The Homebound Mama: Trapped by the Nap

I’m a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and a baby. Recently, the baby hit a milestone I’d been dreading for months: the crossover from Will Sleep Anytime/Anywhere to Must Be In Crib at Nap Time OR ELSE.

Up until this point, the three of us had been happily skipping all over town during the day. We went to story hours, hung out at the library, participated in classes, swung by the gym, and ran errands. The toddler stayed entertained (aka generally well-behaved), the little one snoozed in his car seat, and I felt like Kate Winslet at the bow of the Titanic.

But then everything changed.

trapped by the nap

I’m one of those Type A busybody freaks, so I was always determined to be a mom who “did things” with her kids. Sure, it was nice for them, but also, I figured I’d need it to keep myself sane.

I told myself I would not let the crippling logistics of it all drag me down. I’d patiently pack diaper bags, fold strollers into trunks, strap kids into car seats, run back in for forgotten things, pull out of the driveway, pull back in to grab other forgotten things, scream-sing songs in the car to distract impatient kids, find parking spots, unload kids, battle weather conditions, distribute emergency snacks, pay entry fees, fill out release forms, nurse in public…all in the name of FAMILY FUN.

And, of course, I would never let rigid kid schedules dictate our lives.

But the Nap Problem really derailed me.

It turns out that all of the patience and good intentions in the world just can’t keep a baby from screaming his head off if he’d like to be sleeping in his crib (on his tummy, thank you very much) but instead finds himself strapped into his car seat on some dumb mommy/toddler adventure.

I tried to fight it at first. We’d go anyway, and I’d just pray for miracles. The baby would sometimes fall asleep in his car seat on the way, but somehow, the second I turned the car off, those big, round eyes would fly open—and stay open.

And then I’d pay for it, either with a mid-trip fussy baby or a post-trip overtired baby (I’m not sure which is worse). By the time we got home, I’d be overtired and fussy myself, and I’d think the most dreaded post-outing thought: “That wasn’t even worth it.”

And so, we are home now. Much more than before. Much more than I’d like to be.

I mean, yes, I’m a stay-at-home mom. My job is to stay at home. Boo-hoo that I have to actually do that, right?

What pains me about it is that I know I’m not the only mom in this position. I know we’re all trapped in our separate houses, with our happily sleeping babies and unhappily bouncing-off-the-walls toddlers. If only we all lived in a giant commune where we could just put our babies to bed (in their own beds) and then rendezvous in the middle to have adult conversations while our toddlers entertained each other. Right?

(Can that be a thing without it being weird? Maybe I’m just living in the wrong culture. Or the wrong century. Or both.)

And, of course, I feel bad for my toddler. He hasn’t been to the dance class I signed him up for (6 months ago, when life was different) in weeks, because the timing is just too tricky with his little brother’s naps.

It’s not that I’m anal about adhering to kids’ schedules to the minute. (Believe me!) If I thought my little one could get by on a short nap or a late nap or a skipped nap, I’d be all over it. But experience has shown that, in most cases, that doesn’t work for him. And disregarding his needs just doesn’t seem fair to him.

So for right now, the Nap is the boss.

I know that this will be even harder in the summer—I’m nervous about that. But I also know that, at some point, things will change. The baby will be less reliant on his morning nap, and then he’ll drop it altogether. (Funny how the loss of a nap feels like a win!)

Until then, my coping strategies are:

–Do the best we can with the nap-free windows we have. The time crunch requires even more planning than usual, but if I watch the clock, we can still make outings work.

–Dig deeper than ever into my creativity bucket. My toddler isn’t big on Pinterest projects, but if I put my back into it, we can kill a whole hour with a couple cars and a flat surface. (Ok, half an hour. Ok, 15 minutes. Ok, 10.)

–Don’t stress about the extra screen time the toddler gets when my creativity runs out. My sanity is still important.

–Hold my breath and hold on. As with any stage, I know that this one, too, shall pass.

Can any other mamas out there relate?

