Nap Economics


I’ve heard the phrase that time is money and money is time. I thought I knew what it meant. I finished my BA in 3 years. I did summer school, I was a turbo kick instructor early in the mornings and taught again in the evenings. I’ve lived on my own. Opening a coffee shop early in the morning, going home to take my dog on a quick run, just in time to go facilitate group therapy in the evenings. All to support myself. There wasn’t enough time in the day! My laundry would pile up until my closet door wouldn’t open. My fridge became a storage bin for rotting food. I would collapse on my impossibly small couch on the end of the day, and fight to even get the energy to walk up to bed. 

Then I had Lilliana. 

Looking back, the first few months felt similar to swimming through a vat of honey.

Am I moving? Which way is up? Am I asleep or awake? Wait, what does “asleep” feel like again?

The sticky, warm haze eventually lifted and I found my limbs and my face again. I made choices, like a human. “I will eat a sandwich now. I am going to stop wearing my husband’s pants. I’m going to do a push up.”

I began to pull myself together a little bit. Lila was getting used used to the world, and I was getting used to my new world. 

The meaning of time changed for me. Days were no longer these blank canvases with which I could do what I please. I couldn’t wake up before work to exercise or come home and read a book after work. It was a matter of multitasking and maximizing small moments here and there. Showers and trips to the bathroom were well planned and negotiated in my mind. I felt this constant anxiety that time was never on my side. 

Now I have two babies. I feel like a conductor at nap time. A desperate and driven conductor. Our piece begins at 11:00. We wrap up school, clean up the toys from the morning and start dishing out lunch. Then we’re wiping hands and faces, going potty, changing a diaper and shutting the blinds. I read a little bit to Lilliana while Daniel nurses to sleep and then I put them in their room to take their naps. The number crescendos when I quietly shut the door behind me, and exhale for the first time in hours. The clock starts and I have a decision to make. This is my only “free” time until bedtime tonight. There is a catch: You could have 10 minutes or 2 hours… there is no way to tell. 

In my intro to economics class in college, I learned about a term called “Opportunity Cost”. Author David Henderson describes it like this: 

When economists refer to the “opportunity cost” of a resource, they mean the value of the next-highest-valued alternative use of that resource. If, for example, you spend time and money going to a movie, you cannot spend that time at home reading a book, and you cannot spend the money on something else. If your next-best alternative to seeing the movie is reading the book, then the opportunity cost of seeing the movie is the money spent plus the pleasure you forgo by not reading the book.

To me, the economics of nap time is the definition of opportunity cost. Once the kids are down, I could do any number of things. I could take a shower, I could take a nap. I could eat something. I could knit something. I could read a book. I could write. I could cuddle with the sleeping darlings. I could watch TV. I could vacuum. I could fold laundry (why would I do that?) I could wash bedding, clean bathrooms, take garbage out, organize my closet, call a friend, play piano, exercise, pull out the sewing machine, prep dinner, gorge myself on Pinterest, bake something delicious, paint my nails (though, surely I would smudge them trying to multitask before they were dry)…The list goes on. However, by choosing any of those things, I’m also choosing to forgo the opportunity to do anything on the rest of the list. Leaving it for another time, or, more likely, a never time. 

It’s not only nap time when mom’s face Nap Economics. Jordan took the kids to the gym yesterday and I had about an hour. I was almost paralyzed deciding what to do. I mean, I panic-ate some avocado toast, quick cleaned dishes, and then finally resorted to reading a chapter in my book and drinking tea. In a flash, it was over, and I think I spent it well. But, I couldn’t help but wonder what else I could have used my hour on. 

What’s my point? I don’t really know if there is one. I just needed a mathematical way of reminding myself that I cannot do it all. Just like I can’t have it all. Still, I wouldn’t trade my sweet saturday morning cuddles with our family, the toy explosions in the living room, the tsunami that sweeps through the bathroom when the kids play in the tub together, or waking up at 6:00 am to stickers being placed on my forehead  for my old life. 

I’ve learned to balance productivity and unproductivity in a way that leaves me feeling just fine about time well spent. While I’d love to take an entire rainy day to read an indulgent novel only after I’ve taken an entire day to deep clean and organize this place, I’m okay with the fact that it probably won’t happen for a few….decades. Until then, I’ll do what humans do and wrestle in the middle of too much and too little. I’ll be content with the fact that time is money and money is time and forget that it feels like there’s not enough of either. There is no such thing as free lunch, but it can still be delicious, and the price is fair. 


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