Many parents talk a big game about getting all kinds of things done during their baby’s hour-long (or more) naps—from dinner prep or miscellaneous housework to phone calls or working out. But for some of us, nap time is a mere blip on the radar of an otherwise overloaded day full of infant duties. My daughter, for one, is Queen of the Catnap. She simply doesn’t stay asleep but prefers to take mini siestas instead. This drives me crazy of course, and I don’t think I’m alone.
If putting your little one down to rest often means as little as 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to quickly get something accomplished, here’s what I suggest you do: I cycle throughout these various tasks during any given week and have found they are the best use of a non-existent nap time.
1. Do some belated emailing: Reply to a still-unanswered email you received well before your baby was even born. Your pal will be shocked to hear from you, having figured the message got lost in your overflowing inbox, and the earlier notes on the chain will give you a little glimpse into what your pre-baby life was like. (Can you even remember?)
2. Organize your insane “to do” list: The list hasn’t shrunk by a single item in the past six months, but you still might feel a small sense of accomplishment by reviewing each item, rearranging them on the page, and then freaking out that nothing is ever getting done. Ever. Again.
3. Try your hardest to “cook” something: Boil some eggs, and then completely forget them on the countertop where you left them to cool for a couple of days. Pop a frozen lunch in the microwave for two minutes, then let it sit inside with the door closed for the rest of the afternoon as you rush around before the baby starts wailing.
4. Clean in an all-out sprint: Race from room to the room with damp paper towels in both hands and wipe down as many surfaces as possible without tripping over yourself. Scan each corner of the room for visible dust and stray dog hair, then get distracted by the spider webs you just discovered on all the windowsills. Hastily clean the blanket your baby peed on, the shirt she spit up on, or the hair he raked his baby food-covered hands through before he wakes.
5. Read news headlines: Digging into the articles themselves is an exercise in futility, so save yourself the frustration and read just the headlines instead. This way you can at least nod and smile when your partner brings up current events without feeling like a total fraud.
6. Play hide-and-seek with the dog: You may get a boost of energy from this happy-go-lucky playtime with your pooch, and she will love the extra bit of attention. Then go back to ignoring Rover for days on end and feeling all different kinds of mom guilt.
7. Take your own teeny-tiny nap: The baby catnap is the equivalent of an adult power-nap, right? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer living in Westchester, NY. She had her first child, a daughter named Rowan, last summer. Find her at whitneycharris.com.