How do you handle the nap trap?

36 Responses to The Homebound Mama: Trapped by the Nap

  1. Angie April 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    I would totally join your SAHM commune thing! I’m expecting my second kid in just over a month, and I’m already nervous about keeping my toddler entertained at home. When did your baby start needing to be home for naps? I totally forgot when that happened with my first.

    • Kim
      Kim April 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

      It happened around 6 months for us. Congrats on #2! 🙂

  2. Jessica April 10, 2015 at 8:01 am #

    I can relate! I went through this too. We were also always the people who had to say no to evening events or leave early due to needing to be home for bed. I’d see parents out late with kids in tow, babies AND toddlers somehow sleeping soundly, and be very jealous. For me the well-rested baby won out over the outing with cranky baby aftermath. As you said, this too shall pass. (If this commune comes to pass…I’m in!)

    • Kim
      Kim April 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

      Haha! The commune… 🙂

  3. Liz April 10, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    I dealt with this with my first two. I hated being home bound, it got worse when my 2 year old still napped and my almost 5 year was getting bored out of his mind. Then this glorious thing happened, school pickup. My 3rd baby doesn’t have the option to sleep in her crib for nap time because preschool pickup is during morning nap and kindergarten pickup is during afternoon nap. She has had to learn to sleep where she can. Guess that’s the life of being the youngest. By the time she’s a toddler I don’t think I’ll stick to a nap schedule either, we’ll just do early bedtime.

    • Kim
      Kim April 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      Nice!! I guess things change when you have no choice & you just have to be somewhere. Right now, if I drag them both out and things don’t go well, I just end up feeling guilty because we didn’t technically HAVE to go. But maybe this is all a 2-kid problem that disappears automatically with #3! 🙂 (If so, hooray!)

  4. Holly April 10, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    As a mom of four girls, I guess I’ve forgotten long ago what it means to have freedom to just go out and do things whenever I want. I love naptime. I look forward to naptime. I pray for naptime! Just for a little break in the madness. So I can actually get a cleaning project done, or sit down for 30 minutes without being interrupted.

    Being a SAHM is exhausting. No way around that fact. I feel like a shut-in over winter in WI! Thank goodness for Spring! The good news is that as our children grow, the opportunities to get out of the house again and not always be chained to naptime, increase. It happens, I promise!

    • Kim
      Kim April 10, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      I can’t wait for that! 🙂 Although it’ll mean I won’t have babies anymore, so I’m sure I’ll be mourning that at the same time…

      Don’t get me wrong: I love naptime. LOVE. I just like it more when both kids are napping, vs. just one! 🙂

  5. Britain April 11, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Babywearing will save your life. Babies and even toddlers love to fall asleep cuddled into their mothers, and your hands free and mobile. I constantly wear my baby and play with my older daughter at the playground, go to the grocery store, the zoo and all that goodness. Plus no flat head from being in a car seat all the time. Go search for a local Babywearing community, they often have lending libraries and can lend you a woven wrap and teach you how to use it.

  6. Laura April 11, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    When my 2nd came along I strapped him to my chest and headed out with my 20 month in tow. It was exhausting and sweaty and at times I felt so overwhelmed with all the physical contact. In hindsight however, it made my incredibly hectic life a little bit easier. A well rested baby and two free hands made all the difference.

  7. Rachel April 13, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    You are a beautiful and fun writer with a down-to-earth realism that I value! Thank you for posting this article as couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t leave the house with 3 children under the age of 5 (baby still takes am/pm naps at home ONLY). The time frame is so short that it is a whirlwind if I do but this long winter made for a test of my sanity. Sometimes the simplicity of validation other parents are in similar situations makes all the difference. Appreciate your article beyond words as don’t feel like I don’t have my act together…well for the time being:)

  8. Meg April 13, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    Yes! It’s making my husband understand that the Nap wins that is even more difficult for me. Love the commune idea! Number two is due in September, and I will definitely be doing the baby wearing. Here’s hoping!

