Real Confessions of Semi-Rural Housewives

It’s burning me up inside, and I have to get it out.

I have never read a parenting book.

I have, in desperation, looked up precisely one chapter from each parenting book that I was given before my daughter was born. You know the one, it is entitled something like, “How to Get Your Child to Sleep.” Ha. Ha, ha ha.

When I was left sleepless after trying all the well-meaning advice of these books, I bemoaned the fact that I must be doing something wrong. What could I be doing wrong? Why wouldn’t my daughter sleep? Why did we have to carry her, night after night, just to get her to stop screaming? I truly was hard on myself. I figured that it must be some inadequacy in my parenting; my technique just wasn’t right. I stopped trying to look at the books, because they made me feel like I wasn’t a good mom (which I knew, looking at my happy-though-sleepless daughter, must not be true).

Then my son was born. When he was born, he cried like a good boy and then looked up at me with his squinty newborn eyes, snuggled into me and started nursing. They weighed him and he looked around the room. Then he nursed some more and went to sleep. Went to sleep. Just like that. No rocking, nothing. He fell asleep and slept, in his bassinet, for an hour or so and woke up to eat. After a few days, I started to fear something was wrong with him because he slept so much. Then I realized:

Some kids sleep. Some kids do not.

The Mother's Curse. Thanks a lot, Mom.

It was a “Eureka!” moment for me. I wasn’t an inept mom, unable to follow simple sleeping instructions. I was a mom like any other mom, trying to figure out what works for my own child. My unruly genetic material was the reason for the lack of sleep. The fact that I didn’t sleep until I was four years old was more likely the source of the lack of sleep than being unable to put my daughter down correctly, or not having the right sheets, or not putting her down at the right time. Some things just don’t work for everyone and I am going on a parenting book strike until I see one that says exactly that.

So, you want to know what worked for my child, the one who wouldn’t sleep? When I, (in the desperate realization that I was more dangerous to my daughter having not slept for 3 months than I would be by sleeping next to her), took all the pillows off of my bed and slept next to her, allowing her to nurse whenever she felt like it, all night long. It wasn’t great sleep, but it was sleep all the same. She wasn’t screaming, which was nice.

At three, my daughter still wakes at least twice most nights, needing to be hugged or to have a backrub to get back to sleep. What would the parenting books say about that? I don’t really care. She won’t be doing this when she goes to college. This time of being little is short, and we’re going to get through it however feels right for us.


12 thoughts on “Real Confessions of Semi-Rural Housewives

  1. Oh, don’t I know the self doubt and worries, thinking I am doing it all wrong with my daughter. It’s still an ongoing battle for me. I hope I get to experience what you had with your son.
    But I agree, they are only little for a short time. And while some nights when she wakes up, it is really difficult to deal with it, there are other times when I am thankful for that precious extra time with her.
    As far as parenting books; the few I have look brand new because I never had the time to read any of them after my daughter was born. With one exception: the chapters on sleep and soothing an infant look well used. I would skim through them over and over bleary eyed in the hope that I might find something new and useful. Never happened. It’s like you said, not everything they say works for every baby. We just have to figure it out on our own.

    • So true about the books, haha. The spines are broken in that one place…sleep! When I had my daughter, I went back to work full-time after six weeks, and she didn’t sleep for more than a 2 hour stretch until she was 19 months old. While it usually felt like torture because I was waking up as soon as I got to a really deep sleep, I was also thankful to see her at night because I didn’t get to be with her during the day. Hang in there, fellow non-sleeper! I wish that mommyhood came with badges.

  2. Good on you for recognising your own family’s rhythm! This is going to sound cynical but at the end of the day authors need to sell books. Even my doctor cautioned me about baby books when she saw ‘What to expect in the first year’ on the shelf with the other ‘It’s a Boy!’ gifts. Every time I had a concern I consulted a medical professional. Outside of that, I had to learn to go with the flow. Baby books that make you doubt your maternal effectiveness without consulting them reminds me of a quote (I can’t remember by whom) “what would happen to the cosmetic industry if every woman woke up tomorrow and were just happy with how they looked?”

    • That is such an astute observation. It’s so true, too, which is why I won’t read any more of them. I think that 90% of moms have a good maternal instinct if they just listen to themselves.
      I think that books/the Internet are probably so popular because we don’t have a culture where you are in constant contact with older women who have been through it before and can help you figure things out. Personally, I am very fortunate to have my mom nearby, but I could understand being pretty flummoxed if I didn’t. She also went through having a high-needs child (myself, sigh) and understands what it’s like.

  3. We just “met” not that long ago. But I love reading your posts and I value your comments because of your similar experiences. Which is why I gave you the Betsatile Blogger Award. Details are up on my blog. 🙂

  4. Wow, we’ve totally been there. I did the opposite of you and read EVERY book people recommended, friends, doctors, random mothers on the internet. Sometimes a technique would work for a while, and then it just wouldn’t all of a sudden, and that’s when I had my “Aha!” moment: it was my daughter who was changing; it wasn’t that I was doing something wrong. I’ve come to learn that everything is trial and error, and she’s just not going to be a great sleeper, like yours 🙂 Oh well. As long as they’re healthy and relatively pleasant during the day, I can live with that.

    – Evanthia

  5. Good for you! Every kid is different. I was braced for the worst because I didn’t sleep until I was three! Fortunately, our little fellow has mostly been a good sleeper. I have no doubt you are doing a fabulous job raising a wonderful little girl. And you are 100% right – they aren’t little for long, why not just enjoy every moment as best as you can? 🙂

    • Thanks! I’m glad to hear that you haven’t had a child “just like you” yet, haha! Strangely enough, most of the non-sleeping children I hear about are girls. It makes me wonder if girls are more prone to sleeplessness, or if I am just around a lot of women with boys who happen to sleep very well.

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