In the beginning, co-napping was a necessity. For the first six months, his reflux was so bad that he couldn't sleep for more than ninety minutes in a stretch night or day. The only way he could sleep during the day was if I held him against my chest in my arms or in a sling and bounced him the entire time in an exercise ball. (At one point, I timed myself bouncing him regularly for about eight hours a day.) So, when I finally found the magic combination of things to eliminate from my diet (milk, tomatoes, garlic, onions, wheat, anything spicy, and all citrus) so that he could side-lie nurse and fall asleep at six months without waking up screaming and in pain, co-napping was the only way I could survive because he was still up between eight and ten times a night. (In addition to food allergies and reflux, my son also found it impossible to sleep every time he was teething.) I still remember the first day I successfully nursed him to sleep laying side by side and then was able to fall asleep myself for a whole forty minutes. HEAVEN.
Of course, some things have changed in the year and a half since then. He used to nurse the whole nap (sometimes waking up to discover he had somehow stopped nursing and then would frantically latch himself back on) but now he just nurses for ten minutes or so and then, if he hasn't fallen asleep while nursing, he just snuggles up against me and goes to sleep. Now that we're down to one nap a day in the middle of the day, he actually sleeps an hour and a half up to sometimes two whole hours which is something that I never could have dreamed of in a nap when he was younger.
For me, it is a time to sometimes "re-set" after a difficult morning. It's a time of connection even as its also a time of relaxation. It's hard to stay stressed out no matter how many tantrums defined the morning when you look at your little one sleeping. Meanwhile, it feels good to take that time for myself to recharge as well. I now know why "siesta" is so important in some cultures. It's not about getting more sleep. It's about taking time just to be quiet and breathe.
I know what you are thinking . . . "How the heck does she get anything done?" Here's my answer, I do all showering, housecleaning, phone calling, errand running, and cooking with my son awake and in tow. (He doesn't even watch tv except for 30-45 minutes in the afternoon when I watch it with him snuggled up on either the couch or the bed.) Does that mean that it probably takes me a lot longer to do just about everything than it takes you to do it during your kid's nap? Probably, but to me, it's worth it.
You may also be thinking, "What will you do when he is older? Isn't she worried that he'll never fall asleep alone? What will she do when she has more than one?" Actually, I'm not really worried about what will happen when he's older or when we have another one. All my pre-mother worries about how I would do things produced no answers that I was able to use once I had my son, so I don't bother planning the future much anymore. The truth is that he will stop nursing some day, he will also stop napping some day, and we will (hopefully) juggle multiple children's sleeping schedules one day and I will cross those bridges when I come to them. For now, this works. It more than works; it is amazing. My son LOVES nap time. When he is tired, he practically runs to my bedroom and gets my book out for me. When he wakes up, he isn't screaming and yelling to be let out; instead, he simply smiles and gives me a kiss. Same with bedtime, he never fights me about going to bed because going to sleep is a relaxing time of connection for us.
I actually wonder what moms who use nap time as their time to scramble and get everything done will do when their children stop napping. What will their children do? My son already lives in a house where he knows the bathrooms need cleaning (and how to do it), the shelves need dusting, the laundry needs doing and the floors need sweeping. He knows there are times when he needs to be quiet because Mama is on the phone. Housecleaning time is just more time for us to be together and connect. Maybe if we have younger siblings some day that do need a nap a day with mama, he will be open to spending that hour quietly reading, coloring, or watching a movie and snuggling. After all, he's already learned that's what you do when you love someone who happens to need naps. So, if you are a co-napper and you are feeling guilty about it, don't! If you aren't a co-napper and you have the opportunity to do it either during the week or on the weekends, but were afraid of the consequences, don't be! Your children are only young once and they will only want to snuggle with you to go to sleep for a little while. (I read somewhere the week my son was born that children born now can reasonably expect to live to 100 years old, so if they only nap for three years and you nap with them . . . that's still only 3% of their lives.) Take the time for yourselves and your children. It is worth your time!
I know that co-napping isn't for everyone. So, if it doesn't fit "you," than I believe you. But for the rest of us, I say snuggle up!