  9. memmama April 13, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    I think this is a great opportunity for you guys to get some down time. All children need to rest, and slow down a bit. We used nap time as a way to divide the day – and take some deep breaths. Once you start planning around it, it’s actually a wonderful time for everyone.

  10. Kristina April 14, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    As a family sleep consultant, I work with many families (and have one myself!) that sometimes feel homebound by the nap. What I say to them is that 1) this isn’t going to last forever and 2) an overall well-rested baby, one who follows a schedule 80% of the time, is actually much more flexible to go out and about and handle deviations to the schedule the other 20% of the time—without meltdown. So if five days a week you are able to make naps at home a priority, you should feel confident knowing that the other couple of days you can be a little flexible.

  11. Heather April 14, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    Thanks for this! I was feeling a little alone in this. I mean, I don’t have a toddler. Just the one. But I felt like everyone else was able to go out and do whatever they wanted with a sleeping child, while I was homebound. It didn’t help that my family thinks I’m just being crazy about a schedule (which I wish I didn’t need to be). It’s just nice to know I’m not the only one.

    • Ashley June 3, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

      Yes yes yes! Reading your words makes me feel like you were in my head. Thank you for helping me not feel alone in my thinking.

  12. Beth April 15, 2015 at 12:22 am #

    I was a slave to the naps until just a few months ago when my son turned 3 and started dropping his nap! The rigidness of keeping the nap time(s) was infuriating when he was tiny and napping 2-3x a day. I missed out on so much because everything seemed to conflict with nap time. But things definitely got better once he finally dropped to one nap at 18 months. Now, after almost 3 years of “preserving the nap at all costs”, the frequent napless days are so freeing!! Though let me tell you, that downtime for me was hard to give up at first! I’m definitely glad that we won’t be adding any newborns to the mix and going through it all again.

  13. Jules Ruud April 15, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    I just wrote a post yesterday about my little’s sleep schedule.
    I can totally relate but I find comfort in the trap. Granted I only have one kid at home at the moment, I enjoy having a set routine. I know when we can leave the house and it’s not often. But as you said, this too shall pass. Great post. Made me giggle. I respect that you set your extroverted needs aside for your little ones but can still admit it’s not your favorite. Thank you for this real and honest perspective.

  14. Anne April 15, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    I think being a SAHM of young kids is a lonely time. For many reasons.
    As other ladies have suggested, I too highly recommend Babywearing. Life is soooo much easier.
    As a mom of 4 I can honestly say I could not survive without wearing my youngest.
    I know it’s hard keeping a toddler entertained while a baby naps. For me I had to keep a non napping 3 year old entertained; My babies are all 3 years apart.
    By the time 6 months ahead rolled around I had a 3 1/2 year old who was involved in out of the house activities, so baby never got much choice. Because as I looked at it, I didn’t think it was fair to my out going 3 year old that we had to miss play dates and other activities because of baby’s nap or early bed time.
    To this day with a 10, 7, 4 and almost 2 year old baby’s nap is still something that has to happen on the go or wherever. My oldest are in plenty of things so the youngest have to learn that bed time happens when it does, and if you want to nap, just do it where you are.

    One more thing to consider regarding schedules, as an adult there is never going to be a time when you can go to bed the same time every night, and if you are traveling certainly not in the same bed every night. It’s a good thing for kids to learn that they have to be able to handle changing schedules. And learning that as a kid will better prepare them to be a well adjusted adult in that area. Naps can be at varied times and bed time dosnt have to happen right on the dot of ___o’clock every night. Something I have noticed practicing this in our life is: my kids are not cranky when they miss a nap, or when they are up later some night.
    My kids have a routine, it’s just not dictated by the clock.
    Another thing to consider, having kids means they need to adjust to your life style. You shouldn’t adjust your life to theirs. They are way more flexible than adults, let them use that ability, it’s for the best.

