Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm admitting it (again!)

Back when I was pregnant and struggling ... I wrote this post: I'm Admitting It. What was I admitting? I was admitting that pregnancy was hard. That I stunk at it. I was done feeling judged. I just put it out there.

Since then, I have had a lot of moms speak up about their own "I'm Admitting It." One was a friend from Turkey, Laura. Laura wanted to admit that her seven month old doesn't sleep through the night. "I'm admitting it . . . my baby doesn't sleep through the night. And it doesn't bother me!"

Go Laura!

I'll be honest that Laura and I don't see eye-to-eye on this topic. I am unable to fully function without adequate sleep, and therefore midnight wakenings are something I feel the need to curb as quickly as possible. I wrote a two-part series which I entitled My Sleep Bible to share with people who wanted to know how we had gotten all four of our kiddos to sleep through the night by such young ages.

Despite our different approaches, I so related to what Laura wrote.

Laura enjoys that time with her daughter. She isn't in a hurry to end the feedings.

Should she be?

Heck no!

If it is working for her and her daughter, if they are enjoying this time together, and no one feels crabby and frustrated for lack of sleep, then who cares?

But mothers ... oh why must we ask these questions and offer unsolicited advice.

Last month I touched on another controversial-mom-topic: Is Breast Always Best?

In the comment discussion that ensued, my friend Casey mentioned that she doesn't think moms actually get rude to each other. Casey wrote: "To say that moms 'judge' other moms...while I am sure there are moms out there who do say rude things, I think a lot of the issues come from our personal sensitivities," Casey wrote.

I totally agree with what Casey said, but I have also realized that the feelings of judgment come because we have heard the ending response. We know how the response goes if we give the right answer. And we know (because we are not idiots) what the right answer is.

Take breastfeeding for example. Here is how the conversation usually goes:

"Are you breastfeeding?"
"Oh that's great. It's definitely best for the baby."

We have heard that conversation. So when we say "No", we know that the response from the other mother is not heartfelt.

"Are you breastfeeding?'
[fill in the blank with whatever response you want but you just know what they are really thinking]

So let's shift to the sleep-through-the-night debate.

"Does your baby sleep through the night yet?"
"Oh, isn't it wonderful? Mine slept through the night by ___ weeks too!"

So when the answer is "No," even if the person says something different, you know what they are thinking.

Laura's comment really hit home for me. I know that feeling of pressure that we put on ourselves as moms.

Laura writes: "I'd like her to sleep through the night; it would be great if I got uninterrupted sleep, but even though I have to get up in the morning to get to work, I don't mind it. People don't ask if it is working for us (which it is). When I say that 'No, she doesn't sleep through the night,' I usually get a question regarding how old she is. When I tell them seven months, 'Well, my baby slept through the night at six weeks.' And then I start putting pressure on myself to get her to sleep through the night. I dedicate myself to letting her cry it out at night or to putting her on a better schedule during the day, or whatever else I feel like I'm screwing up on any given day. And just like that, I'm into the mindset that every little thing I'm doing is completely wrong."

Laura recommends not recommending books to help her. She recommends not assuming that she hasn't done her homework. What she does recommend you do is to actually ask if it is working for her. And then maybe try saying something encouraging other than the typical "You're a great Mom" comment. "What I really feel like they are saying," Laura writes, "Is that I'm really good at other things even if I am not good at this."

"Don't get me wrong," Laura continues. "I want people to share their experience and advice with me. It's not always helpful or easy to hear, but I do want it. I love living in community with other moms who have been there before me. But I think we really need to live within these communities, above all, giving grace and freedom."


"I am doing my best," my friend Carla wrote when I posed the question to her. "I have my own thoughts how I do things, and I feel fairly secure with that. I think we are all going to question our methods along the way. That is when we need to inventory of how we parent, where our kids are in terms of development and needs, and where we want them to be. Is what we are doing going to impact them through life? Is it a stage they will grow out of?"

LOVE it!

I decided to pose this question to some other moms and ask them for advice on how Laura can properly answer this question. How can she explain that this is working for her and that she doesn't want their advice in a very nice way?

