The routine has been the same for eight years: have lunch together, go outside or watch TV for a bit, then quiet time. Quiet time used to be called nap time before both my kids decided to opt out on middle-of-the-day sleep, but I’ll be honest: I take a nap every day.
The first time I heard the advice to sleep when your baby sleeps, I felt something click inside me. It was like everything my body had told me my whole life was suddenly being validated. It was okay to nap. In fact, I should because now I had a baby whose survival depended on me. I was never happier.
I’ve always loved napping. Any chance I’d get (usually on weekends), I’d plop down on the couch in the afternoon, flip on the TV, and close my eyes for a few minutes. Once my daughter was born, I left my full-time desk job to teach part time and stay home with her. I could nap every day. I could lie down in the morning and again in the afternoon, a luxury I took full advantage of as I adjusted to first-time motherhood and its constant demands. Like many first-time mothers, the learning curve was steep. Being able to lie down helped.
My daughter grew and two naps became one, one singular stretch of time every afternoon during which she would sleep and quietly play in her bed and I could doze off and still have time to get a few things done. I realized that nap time was sacred. It was a magical part of the day, one that could wash away a demanding morning and help me reset for the afternoon. A nap was an island in the unpredictable seas of babyhood, a safe place for my daughter and for me. We could return day after day, pressing pause and starting again.
Eventually, we added another baby to our family and my daughter gave up her nap. Still, I held firm on quiet time, saying, “You don’t have to nap, but you do have to be quiet.” I’d read the kids a book, give them kisses, then sneak into my bed for a little shut-eye.
A few weeks ago, my spinning instructor made a casual declaration to the class: “I take a nap every day.” I keyed right in. She’s in her early forties with three teenagers at home, and she still takes a nap. Her rationale was that she could barely make it to 10 p.m. without one, so why not.
Why not, indeed. It seems sensible to sleep when your baby sleeps, but it seems indulgent to nap when your kids get older. Shouldn’t the exhaustion ease up when your kids are teenagers? Apparently not. When I confessed my daytime nap routine to a friend whose kids are older, she advised me to nap as much as possible. “Take every advantage,” she said.
So here’s what I have to say about naps: If a nap helps you get through the day, do it. If it makes you a better mom and wife and friend, do it. If it gives you a boost so you can stay up later or not be grouchy all afternoon, do it. And if it makes you feel good and you can, go ahead and enjoy your nap.
If you listen carefully to the chorus of mothers, they’ll tell you there’s inherent value in resting. Motherhood is challenging. It can be exhausting. It’s hard on our bodies and our hearts. Whatever gift we can give ourselves, whatever respite and rest, we should. For me, that’s taking a nap. I’m not planning to give it up any time soon.
Lindsay Crandall is a photographer and writer living in upstate New York. She is half of the daily collaboration at hellotherefriend.com (which is currently on hiatus) and a contributing photographer with Stocksy United. More often than not, you’ll find her with a book or camera in her hand (and sometimes a glass of red wine). Learn more about her on her website or follow her on Instagram.