What the Word ‘Nap’ Really Means if You’re a Working Mom

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Naps are important. Naps are necessary. Naps don’t always work out the way you’d like them to—either for your little kids or yourself.

Most working parents, by 2 or 3 o’clock on a weekday—or any day, for that matter—think the notion of a nap is about the best idea they’ve heard since the creation of the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the toaster, and the microwave all mixed together.

They can’t often make it happen, of course. But a nap? How positively lovely. Just put your head down for a few minutes, close your eyes, rest, relax, restore yourself—and regain some sanity.

And refrain from whatever it is the rest of the family is doing.

Related: How to Keep the House Clean with Little Kids Around

A nap, when you have a family, is like taking an island vacation.

You’re on the island of sleep and you’re taking a nap, blissful and unbothered.

And you’re swaying in the ocean breeze as you lie in a hammock, surrounded by stunning white sand and beautiful blue water.

You don’t have a care in the world. The sun is shining (but not in your eyes). And you even have a drink beside you.

And you’re in a bathingsuit, and it’s 85 degrees, and you don’t care who sees you in that bathingsuit, either—because you look as perfect in it as you did when you were 18. (Which is approximately the last time you wore a bathingsuit of this kind, by the way—but I digress.)

And just five minutes in, you’re loving this nap.

While you’re taking your nap, everyone else in your family is “over there.” And they’re very busy, and they’re also a little annoyed at being stuck on dry land without you, truth be told. But they’re dealing with it. They’re doing their thing.

Meanwhile, you’re just so glad you can get a few zzzzs because you hardly slept at all last night, and you were up early in the morning working, and making breakfast, and throwing in a load of laundry, and sweeping the kitchen floor, and checking in on other family and friends on the phone, and taking care of your family, whom you love more than anything else in the world.  

And you actually think—you really think—that this nap thing is going to work.

That sneaking in a nap like this, during your island vacation—while everyone else is on dry land—is a great idea.

You’re hopeful. You’re really, really hopeful. Maybe I can really pull this thing off, you’re thinking. Just for a few minutes, right?

And when I wake up, no one will be hurt! Nothing will be broken! The household will be intact! And I can go about my day, refreshed, renewed, and ready to face anything.

Related: The Messy Life of Parenting

But you very quickly realize that after all these years, you never really knew what the word “nap” stood for after all.

Now you do. And it’s a slap in the face.

Because the word “nap” actually stands for—once you’re an exhausted working mom—the message, “Never Any Peace.”

The sight of a working mom lying on the couch in the living room with her eyes closed in the middle of the afternoon is the equivalent of a giant neon sign in a kid’s brain flashing, “FREEDOM!”

Because this is the moment, the golden opportunity—while mom’s in that bikini over there swaying in the breeze, her eyes closed, her body at rest—that little kids can do all the things they’ve been told that they must never, ever do.

A mom I know who once tried to take a nap in the middle of the family room when her kids were young woke up to the sight of her children’s heads buried in giant cartons of chocolate ice cream.

All she could see was their hair—the little tufts of hair on their heads—sticking out over the top of the cartons. They didn’t even have spoons!

It’s just a parenting truism. The moment a mom of little kids tries to take a nap, everything goes haywire.

I once tried to nap in the living room for 10 minutes with the entire family around me—since I was too tired to stagger into the bedroom—when the following things occurred. (And here I’m exaggerating just a little bit, but not really by much.)

flat lay photography of three white yarn balls

While I was napping, the kids took a ball of white string, unwound it, and began draping and tying that string all across the hallway, around and across everything, doorknobs, pictures, everything—up and down and sideways and straight, so that no human being could ever walk down that hallway again.

It was like a modern art installation called “The Web.”

More like “The Permanent Web.”

“The Great White Web.”

It was like a living potholder. Only taller, wider—and sturdier. 

Julia Child would have loved it.

And in that moment of dazzling kid creativity, while mom was still lying on the couch, eyes closed, trying to stay on her island, our family bunny escaped from his pen and darted through the living room.

Related: Charity Begins at Home—and Sometimes with Your Pets

And that darting action set off the two cats, who began hissing and fighting with each other.

And that set off the dog, who started barking at all the chaos and commotion. And of course, she then needed to go out at that moment in time.

Which was the exact same moment, naturally, that the phone began ringing.

Which was also the exact same moment that Amazon showed up with a delivery at the front door and rang the doorbell, twice, to announce the arrival of whatever it was we had ordered last week and already forgotten about.

And then one of the cats got her claws stuck in the string in the hallway. And she started screaming.

And when the kids heard that, they started screaming, too.

And suddenly, my island vacation came to an abrupt and brutal ending.

Because I was no longer in a bikini on a hammock swaying in the breeze, catching some rays, with the sun shining and the beautiful blue water in the distance. Which had lasted, by the way, for a total of less than 10 minutes.

I was in a burlap sack.

It was hot. And scratchy. And I couldn’t get my arms out of it.

And I was on cement.

The cement was cracked.

And my throat was so dry and so parched—and I was so completely stuck in that burlap sack—that I could barely eke out the words, “What in the world is going on in this house?”

And then I heard the answer.

It was coming from my husband, the father of my children. And he was looking at me with kind and understanding eyes.

And he was saying, “The plumber’s about to get here. We have a leak downstairs.”

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This article is by Maureen Mackey. She’s a writer, editor, and web content strategist, as well as a regular contributor to Christian News Journal.


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