My Shameful Secret and Secret Weapon


Most of the time, I kind of pretend I don't nap. With friends, I often say, "Can we get together at two? Liam will be napping until then?" I don't include that I usually nap, as well.

My son still wakes up multiple times during the night. It can be exhausting. But it's manageable if I take a nap each day.

At first I thought I was doing something wrong when I napped with my newborn. He would only sleep when he was with me, and those nursing hormones (and recovery!) usually knocked me out too. Looking back now, those summer afternoon naps are some of my favorite memories with my baby. And really, what better things could I have been doing? I attribute my relatively quick recovery in part to the sleep I caught up on through napping (what I'll do about napping if we have future babies is the question now!).

Plus, I've had a love affair with naps my whole life; I am suspect of people who claim they simply "can't nap." I wonder if they aren't robots. I think almost anyone can nap; it's just all about finding your nap groove.

Naps have been proven to be beneficial. People in some countries plan their days around naps. A midday respite can be the ticket to evening energy. I once read that the fatigue during pregnancy may serve the purpose of teaching you how to nap, a skill you often need to maintain energy levels when parenting little ones.

I was fairly productive throughout college and teaching, and a lot of this came from my quite frequent naps. If I was feeling like I couldn't make it through the evening, a pre-dinner nap rejuvenated me for a night of writing papers or leading a small group or babysitting.

And I would claim now that napping makes me a better mom. For one thing, it relieves my tension in fighting this nighttime battle. Yes, I wish my son slept longer, and we're working on this. Change takes time, but with naps, I can maintain my energy and patience.

I gave up caffeine for the first year of my son's life, thinking it led to some issues for him. But I stayed off of it for longer than was probably necessary because it impeded my ability to nap which made me grumpy and exhausted by evening. Even now, I plan my coffee around naps and my naps around coffee. I did the same when I was teaching.

My best nap strategy at this point is to grab a book (or my Kindle) and avoid the Internet. I force myself to clear my mind and stop thinking of all that needs to be accomplished. I rest for the first part of my son's nap. Then I get up and write, enjoying clarity and renewed focus, at least most of the time. I save most of the cooking and cleaning for when he's awake because he loves to help me (and if push comes to shove, we can turn on a little Sesame Street!).

I don't claim it often, but napping is really my secret to being a semi-sane, semi-kind person. I used to think my naps were lazy. I used to feel guilty--imagining all the  things I could be doing instead. But I've come to see them as the secret to productivity and energy.

There will always be reasons not to nap--things I could get done. But a twenty or thirty minute nap (or longer if it was an especially rough night), truly makes me a better mom and a better person.

Naps remind me that I am human and force me to pause and savor. And there's something beautiful about fresh sheets, a glint of afternoon sun, and a slow drift into sleep.