Saturday, February 2, 2008

In Praise Of The Nap: The Late Blooming Mom's Secret Weapon

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, when I was more or less on bed rest, having ballooned to a size someone 5'2" should never be unless pregnant with twins, people told me to get all the sleep I could. As if I could bank sleep.

They also told me that when the babies came, I'd better learn to sleep when they slept.

I did.

What I didn't expect was to still be doing it three years later. But one of the facts of life when you're a late blooming mom is that you don't have the energy younger moms do. The only way to recharge your internal battery when you've been chasing around a toddler who acts more like the Energizer Bunny -- or in my case, two Energizer Bunnies -- is to get plenty of naps.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 nap for two hours a day, on average. Sometimes even a little more -- mostly because, on the weekend, their nap is the only break their dad and I get until bedtime, and we often hesitate to wake them because it means our rest is over too.

Confession: I napped even before I was a mom. Not so often as I do now, but more than once in a while. I always woke up refreshed mentally as well as physically. A friend of mine refers to his naps as "horizontal thinking." I agree.

And there's something downright civilized, in a European, better-quality-of-life kinda way, about a mid-day Siesta. The sun is still high in the sky, its light streaming across the bed in friendly warm stripes coming through the partly open shutters. The cat is already curled up in the corner of the bed, his very presence an invitation to do the same.

I always considered naps a thoroughly justifiable luxury to indulge in once in a while, a way to perk up on the job instead of a coffee break, or make a weekend feel more relaxing.

But now that I'm a mid-life mom, naps have gone from a nice break when I could squeeze them in to an absolute necessity. I'd be exhausted all the time, instead of most of it, without them.

Perhaps this is why I live in fear of the day my kids decide to give up the nap. I've heard tell of this phenomenon, and other parents have tried to reassure me it's not all bad: they claim their kids go to bed earlier at night once they drop the nap. Somehow I suspect mine will not evolve that way.

Sometime after giving birth, I had to go see a physical therapist to learn some exercises that would help re-strengthen some muscles that had split during the pregnancy, and only recently fused back together. The doctor, a mother of grown twins, told me that for the first four years of her sons' lives, she never exercised. "Your exercise now," she said, "is sleep."

So to all you other late blooming moms out there, you have a doctor's permission. Go, take a nap.

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