I’ve heard a lot of suggestions on what stay-at-home parents should be doing when their children nap. It seems to be some magical sliver of time where everything from cleaning to solving cold fusion is possible, and the fact that you are not maximizing that time is why you are failing as a parent. When I was a full-time dad, I’d hear people go on about how parents should be during naptime. I assumed I was failing, but that wasn’t the case.
The fact is, naptime usually lasts from a few hours to a few minutes, and sometimes that’s the only time a parent has to keep from losing their shit. Which honestly, in my opinion, is much more important than a clean house. And I think a lot of parents feel the same. So let’s get honest. Here are a few things that parents really do during naptime:
1. Sit on the sofa and savor a few moments of not having someone climb on you.
Children climb and tug and ask and bitch, and each child you have adds more touching and bitching, and all of it adds up to sensory overload. Sometimes naptime is the only chance a full-time parent has to sit on the sofa without a little set of hands clawing at them and feel human again. This isn’t to say that we don’t love our children and their snuggles, but having a toddler attached to you all day every day can make you want to crawl inside a bomb shelter. Naptime can be the only slice of touch-free time a parent has, and just sitting there and savoring it can keep your skin from crawling.
2. Watch a show that actually interests you.
There are few things as isolating as small children, and sometimes watching a show that isn’t Peppa Pig or Curious George, or something on YouTube that stars an assclown in his parents’ basement talking about Minecraft helps you feel like you are part of the adult world. It gives you ammunition for adult conversation should it actually arise, and makes you feel like there is something going on outside the world other than your children and their infatuations.
3. Read a book without illustrations and written in complex sentences.
Like most parents, I know a lot about Pinkalicious and her cupcake infatuation. And I know all about the Littlest Pet Shop. Most parents know all about what’s going on in their children’s literary lives because they want the best for their kids, and reading to them is a great way to make them into successful and intelligent adults. But damn are children’s books shitty! As a parent, I want to feed my own brain. I want to read something that has plot and structure and tells me more about the real world, the world outside my little sliver of Americana, so when my kids nap, sometimes I just read a damn book, in silence, and it feels amazing.
There really are only a few opportunities for parents to get busy: naptime, after the kids go to bed, and when the children are with a sitter. All options have a downfall. Naptime usually isn’t long enough. After the kids go to bed is sometimes too late, and when the kids are with a sitter can be costly. But the fact is, if you have a choice between having sex and cleaning when the kids are napping, pick sex.
After only sleeping a few hours because of a long night with my kids, it’s pretty easy to say to hell with the dishes and crash the second that child slides down for a nap. And let me tell you, a midday nap after your kids have kept you up most of the night feels amazing!
So here’s the truth: Most parents aren’t all that productive during naptime. And that’s okay. Also, if you have more than one child, the possibility of getting all children to sleep at the same time is about as likely as aligning the stars. But honestly, when it happens it feels so magical that the last thing you want to do is something productive. But as long as what you do during naptime keeps you sane, it’s worth it. Lastly, if you are the one working outside the home, and you feel your partner should be more productive during naptime, try switching roles for a while, and you will realize that this list is very true and it’s time for you to shut your face.