Confessions Of A Joyful Mother Who's Kids Don't Sleep.
My kids don’t sleep. There. I said it. If you know me really well then, this no secret to you. If you are a well-meaning lady behind me at the checkout stand at the grocery store, this news seems to come across as alarming, problematic, and the sympathetic looks just roll out from there.
Am I alone in this? Of course not. Baby sleep help is a billion-dollar industry with countless sleep experts, books, blogs, e-courses, and so on and so on. I know this first hand because I have spent my fair share of sleepless nights scanning the internet in desperation for anything that might help. We are two babies in and have tried a lot of things, but so far nothing really felt like the right fit for my momma heart or for our family.
If you are here for sleep tips, then this is not the post for you. Alternatively, if you are here for an ultra-granola “just enjoy the time while they are little and be happy all the time” high five, this is not the post for you either. I am just here to share with you how I am surviving these sleepless years, and how I have been thriving emotionally after deciding to let go(ish) of control.
For starters, when I say my kids don’t sleep, this is what I am talking about:
Our oldest, Ava, (5) co-slept with us until she was 3.5. When she finally moved to her own bed the transition was rough and she woke at least 5 times a night and needed us to go back to sleep. She has only started to sleep well on her own in the past 6 months or so, but even still, she often will wake in the middle of the night for one reason or another and ends up sneaking into our bed.
Our youngest, Ollie, (14 months) naps amazing in his own crib and even goes to sleep on his own, but then the nights show up and that’s a whole different ball game. He wakes anywhere from 3-7 times a night, every night. Yes…you read that right. He wakes, nurses, and then goes back to sleep in his own crib. Yes its super hard on us, yes I wish he would sleep better, and yes, the exhaustion is real.
A new mindset: Let it go.
Maybe it’s because my youngest has past the one-year mark, or maybe it’s because I have broken through the fog of PPD, but recently I have started to become a lot more OK about the fact that my kids don’t sleep. It probably doesn’t feel like this to my hubby because I still vent to him often about how tired I am, but as far as I am concerned that’s what partners are for and we are in this for the long haul like it or not some days. 😉 However, something really has changed inside of me and I couldn’t be happier about it.
There was a while there where things got really bad for me. A solid 3-4 months where I thought about this all the time. Like nonstop. It was my biggest problem and I focused on it constantly. I was miserable and angry about how tired I was. I got super frustrated at every wake, and on my low days I would even think about just getting in my car and driving away. (judgment free zone please friends). There was no doubt that this was emotionally unhealthy and that something would have to change. This was the point when I considered going full cry it out and just being done with it.
Then almost overnight, for whatever reason, I just stopped. I stopped focusing on it, I stopped googling all night, and I stopped being angry (most nights at least). The babe continued to wake all night, but I stopped caring about it so darn much. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how it happened; maybe it was the arrival of spring and the feeling of a fresh start that it always brings, or maybe it was a particularly good cup of coffee that day, but something shifted in me. Somehow, I decided to let go. I would no longer spend so much time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The days that I worked on 'sleep training' were the absolute worst days we ever had. I was cranky all day and angry all night, my children were clearly affected by my mood, No more ridgid sleep plans, and no more counting crying minutes until I would go in and try all over again. Now this is pretty surprising change to me because I am someone who craves control, but I think that my exhaustion reached its peek and my brain went into survival mode. Thankfully survival mode was a gentle choice vs. running away. Obviously, I still wish I got more sleep, and Im not super thrilled when they wake up, but I don’t let the topic consume my life anymore. I sleep when I can and I try to be ok with it. If I want to watch a show before bed and Ollie wakes early I usually just dim the lights and bring him into the living room to nurse and rock before putting him back in bed. When Ava kids climb in my bed in the middle of the night, I don’t spend 3 hours fighting and coaxing her back into her own bed, instead I just go with it and go back to sleep.
Letting Go vs. Giving Up
I have thought about my new sleep attitude a lot this past week, asking myself if I was really letting go, or if I was simply giving up. I guess the truth all depends on how you look at it. You could read this and think, “Now here is a crummy mom who doesn’t have the stones to make the hard choices and correct her children’s poor sleep habits.”, or you could read this and think, “Now here is a mom who is trying her best, knows that this season will one day pass, and is choosing joy in order to survive.”
I personally feel like I am letting go, rather than giving up. Giving up brings a sense of feeling defeated and sorrowful, and I don’t feel that way. Most days I am simply just accept it, and that has made all the difference to my emotional well-being. I feel happier around my children, and I no longer feel like this is a dark rain cloud hovering around me constantly reminding me that I’m a bad mom since my kids don’t sleep. I give it so much less thought and that has freed up tones of time for me to think about other things. Additionally, when my mood changed I noticed that bed time became less stressful, and a lot more calm. I am a firm believer that, no matter how many patenting fails you had that day, kids should, at the very least, go to sleep feeling loved and secure, so this alone made all the difference to me.
Parenting is hard work. There is no end to the challenges it brings each and every day, and there are lots of time when you really can’t just let go. I’m glad this is one of the times that I can. (for now, at least. But check back in a while and see if I’m still on track)
*Full disclosure: I am a stay at home mom. While I firmly believe that I work just as hard at my job as my husband does at his job out in the world, the truth is that my job can be done in PJ's, without showering if need be, and other than the tiny humans I don't have to hold a cohesive conversation with alone all day if I don't want to. So I fully accept that my lifestyle is probably considered a luxury to many parents who both work outside the home.