiet the way I do. Soon enough I know that the baby coos and gurgles will slip away. The sweet toddler songs will become the shouts of older boys. One day the house will be just the two of us again, and we’ll both long for these fuller days.
But for now, my mothering spirit needs a little regular down time to thrive and survive. And I’m fine with admitting that. Even God rests, right? Perhaps you can’t See That It Was Good without the time and space to see and hear.
Or rather, to hear the sweet sound of nothing at all.