Hi. My name is Martha and my baby will not sleep in his crib. (You say: Hi Martha) Why isn’t there a support group for parents dealing with this issue?
I often feel like a horrible mom because he only wants to sleep in my arms and I only want him to sleep ANYWHERE ELSE.
Anywhere else safe. Not like in the oven. Just not in my arms!
I would love nothing more than to hold my sweet Baby Blue for every nap and snuggle him all night long. But on the other hand I would like to eat a hot meal, read a book with paper pages, wash those rotting dishes…you know, all that gratuitous pampering stuff that moms are always going on about. (Going to the bathroom alone seems to be a hot button, as well, but that doesn’t bug me so much.)
Probably the best parenting advice I’ve ever received – and the only advice I repeat – is when your baby is in the womb, they are held 24 hours a day. So when they’re born, even if you hold them 12 hours a day, that’s half of what they’re used to. That’s a crazy, life-changing thought, right?
We held Fiona constantly and co-slept until she was nearly two, and she was such a happy baby. She hardly ever fussed. We thought SCORE! This is the secret to parenting! [cough cough] But wait… We had grandparents around, and my husband took paternity leave for 6 months when she was a baby. We had the luxury of holding her all the time. Now…it’s just me for most of the day. And a toddler who’s used to being held. And a baby who needs to be held. And mommy only has 2 arms.
Naturally, I’m thinking this boy needs to nap in his crib, so he can be safe and secure and all that. But naturally, he is thinking the most safe and secure place to nap is on me. Of course he’s right, but doggone it I have other things to do, Baby!
For months I tried laying him down to sleep. Huh uh, no way. Homeboy wakes up the second his little body touches the mattress. This inspires an odd mothering phenomenon where you experience a jolt of adrenaline and it triggers your fight or flight response. Peachy! So I have a darling wide awake baby and a ragefest going on inside of me because I can neither fight nor fly.
Every. Single. Nap.
Every. Single. Day.
I don’t know much, but I do know that months of suppressed rage do not make for a well-adjusted, loving mother. They do make for a burned-out, desperate mother.
The battle became my life. It consumed me, as an unattainable goal tends to do. Through it all, Enzo never seemed to care what he was doing to me. He didn’t mind losing sleep, and as long as he was awake I had to entertain him so he wouldn’t wake his sister with his shrieking.
I am lucky to have two people in my life who consistently remind me to give up. These people are surprisingly important. If everyone in your life tells you you can do it, try harder, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you need to look for some new people. Because maybe you can’t or shouldn’t and maybe there isn’t.
These life coaches of mine both advised something along the lines of “Why are you killing yourself over this? Just hold him.”[DUH-face emoji]
If every magazine and parenting expert and source of conventional wisdom says you must put your baby to sleep in his crib for everyone’s safety and sanity, but doing so destroys all safety and sanity in your home, it’s time to throw out the conventional wisdom! If you’re thinking this is ridiculously obvious, I’m glad you’re my friend. I love people who see unconventional solutions. I’m not even a conventional kind of person, but as a new parent, there are so many things that are programmed in your brain as “The Way” and it’s hard to recognize when they’re The Wrong Way. You need a Give Up Coach. Someone who says let the baby win this one and everyone in your life will benefit.
Now I set Fiona up with coloring or “reading” or a movie and I lay down with Enzo to put him to sleep. As long as he doesn’t get put down at any point in his nap, he sleeps (for the most part) like an angel. Sure, sometimes I come out of the bedroom to find every shoe and book in our whole house strewn about the living room (c’est la vie!), but just as often I come out to find Fiona asleep on her coloring book.
This experiment has been going on for a few months now, and my family has been relieved to say goodbye to Raging Mom. Now I am less desperate for a hot meal, a book with real pages, or uninterrupted chore time. ‘Cause guess what! A body that isn’t constantly in a state of fight or flight is generally more at peace. Say what now?!
So I say forget the rules, forget the parenting advice. Give up every now and then! Forfeit a battle! Every company that wants to sell something to moms will say you need to do something nice for yourself. That almost always requires hiring a babysitter or buying something you couldn’t justify otherwise. But if you really want to be nice to yourself, stop trying to pound yourself into the same hole everyone else is in. Stop sacrificing your precious brain cells and tears on the altar of The Way It’s Supposed to be Done.
You’re allowed to give up. That, my friends, is freedom and hope and self-care, right there. Give it a try.
And if you don’t believe me, take your advice from the words of Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler – which is clearly about parenting a baby:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done
(If you have time on your hands, watch the 1978 music video. It has even more priceless parenting advice.)
Mom to two little ones who are way cuter than they have any right to be. Locavore, bibliophile, ambivert. Lover of architecture, the desert, and raisins. Caffeine free. Probably hangry right now.
I wrote about desert landscaping and urban water conservation in my former life.