  15. Caitie April 15, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    You are NOT alone–my friends and I (half)joke all the time about starting some sort of sister-wife commune so we could all catch a break here and there! It’s too bad that the nuclear family structure most of us around here adhere to ends up making us feel so isolated.

  16. Martina April 15, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

    It’s like you wrote what I was thinking 6 months ago! It’s so nice to hear that I’m not the only one that felt so trapped by my LO’s naps! Thank you so much for sharing and good luck!

  17. Brenda April 16, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Even though my three children are grown I still remember the nap time dilemma. I had one who would take 3-4 hour naps. Talk about strapped to the house! Can you afford someone to come in one day a week? Even that is a relief. I needed a break so badly that I got a part-time job and most of my salary went to the lady who came to my house. (Don’t judge). I needed adult time and it made me a better mommy and wife! A lot of children are pretty resilient and will sleep anywhere–stroller or car seat. If they aren’t sound happens I guess it’s harder and you might as well give up. During the summer, maybe you can hire a high school girl to come in half a day a couple of days a week. A lot of girls look for babysitting jobs over the summer. How nice to get paid while a child slept!

  18. April April 17, 2015 at 6:46 am #

    I am like you too! But naps are sacred and necessary here. I learned to stop being quite so busy! So freeing!

  19. Jackie April 17, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    although I still have one that requires one nap a day, this post reminded me about how I struggled so much with my eldest son’s naps. By age 2 he stopped wanting to nap and we were still desperately trying to make him nap. Nap times were a battle each time. It’d take us an hour before he falls asleep in his bed. Then he sleeps for 1/2hr-1hr only. He used to fall asleep quite easily in the car so we’d resort to that method a lot. Drive around until he falls asleep. Until one day it was taking a over 30min drive. Sometimes when the weather was hot/cold and we’d have to leave the engine running. I said to myself “no more of this none-sense.” This is a waste of my time and non-Eco friendly. At age 3 he stopped needing naps and we were out of the woods. I felt so relieved. I hated nap times because it just stressed me out.
    Thank goodness it’s easier with my second child. He’s 3 and he can nap easily. Mostly in his bed, so we are also home trapped by him. But I ain’t complaining.

  20. Sjf April 17, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    You can live in co-housing! Love this idea for having a built in support network for moms at home with babes!

    I feel your nap pain. I’m trying to navigate the transition between 2 naps and 1 right now. It’s a fine line!!

  21. Mel April 28, 2015 at 5:14 am #

    in order to stay home with my 1 and 2 year olds, I run a home daycare. We NEVER get to get out, even when they’re both awake! Tough because I’d be out all the time if I could. Worth it to be with them though 😉

  22. melissa May 21, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    I feel your pain. In fact here’s a short one minute video I made on nap time!

  23. Lee May 21, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    have you tried wearing baby in a carrier? I find this helps my son sleep almost anywhere and it’s possible to transfer him to and from the car seat. Just a thought.

  24. Ceri July 12, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    Right there with you as I have a 6 and 7 year old that are busy screen timing it as I coerce the 1yr old to sleep. Did I mention he REFUSES to sleep in his crib and won’t stay asleep long if I’m not in the bed with him. So, the 2hr stretch (now that it’s just the 1 nap) I’m stretching my ear to keep tabs on my girls while mindlessly surfing Facebook or games to pass the time. Oh yeah, and I’m pregnant (planned it that way because I’m nuts) due in late October. Just asked the husband if he remembers how I handled the nap routine when the girls were born (11 months apart).I honestly don’t and am nervous because my son is so much more demanding than either of the girls ever thought about being. Gesh! Let the fun begin. The boys will be 15ish months apart and my 1yr old doesn’t take his fingers or paci and as of this past week doesn’t nurse anymore. Naps are boss but luckily only got a little while. You got this and so do i!

  25. Monica Simpson April 27, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    LOng ago a mom of 6 recommended making naptime king and being at peace with that… as well as making one day a week NO GO day. What does all this mean?

