My husband walked in the door for lunch and there I was sitting in the recliner with tears rolling down my face, again, as I held my sleeping newborn. “This wasn’t my plan,” I whimpered.
Even though he didn’t understand my emotional state (thanks hormones), he came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder as a sign of support and attempted understanding. I explained that I read all the parenting books and blogs and knew that I didn’t want to get in the habit of holding our son for sleep. I knew the hard-to-break pattern it could create. I knew that he couldn’t possibly get great quality sleep in my arms.
I just knew better.
On a daily basis, I see a handful of desperation posts created by frustrated parents popping up on my Facebook news feed. They are looking for advice or opinions about how they should handle a problem with their child.
Three Main Areas of Frustration for Parents
Here are the three things I see the most:
A sleeping post may look something like this…
“I am so frustrated because my 18-month-old has been sleeping in my bed since the day he was born! He has always refused to sleep in his own crib so I just end up bringing him into my bed. How do I get him to sleep in his own bed!?”
An eating post may look like this…
“My kid only eats cookies! He refuses to eat anything else! I end up giving in because he has to eat SOMETHING right?!”
A behavior post usually goes something like…
“Why does my 4-year-old scream and cry when I tell him no?! Every time he begs for something in a store and I say no, he throws a giant tantrum! I usually end up getting it for him just so he will stop embarrassing me.”
Do You See the Trend?
The parent always ends up giving in. They are taking the easy way out NOW and not thinking about how they are setting themselves up for much more difficult times down the road.
I am a natural planner. I like to have a plan set in place BEFORE I get to a certain situation so I can better handle it with intention. I can make sure it aligns with my overall vision and expectations.
I love my sleep. I NEED my sleep. Don’t we all!? This was not an area I was willing to compromise on. I researched baby sleep like a crazy woman during my pregnancy and made sure that I knew exactly what to expect from my newborn, how to set him up for good quality sleep, and how to handle any bumps in the road.
Let’s just say, maternity leave was NOT the vacation I had envisioned…
Even though my brain felt very prepared, my BODY was not! I was in physical pain (c-section), exhausted, and emotionally drained. I was doing everything the books and blogs told me to and it was SO HARD!
There were plenty of times where I thought about giving in and a few times where I temporarily did.
- It would be so much easier if I just fed him until he’s in a deep sleep.
- It would be so much easier if I just let him sleep in my bed with me.
- It would be so much easier if I didn’t have to follow a daily Eat-Play-Sleep routine.
But At What Cost?
- A one-year-old who still requires me to get up and feed him a bottle in order to fall asleep multiple times during the night?
- A two-year-old who still sleeps in bed with me while my husband sleeps on the couch?
- A crabby baby who doesn’t get the quality sleep needed for his brain and body development?
You will end up paying the price. I knew that. So I chose to give up the easy NOW for the easy LATER.
The Mindset That Made All the Difference
If I could just push through the tears (mine not his), fight through the exhaustion, and trudge through the trenches right NOW, then maybe I could enjoy motherhood just a little bit more down the road. I wouldn’t be desperately trying to break bad habits that I let myself get into in the first place.
It’s a lot easier (but by no means easy) to prevent bad habits from forming than to break them later on when they’ve been engrained.
I kept this in mind every single day when I was faced with a million little decisions. I asked myself if my action would affect my overall goal. If I determined that it would, then I figured out a different option.
Trust me, there were plenty of bumps in the road and times where I DIDN’T make the right decisions. I am human. It was hard for me to accept that (is it obvious that I’m a bit of a perfectionist too?!).
The Key to Success
I think a huge part of this is planning for how you will handle those bumps. What if something doesn’t go according to the plan? Then you have to step back, analyze the problem, and find solutions that still align to your overall goal. If you don’t have a plan for those unexpected events, then you will more likely fall back into the bad habits. Start thinking about some what-ifs.
For example, what if you want your child to sleep in his own crib, but every time you lay him down he starts crying?
Do a little research and figure out which method works best for you. Maybe it’s patting his back while he’s in his crib until he’s calm and comfortable. Maybe it’s purchasing a white noise machine and a blackout shade so his environment is conducive to good sleep.
Plan ways to handle the bumps so you don’t compromise your original goal.
Original Plan No Longer Working for You?
Sometimes the best option is to scrap the old one and come up with a new one that still fits your overall goal, but maybe allows a little more wiggle room. I was adamant about avoiding sleep props (i.e. feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, etc) from the get-go, buuuuuut that didn’t quite work out. I realized I needed to calm the heck down and adjust my plan so it better fit our needs and situation.
My new plan was to walk my baby around the room until he fell asleep, BUT only until he was 4-months old (in anticipation of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression!). At 4 months old I would do some gentle sleep training to teach him to fall asleep on his own. And that’s exactly what we did. Worked like a charm.
Don’t beat yourself up for minor setbacks. Simply adjust the plan. Find a different route to your ultimate goal.
Parenting is super hard. No matter what stage you’re at, there’s always something that makes it more difficult than the previous stage. My son is only 16 months old and I know there are PLENTY of tough stages ahead! I’ve chosen areas that I am not willing to compromise well before getting to them. Will everything go perfectly as planned? Of course not! But I have my ultimate goal in mind and can be flexible in the ways I get there.
Write it Down
Sometimes it helps to write down your goals, your expectations, your no compromise areas to make it a little more permanent. Feel free to utilize the FREE worksheet in my resource library and hang it up on the fridge as a daily reminder!
Nobody is perfect. We are all learning and doing the best we can. Sometimes all it takes is a little planning to help us feel secure in our daily decisions when our brains are completely frazzled!
- Define your no-compromise areas
- Make a plan
- Prepare for the bumps
- Re-strategize if needed
- Remind yourself of the end goal
What are some bad habits you regret getting into? What are some of your no-compromise areas?