When my son was a newborn, I found it almost impossible to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I tried sometimes. When he was four months old, I took a very early morning job so we could avoid daycare. I don’t consider myself a morning person, but for a year and a half I got up at 3:30am for work. I was surprisingly chipper for my 5am customers!
My darling son was never much of a napper. I guess he gets it from me, because I’ve never been a good sleeper. You’d think waking up that early would make it easier to fall asleep, but insomnia was a fierce beast. As new parents know, you can only go on a few hours sleep a night for so long before what feels like sheer madness sets in. I was intensely sleep deprived, so an afternoon nap was a lifeline for me.
I tried getting him to nap in his crib. Endlessly. It never worked. Bedtime worked (thankfully) but nap did not. I would have loved him snuggled with me in my bed for nap, except he thought it was playtime every time I tried. We eventually settled on the couch. It was not ideal to me, but it was the ONLY way he’d settle down to sleep. And I desperately needed sleep so I made it work.
Most of the time I was lucky to get forty-five minutes of nap out of him, even less for me once I finally fell asleep. I dreamed of my son napping for three hours like other babies, because it felt like mine was the only baby who did not nap well. Around age two he almost stopped napping entirely, which sent me into a panic. Eventually he napped for an entire hour. Now he’s four and we still squish together on the couch every afternoon like two uncomfortable sardines stuffed in a can.
I used to feel guilty and apologize for taking a nap. I always have a to-do list (or five, ok… maybe more). It’s like a ‘should-onion’ with layers upon layers of things I ‘should’ be doing to have a productive day. I thought of it as lazy, but that was just a way to beat myself up for not being good enough. I thought I wasn’t getting enough done, but I realized napping is productive for us, not lazy. It’s part of our afternoon routine. Reading stories with my son before nap and bed are the most snuggly parts of our day. We wake up and have new energy for the rest of our to-do list. I prioritize. I multitask. And I nap.
It took me a while but I learned to let go of the guilt. Yes, I could be working on my business while he napped. I could be planning educational activities for him, folding the never-ending mound of laundry, or scrubbing toilets, and sometimes I do. But sneaking off the couch like a ninja doesn’t work everyday. And even if it did, I’d rather be cozy with my kiddo.
You find what works best for your family. And for us, naps work! So hell yes, I nap.