    Its hard to adjust schedules but once you do, you and 2 hours of time at home to yourself. This is done by gradually adjusting schedules so both are on the same one… so if it means for a few months you don’t go out to sync up the children, it also means mom needs to get out when dad gets home so that mom doesn’t lose it. But it seriously saved my sanity. Takes a little extra researrch to find classes that are earlier or later and not around naptime – or car time where they would fall asleep and that would be it for nap – but it is so worth it I promise you! An online community is good, but so is inviting friends over during rest time who are able to visit. Or giving yourself a 45 minutes netflix show. Or making yourself a fancy lunch. You can treat yourself during that time. Really treat yourself and not jsut listening for someone to wake up randomly. Yes, screen time helps for sure.

    Anther coping mechanism is to get a potted plant and nice candle so you can have some spots of beauty to appreciate while you are in this messy time.

    NO GO day is good because with my first two I did all the classes and such but it wasn’t great socialization, more for me to keep them busy and those two children ended up expecting to be entertained. My last three are much more chill becasue I admittedly and purposely catered to them less by forcing us to stay put. I swear this is the biggest difference.

    Anyways, this is what worked for us.

  26. Tori Murphy July 15, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

    So glad you wrote this! I feel ya mama! My two kids are 19 months apart! And now the 7 month old wants her crib to nap! It’s tough. We travel a lot – so I get not wanting to cave to nap schedule but it’s hard & I feel awful for her when she is just so tired!! Was just talking about this with me husband the other day. Struggle is real 🙂

  27. MC July 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    I was like that, once upon a time. That I wouldn’t let nap time dictate our day—hahahahaha!!
    Little did I know.

    Now I have an 8, 6 and 2 year old. When my older two were younger, it was pure bliss when their nap times synched up!

    During the summer when everyone is home, I make the older two have quiet time while their brother sleeps. I also enjoy the quiet time, as well. They read or play quietly, play games, watch a show.
    I watch my shows and fold laundry, Skype with a friend (headphones) or have lunch! Eating, without anyone grabbing your food or getting up 20 times for drinks, dropped utensils, etc??
    The time to re-energize is great because our mornings are packed with beach time, visiting friends, going to activities.

    You may find you enjoy it after awhile!

  28. Robin Laughlin July 25, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    I am a mom of 5. 4 of them 6 and under. I then have a14 year old. My youngest is 1. About the 3rd baby I started a nap time routine that included the whole house. With so many little ones not only did I need to keep them busy but mommy needed a nap or down time too. So the baby would take ( which ever baby it was at the time) an early nap on the go. And then everyone even the older one had nap time in the early afternoon. Which ment little ones slept and the big one had silent reading time. Did I mention I homeschool? They are always home. At nap time I get my sanity break. I get my coffee a snack and then I will watch a show, read a book, do my devotion, clean a hot spot, most importantly I would take a nap when needed. They all would sleep between one to three hours. But the quiet of a sleeping house sometimes is worth the scheduled time at home. Ahhhhhhhhhh quiet. Enjoy that down time. Soon you will be begging for it back. Happy napping!?

  29. Jaime Karlic September 30, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    I swear you read my every thought! I have a 3.5 year old that no longer takes naps and a 6 month old that NEEDS to be home for naps. My toddler wants my full attention most of the day and it’s hard to always have something for us to do when we’re stuck at home. He’s not a Pinterest kid either, he’d rather play outside or play cars.
    I know everyone says, “this too shall pass” but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see a way out.

  30. Vanessa February 20, 2017 at 6:43 am #

    I personally will cry when nap time is over in this household it’s my alone time for the day. I too am a busy body Mama and love to do things with my 4 year old and 18 month old and I’m lucky enough that we still get too. Both my children still nap and usually go to sleep between 1 and 130. My 18 month old is the same way that if he doesn’t get a nap I pay for it. I suggest slowly trying to put your son’s nap back 30 minutes until it’s more midday. It took about a month till I was able to get them to nap at the same time and there were tears and fussing but now they both are happy and we get to do more outside and with friends.


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