Now that my kids are teenagers, I have the luxury of looking back on those early days of parenting, longing for snugly baby mornings with a fondness that only a good night’s sleep can provide. My kids bathe themselves, brush their own teeth, and put themselves to bed. I typically get a “good night mom, I love you” from each of them (and let’s be honest, that is THE BEST part of any bedtime routine) but my days of white-knuckle-gripping the evening in the hopes those kids of mine might sleep longer than two hours are long gone. Good riddance!
In honor of Sleep Awareness Month, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on those sleep-deprived years of early motherhood and tell myself now what I wish I had known then.
You cannot make them sleep.
I tried. No amount of reasoning, rationalizing, or bribing seemed to work on my babies. They did what they wanted when they wanted and I was helpless to stop them. I tried to teach them to sleep, I really did. But much like potty-training, they did it all themselves, in spite of me.
Go ahead and try all the advice.
Because you will get plenty of advice, especially when it comes to sleeping babies. I was given a variety of sleep schedules, sleep methods, detailed daily routines, and advice on how to teach the babies to self-soothe, or even how to let them cry it out. I watched videos, read books, and talked to my doctor. For me, nothing worked. I had five years, yes, you read that right, to try out ALL of the advice.
Don’t yell at the well meaning advice-givers.
Just let me be your cautionary tale on this one. Most people are not giving you advice out of a sense of superiority. Most people are genuinely trying to help you. However, if your last shower is a distant memory and you don’t even care because all you want is a nap, you might be too tired to be polite. It’s times like this when it’s best to just nod and stagger away.
Advocate for yourself with your co-parent.
I’m blessed with an amazing spouse. But, ladies, he did not come that way! He truly had no idea what it was like for me because my experiences were uniquely mine, just like his were unique to him. I had to tell him that I was so tired I couldn’t find the car keys so there were no groceries and therefore no dinner forthcoming. I had to explain that even though he had worked all day (in an office with adults who frowned upon close personal contact I might add) and also wasn’t sleeping at night, that his day wasn’t over when he got home because someone ELSE needed to hold this baby for 10 minutes. Chuck is not a mind-reader on a good day, let alone when we were tired. We had to communicate.
Show grace, grace, and more grace to your baby and yourself.
Remind yourself that whether your baby sleeps or not, this is not a parenting performance review. All parents are different. All babies are different. You are doing just fine. Cut your baby some slack because being a baby is hard work and none of us got an instruction manual. Be kind to yourself, too. Order pizza. Have a pajama day while you catch up on laundry. Be thankful you’re too tired to see how messy your house has gotten. These are not signs of failure, these are signs of parenthood! Try and embrace every sleepy second. While it seems an eternity, this too shall pass.