Prior to becoming a parent, I was a napping PRO. I have insomnia and crazy sleep issues that have left me waking up exhausted for most of my existence, so I utilized the mystical force of the power nap to keep me going on a regular basis. In the weeks leading up to the due date of our first child, one of the most common pieces of advice I received was “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I quickly learned that while this might be the first thing that pops out of people’s mouths, it is often the last thing that is realistically going to happen, at least after the first few weeks of delivery. Now that I have a toddler, and baby number two on the way, napping still sounds great on paper, but the reality is far from the fantasy. Here’s why:
1. It’s Easy to Get Caught in the “I’ll Nap Right After I Put Away These Few Things” Trap, because it feels better when the house doesn’t show the full extent of the damage an F5 Toddler Tornado can do. Nap time is one of the few opportunities during the day when it is possible to cook, or scrub, or de-clutter, at least without constantly having to stop what you’re doing to investigate impish laughter, (or scarier still, utter silence) or without sidestepping a freshly dumped bucket of Legos or an upturned tub of flour from the pantry (though this won’t happen until after you vacuumed and mopped this section of the floor). Just picking up a few things can very easily spiral out of control, as parents seem especially susceptible to getting sucked through invisible wormholes and zipped through time and space, causing what you’d think should take ten minutes to actually take an hour and fifteen. By the time you plop down on the couch, your lower back is sore, and you can barely keep your eyelids pried open far enough to peer out of, and you can bet your ass the baby will start tossing and turning within five to ten minutes of being seated. You thought the nap was within your grasp, and you’re still not sure how it eluded you, but somehow you were fooled. It was all a mirage and any illusions you had of catching some zzzzz’s slipped through your fingers, once again.
2. New-Parent Hormones Result in the Development of Unparalleled Hearing. Suddenly the tiny ear cups we have as humans are able to funnel the same quantity of sound waves into our eardrums as those of an African elephant. This must be an evolutionary tactic, for the preservation of small children, but for parents this can be exhaustingly detrimental to one’s health. Even from several rooms away, without the use of a baby monitor, all possibly-baby-related sounds are amplified. You will hear when the baby rolls over, you will hear when the baby makes a snorty sound through his nose, you will hear when your baby sucks on his finger. Small babies make a LOT more noise than one might think when they are sleeping, and each time they do, hormone surges result in a body being able to leap from the a prone position straight onto one’s feet, without any intermediary steps, in about 0.3337 milliseconds. Even if you manage to remain horizontal, hormones work like witch’s sorcery, making baby blinks sound as loud as thundering hooves, and it’s impossible to sleep through that racket. It takes awhile for those hormones to dissipate, but eventually there will be a few times when your kid rolls off the toddler bed and you may not hear the thump, which one would imagine would be much louder than the newborn baby blinks. I suppose no spell lasts forever.
3. Phantom Noises Keep You Up. You will definitely hear every sound your child makes, but even worse, sometimes you start to teeter on the edge of sanity (and maybe even take a slight dip on the other side) and you start hearing your child even when there is nothing to hear. Like, when you think you hear the baby crying, but when you go to check on them they are perfectly silent and they clearly haven’t budged an inch. Or, when your baby is staying the night at grandma’s, but you’re still hearing him. And you might go check the crib …. just in case. For months I was hearing phantom baby cries, that sounded like my daughter, but seemed really, really far away. Little creepy ghost cries that made me feel like I was in a Blair Witch scenario in my own home. They were hushed and dim sounding, but were loud enough to wake me regularly, giving me that heart-attacky feeling in my chest. Eventually I realized I was hearing air going in and out of my cat’s left nostril, making the faintest of faint whistling sounds. What the eff?
4. Nap Time, Like Bedtime, Can Be Filled With Anxiety and Fear. It is very possible you’ve reached an exhaustion level similar to that of someone who just swam across the English Channel, and you are at the point where you physically flop over the moment you put your child down. Your right eye will remain cracked open until your kiddo stops adjusting and fussing, and you think he’s snoozing soundly and you finally allow your body to relax. You start to fade into a blissful slumber and then RIGHT before you drift off to sleep, PING! your eyes will pop open and the damn adrenaline surges return and you will wonder why your little angel is snoozing so soundlessly … and you PANIC! PANIC! PANIC! and bolt from the couch so you can place your hand on your child’s chest, feeling for the cyclic rising and falling. I probably could have consolidated numbers 2, 3 and 4 and just said that adrenaline surges are not conducive to napping.
5. Nap Time is One of the Only Times You’re Able to Sit and Relax. Even if your house is clean (enough) and you’re physically and mentally drained, you still might not get that longed-for snooze. While it sounds great, you find that it takes a level of exhaustion comparable to that experienced after hiking a large segment of the Himalayas, sans sherpa, for you to pass up the opportunity for a little unexpected Me Time. Thirty minutes to sit on the couch? To sip on a hot cup of coffee and not worry about spilling it on your kid’s tender skin? To sit in silence with no yelling, crying, or the Frozen soundtrack blaring in the background? That golden trifecta is better than all the riches found in the kettle at the end of the rainbow, my friends.
6. “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps” is Only Hypothetically Possible When You Only Have One Child. Um, so yea, people seem to forget that if you have more than one kid, the odds of having only one nap time are on par with the odds of the hundreds of moons within our solar system aligning. More often than not, not only do you miss out on the nap time, but you miss out on the bonus cleaning time.
7. There are Always Other Unexpected Nap-Jackings. A salesman rings the doorbell. Sirens blare through your windows. I used to be an expert Car Napper, when my husband drove I could be asleep faster than my car was able to accelerate from zero to sixty. It was a sad day, shortly after the birth of my first child, when I realized I could no longer recline the seat of my car back far enough to nap comfortably, because it was impeded by my daughter’s car seat. Nooooo! Another unexpected and tragic napping dead-end.
Every so often a golden napping opportunity appears before you, similar to when a lucky hiker is able to snap a photo of a yeti lumbering across an arctic ridge. It’s unbelievable and you try your hardest to preserve the feeling the golden experience provides, like one tries to capture a snapshot of the wooly beast. But the memory, like the image, (and the yeti) is often fuzzy.
Any other napping road blocks I missed?