I loved some of their responses. Some of my favorites included:
  • Just lie and tell them the baby is sleeping. It's just easier that way.
  • When I got the question, I just smiled and said, "No he's not sleeping through the night. We some times get up 2 or 3 times a night. But I'm ok with it. We are nursing and bonding. I don't want to change that until he's ready. However, that's some great advice! Thank you." And then I change the subject ... fast.
  • I usually say "No she still wakes up 2-4 times a night, but don't I look fabulous?" Or "She knows how much I love Starbucks and is the best excuse for that habit ever."
  • I just say "Not yet" in a super nice (almost annoying voice) and then they stop asking. I always try the "kill them with kindness" approach. (If not I'll bite their heads off!)
  • I just always said that "Mine are not sleeping through the night, ALL children are different, and my doctor and I have discussed it and it's perfectly normal!" Don't worry by the time they are 16 they will be! 
  • Tell them to mind their own business! And then blame the rudeness on your lack of sleep! Ha! ha!
  • I would always keep in mind that, "sleeping through the night" means different things to different people. My sister-in-law would brag about her son sleeping through the night when he was six weeks old. Come to find out, her definition of sleeping through the night was waking in the night, nursing, and immediately going back to sleep. I think most pediatricians would say baby is sleeping through the night if he's sleeping a solid 6-8 hours. But, I never admitted my kids were sleeping through the night until my kids were sleeping 12 solid hours (all three, right around 1 year old).
  • I always said, "If you're concerned you can come over and wake up with her while I get a full night sleep."
  • Neither of mine slept through the night until 16 months. Usually, I'd make sure to answer in a happy voice that yep, she's still up occasionally at night and try not to make it out to be something I wanted advice on. Or if I did get advice, I'd say that I'd take their advice under consideration and then change the subject.
  • My eyes glaze over, I nod in auto-pilot and I patiently wait. This too shall pass, they WILL shut up. :)
  • Try "She isn't thank God! I'd miss those bonding moments."
  • A mentor mom from church told me that you don't have to tell everybody everything and shouldn't ... loved that advice!
Here is my absolute favorite response:
  • I never answered yes or no to this, unless it was someone I knew and wouldn't mind an opinion. I'd simply say "he's doing just great with eating and sleeping, he's growing perfectly and is a happy boy, which is just one of the many indications of what a good baby he is." No one ever asked or pushed to know more after that. It's a question that can make us feel bad as moms, especially first-timers, but unfortunately it's just a societal thing we deal with.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, thank you. To me, it seems the questions themselves ("Is he sleeping through the night?" and "Are you breastfeeding her?") are asked by people who want to compare themselves against others, usually to give themselves a pat on the back.

My mother would always ask me if I were still breastfeeding my baby and compare it against my sister-in-law who breastfed until her baby was two. She would also ask whether I still gave a bottle of formula at night. Although nothing was said, the judgement to me felt implied.

My technique finally evolved into giving one word answers and then changing the subject to show my choices were not up for discussion. The same went for when we put her in daycare when she was a year old and later preschool - where she absolutely thrived.

Unless someone is asking such a question to receive advice, I give the same sort of answer. It may seem cold but while I am happy to discuss how our family operates, I am not going to defensively justify my decisions, even if sometimes I feel like it.

The bottom line for us is that we have a happy family. It is hard enough not to judge myself for every small mistake or question every decision. I do not need the added insecurity of opening myself up to additional implied judgement from others.

I sometimes wonder if as women, we get so used to harshly judging ourselves that we don't even realize when we are doing it to others as well.

Laura said...

This was so well-written, and I LOVED reading the possible responses... My favorite being to tell them to mind their own business, and then blame it on the lack of sleep. :)

There are so many ways to put pressure on myself as a first-time mom, so it's always so good to hear from people that say it's okay that things are the way they are.

Traci said...

Whenever I feel judged I just remind myself, "no one will ever know them, or love them like I do"!
Oh, and I rocked my son to sleep until he was too long to fit in the chair with old? 2 and 1/2.....I cherished every moment and miss those quiet times together.