The Stir recently published an interesting article examining the reasons that parents lie about co-sleeping, which got me thinking about how parents lie about their children’s sleep, period. It’s astonishing to me how many parents do not share their struggles, or are afraid to ask for help when they need it, all because of embarrassment, shame, or a fear that their “friends” will figure out that they’re not perfect.
And it’s not just parents who choose to co-sleep that keep a tight lip…it seems to be everyone. I can’t count the number of parents who tell me that they don’t want their friends to find out that their baby doesn’t sleep…even when they’re seeking help or working on sleep coaching. This situation continually saddens me, and yet, it’s not all that surprising. It seems that parenting is getting more competitive, when it should be a team sport, in my opinion.
I think that those parents who choose to co-sleep have a doubly hard time. If a family chooses to co-sleep safely, and it works for them, then that’s great! To me, it doesn’t matter if your baby sleeps with you (safely), in a crib or bassinet in your room, or in their own crib in their own room. It’s when no one is sleeping that I start to worry, and shouldn’t we all be able to ask for help free of judgment?
Why are so many parents lying about their child’s sleep? I have a few theories:
It’s hard to hear that little Johnny sleeps wonderfully…and has from the moment that his mommy brought him home from the hospital, when your daughter hasn’t slept well and you’re at your wits end. While I do not think that parents do this intentionally, hearing about what a wonderful sleeper a child has been from “day one” can be hard-especially when I know that most newborn babies, if not all, wake every few hours to eat.
You know what? That mom that says her child is a perfect sleeper isn’t lying…she just has a different definition of perfect. While some babies do start sleeping longer stretches earlier on, they are few and far between (yet those are the ones we hear the most about). Most babies under 6 months old wake a night, or have some type of napping issue, which can be resolved once they’ve developed the ability to self-soothe, which happens right around 6 months.
Fear of Judgment
In a culture that judges parents regardless of their parenting choices, be it attachment parenting, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, co-sleeping, or working mom, it seems that no matter our parenting decisions, we’re accosted at every turn with someone who “does it better.”
What moms often forget is that every child is different. I have two daughters, and they’re night and day. Those of you with multiple children can attest that each child has a very unique personality, and I’d bet that they even have different sleep needs.
Next time you’re worried that you’ll be judged because your son doesn’t nap as well as someone else’s child, remember that every child is unique, and that with a little sleep coaching, you can help to make your child the best napper and sleeper he can possibly be.
I think the biggest reason parent’s don’t talk about their children’s sleep problems is because with social media there is an air of perfection. People post their “lives”…but we forget that those posts are very selective, and really, they’re just highlights of everyone’s days. Yes, there are some toddlers who never throw a tantrum, but they are rare.
Remember, your friends don’t post about how they gained 5 pounds over the past few weeks, or that her toddler is currently in the throes of a world-shattering tantrum. Maybe she hates her job, or feels like she’s failing as a parent…or maybe she secretly co-sleeps because she’s also afraid of what everyone would think.
And finally, I think that many parents fear backlash about their parenting choices, especially if it goes against the flow. Nobody likes to be criticized or feel like they have to defend their decision- no matter what the topic.
Fear of Repercussions
With some, sleep training has garnered a bad reputation, one that likely evokes screaming, crying children calling desperately for their mama. But not all sleep coaching is like that. I couldn’t stand to hear my babies cry, and I am betting that you don’t like it either. This is why with the help of gentle sleep coaching techniques, like The Shuffle, you won’t have to worry about hysterics.
So how can we get past the negative feelings and fear of judgment? I find that it helps to have a safe place to communicate your concerns, frustrations, and worries. Whether that’s a trusted friend, moms group, my Facebook Page, or on of my Gentle Sleep Courses, find somewhere that you feel comfortable talking about your child’s sleep struggles so that you can get the support you need and help your child sleep better…without worrying about what everyone is going to think.
Remember, helping your entire family sleep is all about what works and is safe for you and your little ones. It doesn’t matter what I think, or your Facebook friends, or your mom’s group has to say-if it works for you, and everyone is sleeping well, then you’re doing great. If you’re struggling with sleep, though, look for support to help you through the process. Remember, there is hope. It’s never too late to seek gentle, supportive help without fear of judgment.
photo credit: Quasic via photopin cc