I love my children. Being a mother is hard. Our days are precious to me. Our days are challenging. Both parts are true, the beauty and the intensity, but the one practice that helps to keep things in balance for me is our daily afternoon quiet time.
Our quiet time is a mini exhale, an oasis of calm in the midst of our usual noise and activity. It is blessed relief to my introverted soul. It is silence and stillness, just for a little while. It is rest for my mind and body and oh, my ears.
Right now there is only quiet. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator and the tapping of the keys as I write. Sometimes a car drives by. For the next hour or so, I will hear little else.
Our practice of quiet time began six years ago. Jay, who was two years old back then, had decided he was done with naps. Kai was an energy-sucking bundle of joy within me. I was tired. Jay might have been fine without his afternoon nap, but I sure needed one. And so it began.
A stack of books. Two cars. One blanket. We'd pile into my bed and for the next half hour, I was not to be spoken to. I would read (sometimes) or nap (usually), while Jay would drive his cars along the lines of my quilt or look through his stack of books. Occasionally he would fall asleep too, and the two of us would nap for as long as we pleased. It was a nice moment in our day. When it was over, I would drag my big Kai-filled belly out of bed and the day would continue. Back to housework and games, meal prep and strolls through the forest.
After Kai was born, quiet time became an on-again, off-again thing for the next couple of years. The off-again times always left me feeling a little more frazzled, a little less calm and collected. But I wasn't very good at consistency and routine, and so the off-again times happened anyway.
Until Ell. Oh, that pregnancy. Quiet time became less of a decision and more of a default-born-of-necessity; I wasn't so much functioning as merely getting through the day for a stretch there. We made it, though, and at some point that afternoon quiet time became part of our day, a simple fact. This is What We Do. And so we do it.
For the kids, quiet time is an opportunity for rest and quiet activity. It is also a chance for solitude, to enjoy (or learn to enjoy) their own company for a while. Jay will read, work on a project, or draw. Kai usually chooses a puzzle or a game. Ell is in that transitioning period; some days she naps, while other days she chooses a quiet activity of her own. And Min, bless his baby soul, consistently naps during this time.
For me, though, its purpose changes depending on the season. There have been seasons (particularly the growing-a-baby seasons) when it has been an opportunity for a nap of my own. Other seasons have given way to creativity, a chance to write or sew or knit. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I sit quietly with God, a tiny baby, or both. It is never a time for a housework, though. I might do a quick tidy of the main room simply because visual clutter feels like chaos to my brain, and five minutes of tidying makes my quiet time feel far more peaceful.
Right now, in this season, it is my work time. I plug in my headphones, turn on some music, and get lost in the world of numbers and accounting for as long as the baby sleeps. It might not be rest in the traditional sense, but it requires, at least, a different part of my brain that the usual negotiating of peace treaties between warring children, the cleaning up of various bodily fluids, and the other assorted duties that go along with raising children.
Whether it be for sleep, creativity, recreation, or work, these minutes have become an integral part of my day. They are given up only for the occasional full-day outing. What begun as a half-hour nap beside a squirmy two year old has become a guaranteed one hour, and often more, of solitary activity for each of us. As important as I believe it is for my kids, it is one of my own primary acts of self-care. I do the next needful thing and the next and the next and then this - a pause, a stillness - and then continue.