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I Was Insane About My Kids' Nap Schedules and Have No Regrets

Photograph by Twenty20

When my kids were little, my life revolved around their sleep schedules. I was one of those moms who had to be home for my kids’ naps. My kids would rarely sleep if they were anywhere else (believe me, I tried, from the time they were newborns) and if their nap schedule was off, so was the rest of our day and night.

There were exceptions, of course, but I planned my life around their naps—and I kinda wished that the world would do the same. Very often, I would cancel plans or just flat out state I would be late to an event if it conflicted with a nap. I didn’t miss any major events, but I probably seemed like an annoying, controlling new mom to lots of people. In fact, I know I did—they told me so!

At the time, I wondered if I was being too rigid about the whole thing. I thought that maybe I’d look back on it all and wish I’d been more relaxed. When I do look back, I do see the ways in which I was too inflexible or overly anxious about it all. But I also totally get it. I have no regrets about it, and if I had to do it over again, I would be just as rigid and scheduled about the whole thing.

At those young ages, my kids needed their sleep as much as they needed food and drink. If they missed a nap, they were extremely cranky, which could ruin the rest of the entire day. They weren't the kind of kids who would just get more drowsy when they were sleep-deprived. They’d get more wound up, and would be bouncing off the walls until they totally crashed. Not a pretty sight.

But it was more than just their own sleep needs. It was as much about me, too.

Plus, they were extremely light sleepers, so if they missed a nap, it would only make them sleep worse at night. The results of lost sleep could often be felt for days. They’d be impossible to put down and they’d be up even more frequently at night than they already were.

But it was more than just their own sleep needs. It was as much about me, too.

I needed that downtime. As a full-time mom, their naps were literally the only daytime quiet I got—like, ever. In those years, my main job was to care for my kids, but taking care of myself was just as important. Their naptimes were my self-care times—the times that I meditated, exercised, rested or just scrolled through my phone to unwind. I deserved every minute of it.

I know what you're wondering: What about the rest of the world? What about other people’s plans? I was as flexible as I could be about that, and for the really important things, I would drop the schedule and try to go with it. But I will admit that there were rarely events that were worth me losing my downtime or messing up my baby’s schedule.

Moms of young kids already get too much critique about every little decision they make, so I’m here to say that it’s OK for moms to assert their needs around things like their baby’s sleep schedule. It's so hard to be a mom to little ones and you deserve every break you can get. Your life is just going to be different for a few years. For now, the focus is very much on your kids—and you need to do whatever you can to remain sane while that’s happening.

For some, that might mean treating your child’s sleep schedule as the law of the land. For others, that simply won’t work—and that’s OK too. The bottom line is each family is different and we all have to figure out what works for us and not really care what anyone else thinks about it. Period.

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