My name is Amy, and my three year old daughter does not sleep through the night. Not only that, but I [gasp!] still nurse her to sleep. Sometimes I feel like people with children who wake up at night should be meeting in a church basement somewhere, drinking coffee out of styrofoam cups with bags under our eyes, secretly confessing our frustrations about sleep deprivation. Instead, I’ve always been extremely open about my daughter’s night waking, because I want new parents to know that they're not alone, they're not doing anything "wrong," and I firmly believe that the more we talk about it, the more normal it will seem.
I am also not ashamed of this fact, in the way that some would assume I should be. From a very early age, people began to inquire about my daughter's sleeping habits, in a manner that somehow implied that my ability to coerce my child to conform to their perception of how children should sleep was the primary indicator of how good of a parent I was. Oddly enough, these are typically the same people that gush over how tremendous my daughter is, while simultaneously casting judgmental overtones in their inquiries about her sleeping habits.
This is not about demonizing those who prefer to sleep train or cry it out vs. co-sleeping. This is about normalizing the concept that many children wake up at night, regardless of where they sleep, and it doesn’t make us bad parents when they do. However, it seems to me that people don’t think as much of it if your child has slept in a crib from the start. Somehow if you have abided by their parenting paradigm all along, then I guess it’s not your fault if your child is still waking up.
It has been my experience that people are far more inquisitive about your child’s sleeping habits when they know you are sharing a bed or have co-slept at some point in their development. Yet when I think about all the time I’ve spent nursing my child, being present for her, cuddling with her, letting her sleep next to me, sacrificing my sleep to help her feel safe and comfortable…if all of that is viewed as somehow being a bad parent, then I guess I’m guilty. Again, I’m not implying that anybody who does anything different is doing it wrong, I’m simply suggesting that the parenting choices I’ve made, whether they result in her sleeping through the night or not, do not make me a bad parent.
So maybe, just MAYBE when we address one another as parents, we should focus on whether or not that child is happy. Whatever parenting methods were used to help that child develop into a joyous human being is irrelevant, because what works for one family may not work for another. It’s the child that is important.
I hope that more parents will start speaking up about their child’s sleeping habits. I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of children who grace their parents with uninterrupted sleep night after night, but I KNOW there are more out there who don’t, and their parents are just too ashamed, nervous…whatever to admit it.
Amy Serotkin is dedicated to sustainable living and finding ways to eliminate toxins in her home. She is an avid organic gardener and cook, and is always looking for more ways to challenge herself to lessen her family's ecological imprint.
Her website, www.themindfulhome.blogspot.com, shares with consumers the information she's found on toxins and eco friendly products that help eliminate disposables or toxin exposure. She also hopes to highlight smaller retailers, crafters and manufacturers.