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It was 1 p.m., and the house was completely quiet. My two younger kids were napping and my oldest was at school. This is the time everyone tells moms, “While the kids are sleeping, you should be sleeping too.” But that was not going to happen.

There are always a million things to do during naptime when you’re a mom—I could throw some dinner in a Crockpot, tackle the stained clothes from breakfast I had been ignoring, clean the gunky dried toothpaste off the sink in the kids’ bathroom—but I wasn’t going to do any mom responsibilities during this time.

Instead, as a stay-at-home mom, I choose to cram my whole personal life, my me time, my time to pursue my passions, into naptime.

RELATED: I Fear I’ve Lost Myself To Motherhood

I used to think I had to cram my whole adult life into naptime, but over time I’ve found that isn’t true for me. I can do plenty of mindless adult tasks in the evening when the kids go to bed. That’s when I order groceries or switch the load of laundry that’s been in the washer all day over to the dryer. That’s when I collapse on the couch with my husband, and, even though we’re exhausted, we stay up way too late watching a movie and eating cookies (basically everything our kids imagine we do when they do to sleep).

But during naptime, I try to squeeze in the things for myself.

The things I want to do to feel like I haven’t totally lost myself to the demands and responsibilities and tasks of motherhood. Almost every single professional thing I’ve done during the last six years has been accomplished during that afternoon naptime window. Maybe I’m not getting things done as fast as I would have imagined. But I’m getting them done. And I’m keeping a vital part of myself alive in the process.

This isn’t to say naptime is the only time I do things for myself. There are days when I escape the house as soon as my husband is home, meeting friends for dinner or going for a walk by myself. But naptime is the consistent, daily time I can count on to have some space for myself. It’s the time before my brain is fried when I still have some shreds of energy left.

Many stay-at-home moms I know have talked about the transition they went through when they first gave up their jobs and stayed home. For some, it felt like a loss of identity. Who am I if I’m not a nurse? A teacher? An accountant? For some, they felt a wave of anxiety when trying to answer the dreaded “so what do you do?” question.

I felt all those things. I had to reorient how I saw myself and what my identity was based on. I know now I don’t need a job title to know who I am. But I also can’t set aside every part of myself.

I need something that’s mine. Something creative and exciting and new each day.

As my firstborn got older, we switched from naptime to quiet time for her, and I will tell anyone how valuable that decision was for us. Instead of sleeping, she goes to her room during that time for some quiet, independent play. We use an “OK to wake” light system to let her and our middle daughter know when nap or quiet time is over. I protect naptime fiercely.

RELATED: I Don’t Get Anything Done During Naptime And I’m Not Sorry

This is a personal choice I’ve made, and I know naptime looks different for every mom. Some days it looks different for me too. If it’s a crazy week, I might squeeze in some cleaning during naptime. If I’m feeling more than the usual stress, I take a break during naptime. I give myself freedom and grace to change the plans and listen to how my body and mind are feeling. But just as important to me as rest is doing things that feed my soul and keep my passion alive. So, for the time being, those things are happening during naptime.

This article was written during naptime, sipping coffee in a quiet house. I hope you can have some space and time to chase your own personal passions. If it’s during naptime like me, I see you. We’re getting things done, one sleepy afternoon at a time.

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Kim Howard

Kim Howard is a mom to three kids. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies and is a former teacher. Check out her debut picture book, Grace and Box, and learn more about her at Kim Howard Books and www.kimhowardbooks.com.

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