Nap-time Is for Me, And I Can’t Survive Without It

It’s 1:45 p.m. My son is supposed to be napping, and I’m supposed to be eating bonbons on the couch, right? (Or tackling my to-do list). Instead, he’s been screaming for 20 minutes, and I’ve been praying that any second now the screams will magically stop and he’ll go to sleep. After another brutal 5 minutes, though, I realize I’m kidding myself.

Nap-time is not happening today. I take a deep breath and trudge up the stairs to rescue him from the demon that must surely be torturing him, judging by the screams.

My son struggled to learn how to nap, especially on his own in the crib. He would sleep in my arms for hours but would barely last 30 minutes in the crib. Thankfully, since he transitioned to one nap at around 13 months it’s been smooth sailing, for the most part. I usually count on him napping for 2 hours (a bad day is 1.5 hours, a great day is 3).

I know how important naps are for children’s health and development, so I’m pretty strict about getting us home by nap-time every single day. But if I’m being honest, the real reason I’m so strict is because I need nap-time, desperately. And I’ve really come to rely on that chunk of time to get stuff done around the house—cleaning, meal prep, and general household and life management.

I realize that, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m lucky be able to accomplish some of those tasks during the day. But it’s not always easy to spend your entire day with a pint-sized dictator who can be demanding, volatile, and bossy (also known as a toddler). So while it’s nice to have that time during his nap to get stuff done, the real benefit is that I can recharge my batteries.

Even if his nap is cut short, having just a little bit of time to myself makes a huge difference in how the rest of our day goes.

When I don’t have that recharge time, it puts a cloud over the afternoon. I feel so drained by the end of the day—just ask my husband, who at this point is a little afraid of coming home on no-nap days. I have less patience, and I can’t be the mom I want to be.

At almost two and a half, I know my son’s current nap-time battles are totally normal and hopefully just a temporary phase. According to my pediatrician, 90 percent of kids need a nap until at least age 3. (Dear God, my son cannot be in that 10 percent who do not.) However, I’ve gotten a glimpse into our future no-nap life, and I’m not about it.

So far, I’ve resorted to screen time on no-nap days. And no, I’m not “co-watching” with him and discussing the finer points of Little Baby Bum. I am plopping him on the couch for 30 minutes and then frantically running around trying to do 10 percent of the stuff I had planned to get done during nap-time. But while I have nothing against screen time at this age, I don’t love the idea of it being a standard part of our daily routine.

I read an article on another mom blog about how I shouldn’t be trying to squeeze everything, including recharging time, into nap-time and post-bedtime.

I do try to get some tasks done throughout the day, but we’re often out of the house doing activities. Even if we’re home, I can’t go five minutes without my son asking to pick him up, find his bouncy ball, or make his cars “talk” to each other. He can’t play independently for very long, which is to be expected at his age.

I’ve also attempted to get my toddler to help me with chores, but so far this is all I’ve been able to accomplish with his “help”:

  • Transferring approximately three items of clothing from the washer to the dryer
  • Putting clean socks away (and then dumping them out again)
  • Picking up random leaves and sticks from the driveway and putting them in the compost bin (not even on my to-do list, but I’ll take it)
  • Cleaning up toys, after singing the clean-up song a million times

Despite my best efforts, I’m still trying to squeeze everything in during nap-time and post-bedtime. And still trying to figure out how to survive on those days when I don’t get a break from the joys of toddlerhood. My son’s been on a good streak recently, but now and then he throws another bad nap day in there. 

On those days, I’m reminded that nap-time won’t last forever. Until then, I’m going to make the most of it and appreciate every quiet minute I get. And maybe eat some bonbons on the couch.


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