Last updated on July 3rd, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Trying To Get Parenting Right Gives Us Parenting Anxiety


Alison Escalante, MD joins us as a guest writer to talk about parenting anxiety. Alison is a pediatrician, mother, and TEDx speaker. She has reached hundreds of thousands of parents with her TEDx talk “The Should Storm”, and she has also starred on our podcast, The Gentle Parenting Show. Her new book, Sigh, See, Start: How To Be The Parent Your Child Needs In a World That Won’t Stop Pushing is available now.


Parenting is exhausting and even more so when you get a kid who won’t sleep. As a pediatrician I thought I knew all the sleep tips and they worked great with my oldest. But then my second child came along. Suddenly, nothing worked. When we asked around we got lots of advice about what we should do, much of it conflicting. My husband and I tried a few different sleep methods, but we were too exhausted to stick with them, and we hated hearing our child cry endlessly. In the end, the we were left feeling like we had failed our child. That if we had only gotten it right, he’d be a great sleeper. My mother stress was through the roof, and, unfortunately, I didn’t meet The Sleep Lady until years after I needed her.

parenting anxiety

Of course, I knew I shouldn’t blame myself for my child’s sleep difficulties. After all, my first son responded easily to the usual methods and was a perfect sleeper. But if there is one thing our culture tells mothers, it is that everything that goes wrong with our kids is our fault. Many years later we learned the medical reason my son wasn’t sleeping, and it had nothing to do with us! Nor was it something the doctors could have figured out while he was younger.

I call our culture of parenting a “ShouldStorm” that bombards us with perfectionism, criticism, anxiety and shame. It constantly pesters us with shoulds and should nevers that are inconsistent with each other while claiming we have to get it just
right. And no matter how much wear ourselves out doing for our kids, we are never doing enough. This is so unhealthy for parents and kids and it’s stealing our joy.

Just like there is no one size fits all approach to sleep, there is no one size fits all path to right parenting. Really, there is no right parenting at all. That’s because great parenting is all about knowing and connecting with the child we have, not the one we are told we should have. It’s about giving that child what they genuinely need, not what we’ve been told they should have.

How To Manage Parenting Anxiety?

How do we get past all the mother stress and the parenting anxiety to ignore the ShouldStorm and know our child? We need a tool to build our confidence, and that’s what I spent over a decade developing. A clear 3 step method that helps us parent sunder pressure, and I wrote about it in my new book. Sigh, See, Start: How To Be The Parent Your Child Needs In a World That Won’t Stop Pushing is available now from your favorite bookseller. 

This science-based method is both surprisingly simple and easy to remember in the middle of parenting anxiety, and a powerful tool for mindful parenting. Here’s how it works:

SIGH: In moments of parental overwhelm, take a breath all the way into your belly. Imagine it’s a sigh of relief. Sighs help you stop and center yourself instead of reacting to the “should” in your head. 

SEE: Notice what’s going on. See your child. Are they happy? Are they close to tears? Are their fists balled in anger?

START: Then, and only then, start listening, and start thinking about what an appropriate reaction would be. Do they need a hug? Some space? Something else?

Parents who use Sigh, See, Start find that should-free parenting lowers everyone’s stress. They tell me that their own sense of confidence in their skills as a parent grows quickly. As the book shows with stories from different parents and kids, Sigh, See, Start is anything but one size fits all. It’s a new approach that’s all about knowing the child you have, and adapting to the different needs of each child. Instead of trying to get our parenting right, let’s Sigh, See, and Start parenting joyfully. Buy the book here.

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!