The Nap Trap: How to Make the Most of it.

My NYC apartment is small to start with. But, it shrinks exponentially once I have my first child. In those first few sleep-deprived months I’d sit sixteen floors above Manhattan and watch the world below go by with envy. I was once that jogger, that shopper, and in that gaggle of girls en route to lunch. Now I’m in sweatpants sterilizing baby bottles and trying to decide when the best time to shower might be. Did I shower yesterday? I can’t remember.

Regardless of where you live, the circumstances are the same. At one time or another, we have all been there. Nap-trapped.

What's a Nap Trap?

Have you heard of the term ‘nap trap?’ You need not be a linguist to figure out what it means. Those times of the day when parents must obey the nap gods and stay in one place until our wee ones awaken. Depending upon your bundle of joy’s schedule, this could be anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. And, depending upon your point of view, this can be heaven or hell.

I’ve been nap trapped in a few unusual places. The fitting room of Bloomingdale’s, the Museum of Natural History, and my car, as examples. But more often than not, I was nap trapped at home. You’d think I’d have used my time wisely then. That I’d had strategies in place the moment my daughter’s eyes closed. I didn’t. But, I wish I had. 

How do you use your time in the nap trap? I used to pout and reminisce about my former carefree life. I wouldn’t recommend this. It's completely unproductive and filled with self-pity. 

Instead, here are some suggestions to accommodate all sorts of nap trap scenarios. I have teenagers now but survived my fair share of nap trap time. While I wasn’t a nap trap expert then, I know a thing or two about it in hindsight. How you make the most of the nap trap is personal, but it also depends upon a few variables.

To Be, or Not To Be (Productive, that is)

What one decides to do while their child naps usually align with the age of the child. For instance, if you are at home with a newborn, you may choose to nap when they do. This is common advice. As any partner can attest, a well-rested parent is a happy parent. Period. 

If you have a toddler, you may set aside this time to get chores done. Don’t overestimate your time. It’s far better for your mental health to get one load of laundry done rather than be upset you didn’t tick five things off your to-do list. Set realistic goals based on the time you (think you) have. 

Other ways to make the most of being in a nap trap can be self-fulfilling. Why not spend 30 minutes reading the latest Kristin Hannah novel? You deserve an escape. Take a sound bath or meditate. Heck, take a real bath! Who cares what time of day it is—make sure you have bath salts on hand. Don’t know where to find a sound bath? YouTube can solve this problem in 2.6 seconds.

Who says you need to be productive at all during nap time? It’s your time alone. If Below Deck or Succession is calling, make sure you answer. There's no shame in reality TV. Turning off a busy brain is as productive as any household chore. I speak from experience here, trust me.

Embracing The Nap Trap

If we choose to look at the nap trap in a positive light, and truly flip the script on its negative undertones, it can be pretty rewarding. First, create a consistent nap schedule so you can plan for your alone time. Bahahaha you’re thinking! What schedule? I hear you. Yet, we’ve all heard that kids love consistency. They thrive on it. The sooner we provide it, the better.

The more predictable your child’s naps are, the more you will feel in control of your time and schedule. You’ll be able to carve out time you need to get things done during the nap trap. 

The Nap Trap: Food for Thought

Here are some concrete ideas for parents caught in the daily nap trap. Your house or apartment need not feel like jail. Learn to embrace the time your child sleeps. They say sleep begets sleep. Well-rested child equals happy mom, and all those other platitudes. 

If you have a newborn:

  • Take a 20-minute power nap.
  • Read a chapter of the book on your nightstand that has been gathering dust. Just one chapter, you can do that!
  • Put on noise-canceling headphones and listen to your favorite band. Even if it’s Maroon 5. I’ll forgive you.
  • Take a bath, regardless of the time of day. Go crazy, light a candle and pour your favorite drink.
  • Listen to a podcast. Brenée Brown, Esther Perel, or the Daily. Feed your mind with whatever it’s craving.

If you have a toddler:

  • Any of the above, but for longer periods. 
  • Make an online photo album. Shutterfly, Mixbooks, and Snapfish all make it very easy. A productive ongoing nap trap project.
  • Bake your favorite decadent treat. No one deserves those home-baked calories more than you do. Home-baked calories don’t count anyway.
  • A 20-minute exercise session. Whether that is mat-based pilates on an app or a self-directed ab session in front of the TV. Even a short workout is empowering.
  • Brew your favorite caffeinated drink and do your favorite puzzle or game. My faves are the New York Times Spelling Bee, Sudoku, and the Sunday crossword.
  • Call your mother.

If you have a fast napper:

  • Call your mother.
  • Clean the junk drawer.
  • Return five emails.
  • Do a 10-minute yoga session.
  • Purge your closet. The Real Real is your new BFF.

If you have a marathon napper:

  • Call your real BFF.
  • Prepare tonight’s dinner or create the upcoming week’s meal plan.
  • Return ten emails.
  • Do a 30-minute yoga session.
  • Be creative. Color, paint, draw, or blog.

If you are stuck in the car, in a fitting room, or in a museum:

  • Do nothing. Silence can be beautiful.
  • Listen to music.
  • Clean out your inbox.
  • Meditate.
  • Write a list in your phone’s ‘Notes’. Bucket lists, wish lists, or best karaoke song lists. 

There are benefits to the nap trap, for sure. It’s a time to get things done, wherever we might find ourselves when our kids doze off. Yet, don’t feel guilty if you choose to do nothing during your valuable alone time. Parenting is all about taking care of our children, but it’s also about taking care of ourselves. 

How we choose to celebrate the nap trap is personal. Maybe this list reminded you of a past hobby you’d like to pick back up. Or, the novel you’ve always wanted to read, or write. Or, possibly just gave you permission to take a nap or do something solely for yourself. 

Years ago, when I gazed down from my 16th-floor window overlooking 72nd and Broadway I may have been green with envy, but deep down I was happier to be nap trapped than I realized. Anyone who has watched over a sleeping baby can certainly relate. Nothing beats a happy well-rested baby. 

And, don’t forget to shower.


Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is an avid traveler, travel writer, and photographer. She launched I am Lost and Found, her adventure/luxury travel website after 25 years of living and traveling around the globe. She has lived in both NYC and Tokyo. Today she resides in Washington DC with her husband, two kids, and two black labs. Jamie’s goal is simple: to inspire travel.

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