Mom vs. The Nap

You know you have kids if you could talk for 20 minutes about naptime. This is why people with kids like hanging out with other people with kids. Because only other parents can appreciate the intrigue, frustration, and nirvana of naptime.

NAPTIME:  Necessary Adult Peace Time – Integral, Marvelous, Essential

Mom vs. The NapThe nap wooed me early on. I was just falling into a semblance of routine in early motherhood and I noticed that my little two month old baby would go back to sleep for much of the morning. With only one child and home on maternity leave, I actually was running out of things to do!

(And that’s why we need time machines because I’d really like to go back, park my butt on the couch and hand myself a book. If only I’d known my lazy days were numbered.)

A mere two years later, the nap taught me a very valuable motherhood lesson: that you cannot make your child do what you want them to do.

Not even when you’re right and they’re wrong.

Not even when all the facts are clearly on your side.

I tried to make my two year old continue napping. I made sure he had full mornings and gave him a consistent nap structure. But he somehow didn’t think that him being tired and me being hugely pregnant with his sister were enough of a reason to sleep. So we sparred. A battle of wills.

And, damn it, he won.

Well, evidently, his little sister was taking cues from the womb because she also decided that two years old was a good time to stop napping. Again pregnant and in my third trimester, I was still winning the will battle by patiently lying down with her. (And let’s be honest, what pregnant woman doesn’t mind a free nap?) But as soon as my third baby was born, naps were over because I no longer had time to spend 15 minutes solely focused on getting someone to sleep.

But all is not lost, and Mom may just end up winning because of these two strategies.

Rest Time

When my first stopped consistently taking naps at two-and-a-half, I started instituting rest time. He had to stay in his room and look at books. He’d sometimes even fall asleep! Around age four, my oldest learned to read his clock, so then I added in “times.” 30 minutes of staying in his bed (resting, reading, playing quietly) and then 30 minutes of play in his room. Now at five, he still rests obediently for one hour each day, and his three year old sister now follows the same routine.

In the Mom vs. The Nap battle, I’d call that a draw except for the fact that small children NEED a nap sometimes. I imagine it varies from child to child, but a big morning, lots of heat and sunshine, poor sleep the night before, or not feeling well make naps almost necessary. But, I’d already learned I can’t MAKE my children nap, so what’s a mom to do?

Naps by Carrot Dangling

IMG_3039If my children would just lie still long enough, they would fall asleep. So, how could I get them to be willing to do this?

My husband and I now outline a special evening IF they nap. On a busy Saturday, we might say they can stay up and watch a movie or that we can have a reading party (involving lots of books and our bed) if they nap. This summer, my oldest has been studiously burying his head in his pillow until he falls asleep because he’s so motivated by the carrot we’ve dangled. And his sister? She still needs someone to lie down with her, but the carrot at least makes her willing to lie down.

With three kids, I will probably rarely experience the blessed quiet and promised productivity of all my children sleeping at once. But, when I do, it is something to enjoy! Not only do I get some things done, I get some time to myself, and then we all enjoy each other’s company more as we’re rested and don’t feel like we’re rushing toward bedtime.

So please share – what strategies do you use to keeps naps happening at your house?


  1. Once we took the binkies away at 3, naps became a constant battle. I finally, after several different ways of trying, get mine to lay in MY bed, in the dark and set the iPad up (just far enough away that she can’t play with it) and put on a show. (We don’t have a TV in our bedroom.) After about 10 minutes, she’s usually out for 2 hours! Naps are sacred to me… at 3 1/2, this is a win.


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