Me time

"What happens if she doesn't nap?"

It's an innocent enough question that several lovely people have asked me recently. My brother-in-law was the first, over lunch in Arizona after my panicky phone call to inquire whether my in-laws had put Zoe down for her nap yet. My mother was the latest, after calling yesterday and hearing my exhausted, frustrated tale of Zoe falling asleep for FIVE MEASLY minutes in the car on the way home from a fun, stimulating, tiring event only to skip her nap entirely once home.

My response (in my head) is always the same: What happens if Zoe doesn't nap? Spontaneous combustion. Armageddon. THE END OF DAYS.

Before Zoe was born, I read up on infant and child sleep and as a result we prioritized her sleeping in her crib, at set times, since day one. And Zoe has always been a "good sleeper". I believe that the two of those are completely related, though I also believe that some kids are hardwired to be easier sleepers than others. While some might see us as uptight and rigid about her sleep, we find the schedule easy to keep, because to us it is downright FREEING to know that we can put her down for a nap or a night's sleep and she will fall asleep, on her own, fairly reliably and stay that way.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.

Something happens to me on the rare (but MEMORABLE) days that Zoe does not nap. As the realization sets in, I get panicky, sweaty and shaky. I'm often impatient and pissy and feel PUT OUT because I didn't get "my time". I catastrophize the whole rest of the day. Dinner will be impossible! Behavior, atrocious! I will get nothing done! WHAT DO YOU MEAN "GET OFF THE LEDGE"??

At some point, I realize, Zoe is going to have no nap and by "realize" I mean there is some hypothetical understanding somewhere in my brain that all children drop their nap completely sometime before age 5. Honestly, I live in fearful DREAD of that eventuality. I've come to view Zoe's nap time as essential to my very survival on the days I'm home with her. It is MY TIME and I guard it fervently. I always plan on it (and we all know what happens with the best laid plans). On bad days, I find myself spending the morning obsessing about all the possible ways to spend MY time, turning all the possibilities over in my mind like talismans.

There is something very, very sad about this, I realize. Is my time with her really only "her time"? Is it not "my time" too? I promised myself I would never be a Martyr Mom, someone who forgets all her needs in the course of mothering her child(ren). But I struggle often with how to balance her needs and mine. How to "get things done" while playing and interacting with her. If I include her in folding the laundry, it takes five times as long and is a mess. If I let her play by herself while I do the dishes, I am sure to find that she's taken that opportunity to pilfer an entire pad of post-it notes, drawn on them with my chapstick and stuck them all over the leather chair.

If there is no nap time, when and how do I make phone calls to chat with the people I love without her hearing me talk about her or interrupting for help with a toy or needing to "POOP RIGHT NOW MOMMY, BEFORE IT FALLS ON THE FLOOR"? When do I shower and exercise and write my blog posts? When do I prep dinner ingredients, read a book or tidy up the STY that is our home? When do I get to poop in private?

I want our time together to be meaningful, "quality time". I want Zoe to think of me as having time and attention and energy to play with her. But I realize that she should have opportunities to entertain herself and that she also learns a lot by helping me with chores or just observing me as I do them. I do her no favors if she is allowed to grow up thinking the laundry magically appears, clean and folded, in her drawers.

I plan on instituting enforced "quiet time" when she starts dropping her nap more frequently. And I need to find more ways of including my self and my needs in our time together. Maybe then, when she eventually drops her nap completely, I won't feel like My Precious Time is gone.


Anonymous said...

My 8 year old and 4 yr old both dropped their naps before they turned 3 (well, OK, they were never good nappers to begin with...) and it's been "Quiet Time" ever since. Even my 8 year old will have 45 minutes in her room on her bed with her books, a journal, or quiet activity (on non-school days). The truth is, MOMMY is not ready to give up HER Quiet Time!

Hillary said...

I think quiet time is a good idea. The Boy, obviously at his age, still is napping fairly well, however, he's cutting out his second nap on some days. When that second nap disappears, he's usually a bit tetchy around the normal nap time. Quiet time with Momma or Daddy or some books and his blanky -- we call it having a moment -- often eases us all through rough spots.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Don't feel bad about "me" time. We spend our days with cute, fabulous little people that haven't developed empathy, sympathy or anything that makes them capable of thinking of anyone but themselves at this exact moment. It is all age-appropriate but exhausting and doesn't lend itself to actually getting anything done. I envy the nanny that gets to play with her all day when I need to balance her needs and mine. Especially now when I require a nap too! I was in a state of panic when it looked like Mira was going to drop her nap. Thankfully pushing it back is all she needed. Good luck!

Sarah said...

I completely relate to this! Although, I do feel guilty on weekends because I use his nap time for my own nap, and we usually nap together for 2-3 hours, which just seems wrong for a 'grown up' to do. It's so nice though! I also feel guilty because he's in daycare during the week, so we only have a couple hours in the evening, and I feel we must be interacting to make up for the time away; it's a tough balance sometimes, for sure.
Oh, and another guilt (never can have enough) - when it gets close to picking up time from daycare, I feel badly because I always leave it till the last minute so I can get a few more things done. Maybe it won't be like that when the weather is nicer and we can go out after daycare, but for now it gets a little cabin fever around here!

parkingathome said...

Your arm-flailing honesty makes me feel so happy inside. It's nice to read a blog about a mom who is human and wonderful

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