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.

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?

Kim grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Madison to attend the UW and fell in love with the city’s spirit and culture. She's married with three sweet kiddos - Mason, Joshua, and Leah. When she’s not racing monster trucks across furniture or pretending to be interested in video games, she’s working on freelance writing projects or teaching strength training classes through her small fitness business, Lioness Fitness. Kim's a food allergy mom, which means she can read a food label like nobody’s business. She's also a sucker for good wine, good sushi, a good book, and ANY beach.

62 COMMENTS

  1. Thin Yes gs would be easier for this stay at home mom if libraries didn’t schedule story time right at nap time. This trend makes me so angry that I wish I had the nerve to walk right in there and yell at them until I’m blue in the face! Not that that would change anything but I’m pissed. I’m pretty sure that librarians are well informed enough to know that most babies under the age of 1 sleep between 9 – 11 but schedule story time during those hours anyway. I have asked around repeatedly and I yet to receive a logical response to this ridiculousness!!!

    • Hey Jenn,

      Just curious– what time would be better for you for baby story time? I work at a library– and we’ve found that when we tried other times, we didn’t get anyone. I’m willing to experiment, but I haven’t seen anything that works better.

  2. Oh my gawd this is me and my daughter to a T!!! I am literally at my in-laws right now trying to get her to nap in a portacrib. She is screaming. 😣 I FEEL YOU! 💕💕💕 Thank you for posting this… it makes me feel like I’m not the only one! I have so many family and friends where their little one will sleep anywhere. Not my little lady. NOPE! Every time she drops a nap it has been a win! More time to enjoy doing things together and not panicking that I’m not going to make it home in time for nap time! 🤦🏻‍♀️

    • This is me!! I used to get out every day before the pandemic and before having baby #2. I’m in a mourning process about it.

  3. Both of my kids are very particular sleepers. My daughter is 4 and still needs a nap if we have a busy morning, and my son, who is 8 months old, is finally sleeping through the night, but he will take a cat nap in the car and screams bloody murder when he wakes up. Then he fights a longer nap in his crib. Kids are a ticking time bomb.

  4. Yes! My second child is a terrible napper outside the home and it does make you feel like you’re on this race to do things during the awake windows. My least favourite was when my youngest was on 2 naps and my oldest was on one nap, so we basically could only go out before 10am or after 4pm. Plus when you factor in meals and snacks, you have like 20 min! My oldest finally dropped her nap and my youngest went to one nap, so now we have some decent chunks of time, but I’m expecting baby #3 in about 5 months. I do feel bad for my oldest that we can’t sign up for certain activities because the timing conflicts with her sister’s nap. I totally get why people have their mom come live with them!!

  5. Just transitioned to stay at home mom with my 9 month old after 9 months of juggling working-from-home and mothering. I was so excited to dive into mommy and me classes and reading rooms but every single class is scheduled at 10 or 1, leaving me trapped by the nap! He has to get his needs met. He doesn’t tolerate tired. The struggle is real- so we are homebound for the near future at least. I’m so glad to have come across this blog. TYSM!

  6. Landed here by googling trapped by baby’s nap schedule 🙈🙈 and I only have an 8month old, so I can imagine with a toddler, it’s an advance level challenge! Just going anywhere is a production and I am so dog tired, these days I have been putting my sanity and my back first and staying close to home, just out for short walks.

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