Mum guilt is one of the biggest issues I come across with a lot of the families I work with. So much of what I do is working with mums, literally with the mums, not the little ones. Yes I am the expert at sleep and different sleep techniques and the science behind all of them blah blah blah. But mums are the experts on their little ones. They are often so finely tuned to their babies, toddlers and not so little ones that they could tell you a thousand things about what one little pause or little gesture means.
So why can’t you get your little one to sleep? What’s wrong with you as a mum? Why can everyone else do it and not you? It must be because you’re a rubbish mum. WRONG!! And I’ll tell you why;
As mums I think it is in our genetic makeup to beat ourselves up, daily, over every little thing. And in a way I get it, it’s like evolutions way of driving us to do the best we can. If you are a mum who has a paid job outside the home you feel guilty for not seeing your little ones enough. If your job is looking after your little ones and your home (which is more than a full time job!) you feel guilty for not doing enough with them, for not being Mary Poppins and for not actually enjoying it all the time.
We, as mums, also overthink everything way to often. Much like overtiredness is the enemy of sleep, overthinking is often the enemy of parenting. Don’t get me wrong of cause we have to think about things, but we don’t have to overthink them. So what if your kids have beans on toast for dinner with not a veggie in sight? So what if you don’t get time to neatly iron every single item of clothing they own? It doesn’t make you any less good at being a mum.
In fact I strongly believe that it is beneficial for our little ones to see us struggle, to understand that imperfection is acceptable, to show them how we overcome our obstacles, and do it with confidence. Because if all we show them is the completely together, never faltering, completely perfect parent we are setting them up for a fail because not only is it unrealistic, it will leave them wondering how to cope and manage their lives when they have their own struggles.
We also care far to much about what is “normal”. What’s normal for one child may be completely different to other children. I am lucky enough to have three amazing boys and each one of them is completely different. Not because I have changed as a parent or learned how to “do things better”. They are just completely different children and different people. We don’t eat, sleep and enjoy exactly the same things as everybody else so why should our little ones. We put so much pressure on ourselves for them to fit in this box we call “normal”, when normal doesn’t really exist. Some babies naturally sleep through the night from a very young age. Some little ones still need the nutrition of a night feed at the age of 18 months. Both completely normal,
So what has this got to do with sleep? Many of the families I work with have a pretty good understanding of what is likely to be the issue that needs to be changed. A lot of the time they have a pretty good idea how to fix it too. The problem is that we overthink it, blames ourselves because obviously it’s something we are doing wrong that’s causing this, and because it’s our fault we don’t have the confidence to correct it.
It’s really common for mums to have tried several different techniques to try and help their little ones sleep before they contact me. But again, the problem with it is their mum guilt. Their mum guilt stops them from being consistent. Our little ones may protest or get upset with the change and our guilt kicks in and tells us we are doing and even worse job now because they are upset and we really have messed this up big time now. And so the cycle of poor sleep habits continues.
Our little ones LOVE routine and consistency. Even when it doesn’t work particularly well for them they would still rather do what they have always done because that is what they know, it’s predictable, and it’s safe. So changing a part of their lives, particularly when it comes to sleep, can be unsettling and upsetting for them. It is our job as parents to be confident, reassuring, supportive and nurturing when it comes to change.
So when we drop the mum guilt and bring back the confident, kick arse, superhero, rock and roll star mums that we are, miracles can happen. Being confident in your plan means you will be consistent with it. Being confident means you will be able to reassure them that this change is for the better and it is not something to worry about or be scared of. Being confident means we can fully support and really nurture them, both emotionally and physically, through these changes. And when we are able to do all these things, our little ones relax, feel secure, and adapt a lot more quickly than most parents expect them too,
Getting a good nights sleep is one of the best things we can give our little ones and ourselves. It’s just as important as eating a healthy diet and having plenty of exercise. So please, stop blaming yourself. Stop thinking your situation is beyond help. Stop overthinking it. Be confident that you can do it, it is achievable and your little ones will be better off for it.
You have got this!