I had a hard time adjusting to the slower speed of maternity leave. I’d become accustomed to the nonstop deluge of work emails, and I’d gotten into the habit of always checking my phone right before bed and immediately upon waking. I’d fallen into the trap of equating the number of messages in my inbox with my value to the company and to my personal identity.
Then, suddenly, my inbox was quiet, but my baby monitor was not. I had a new, very important job to do, but without the constant feedback of other adults instant messaging me, emailing and calling me, it didn’t always feel that way. I was exhausted every day, but what had I actually accomplished? Shouldn’t I clean the baby bottles or start the laundry while I had two hands free and the baby was asleep? Could I really justify taking a nap?
Yes. Yes, I could.
I napped partly because I simply don’t function well without sleep. Never did. Never will. I have a friend who can run a marathon on four hours of sleep. Me? I need a solid eight just to regain the ability of speaking in full sentences.
More than that, I finally recognized that keeping another human alive for an entire day is accomplishment enough, and doing it in a thoughtful, considerate way full of snuggles, educational activities, and well-researched food choices is a full-time job, one that doesn’t abide by a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule.
There’s an odd freedom to the round-the-clock demands of babies. It breaks you out of the traditional expectations of when and how work should be done. My naps weren’t indulgent extra hours of sleep. They were compensating for the sleep I’d lost at night. I wasn’t a Peggy Bundy for laying on the couch and taking a breather. I was gearing up for the next round of the day’s activities.
Naps were necessary for me and accepting that without apology was empowering. I didn’t owe anyone an account for how I spent my day. Was the baby alive? That’s all they needed to know.
I eventually did figure out how to make dinner, do chores, and take care of my kids. The ever-evolving schedule of babies and toddlers makes that possible, but you better believe I still napped as much as I could.
I discovered that lining up the afternoon naps of a 4 month old and 20 month old to get an hour of peace to myself is as true an accomplishment as any goal I ever reached at work. I earned the right to guiltlessly cozy up on that couch.
You’ve earned it, too. You deserve it and need it.
Moms, take the nap.