presence vs. productivity

Theo’s avocado hair mask. It does wonders for his cowlick!

Taking care of twins is a lot of work. I’m not saying this to complain - most days I feel up to the task and am more grateful than anything else given how badly I missed my babies just a few short months ago. But every day feels like a careful orchestra of tasks just to meet my children’s basic needs of being well nourished, rested and reasonably clean.

I get up around 7 and immediately put two bottles in the bottle warmers (yes, we have two), turn on the coffee machine so I can get my caffeine fix ASAP, change diapers, deal with overnight leaks, start my daily load of laundry so I don’t get behind (shoutout to this wonderful blogger from my hometown for inspiring me with her homekeeping rhythm) and pick a baby to feed.

Meanwhile Papa Moose helps out with all of this and grabs the other twin and we feed the boys their first bottle of the day. Next he empties the dishwasher for me if he has time before work, feeds the cat breakfast and watches the boys while I eat breakfast and attempt to read two chapters of scripture before the day gets nuts.

Before I know it, it’s 9 am which is morning naptime, also known as my prime opportunity for making the next 8 bottles, showering, switching laundry loads, cleaning, checking e-mail and a million and one other things I try to squeeze in (and our apartment is less than 800 square feet - how do women with whole houses do this???)

Bedtime is a similar rush of tasks, with the goal of getting the boys in bed by 7:30, cleaning rancid avocado out of the crevices of our highchairs, washing out Theo’s avocado hair masks if necessary, loading the dishwasher so we have 8 clean bottles for the next day, taking care of the cat, and figuring out dinner. Hopefully I’ve squeezed in an outing that day (getting out the door with twins is its own comedic spectacle) but I could easily fill my day with enough tasks to stay inside, especially when the winter weather is, shall we say, inclement.

The thing is, my brief stint as an ER doctor dramatically improved my baseline productivity level (my husband would affectionately call me Turtle as a nickname in college before Bear took hold), and I secretly revel as if I’m Betty Draper herself when Papa Moose walks into a clean apartment with the chores done and the boys not melting down while I am starting dinner and says, “WOW, how on earth did you get all this done today?” But while most of what I do every day is necessary to keep twin parenting running smoothly, it is not the point, and wishing I had time to do all of these chores is certainly not the reason why I gave up my medical career.

I stay home to be with my children - to give them the invaluable gift of my presence and attention. While I strategize as I fall asleep at night new ways to get everything done more efficiently, it is (hopefully) in service of the goal of spending quality time with my kids when they are awake. To truly measure the “success” of my day, the relevant goals are both different and intangible.

Did I make time to read to my boys despite their ever briefer attention spans? Did we play on the floor together for long stretches? Did we snuggle? Did I work on teaching them something? (Right now we are working on crawling, sitting up and turning that adorable but non-specific ma-ma-ma-ma into my new cherished moniker). Did I remember to sing to them outside of going to bed routines? Theo can’t help but laugh at just about everything, but did I try hard enough to elicit Toby’s irresistible belly laugh? Did I have the presence of mind to remember to pray? Did I experience the presence of the Holy Spirit?

The day I resigned from residency, I experienced a bizarre mix of emotions, ranging from relief to anxiety to disappointment. I don’t regret my decision, but that day was tough - medical school took a lot of blood, sweat and tears (I mean that literally and figuratively) and never for one day during that 4+ year journey did I imagine that I would potentially give up my opportunity to practice to stay home with my kids. However, the Lord was near me that evening, and after I got home while I was folding laundry (of course) I felt His Spirit whisper, “You have chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from you.” [Read Luke 10:38-42 if you are unfamiliar with the reference.]

If you are not staying home with your kids, this is not a commentary on that choice and I would never presume to judge your situation from afar. But I was in a place where I was so busy that I did not even have time for my first love (Jesus), let alone my husband and children. And I certainly didn’t have any time for myself to sleep enough or regularly eat decent food or help fairly with the never-ending chores. But when I get up in the morning and pop the bottles in the warmers as if on auto-pilot, my spirit rejoices that before me lies another day to sit at the Lord’s feet, and listen to what He has to say. And after the fourth dirty diaper, the changing table tantrum and the feed-me-dinner-faster meltdown, the Holy Spirit prompts my running-low-on-gas heart to remember, these days are about experiencing His presence while giving my precious children the gift of myself. The dishwasher can wait!

Me with my snuggle bunnies!

Running after joy (and letting the Spirit remind me to sit and listen at the Lord’s feet). - Mama Bear NYC

Sarah UnsethComment