If you're reading this, you may be feeling hopeless that you'll never sleep again. I'm sorry. I know. It sucks. It really, really sucks in the not funny, losing-your-mind kind of way. But good news: there is hope.
Even if you've tried everything, even if you've read every book and tried every sleep training method under the sun, there is hope. Though all the branded sleep-training strategists will try to convince you that their system is best, there is no right or wrong way to teach your baby to sleep. You are the expert -- all you need is permission to throw the books away, and believe that you're in charge. If you haven't seen what happens to parents who read every baby sleep expert book, in a nutshell, here's the (hilarious) story.
Though I'm adamantly against all of these branded baby sleep books, with their confoundingly complex sleep-training methods and systems (which lead nearly every desperately sleep-deprived family to repeated failure), I reluctantly wrote my own new e-book.The title, "Three Vital Steps To Help Your Baby Sleep", cracks me up because it's really the antithesis to everything else you will read and very different than a simple 3 step cure. I just wanted people to read it (therefore the annoyingly catchy title). Though it actually DOES include 3 Vital Steps, they're not what you think. It's all part of my evil plan to actually provide something useful that won't make families feel like crap, but actually help them sleep. I'm reserving some free copies for my community, so send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with E-BOOK in the subject bar, and I'll send you a copy - my gift!
Meanwhile, I give you permission to burn all your other books. Henceforth, you will have no need for them. :)
I'm leaving my family to spend a week on the beach with a girlfriend. No kids, no interruptions, no cooking, care-taking, whining or guilt. You may not be ready or able to take a real retreat like this, but it's up to you to find a way to get out, so you can come home a happier, healthier, more rested person. Check out my best-kept escape secrets below, then schedule something for yourself today!
You both have jobs, but only one of you gets paid. There’s a common myth that the Bread Winner has a harder job, but it's just not true. I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I guarantee that childfree office work is a trillion times easier. I was shocked when my former boss tap-danced into the office on Mondays, openly giddy to be free of diapers and tantrums. I get it now. The harsh truth is that parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.
I don’t care if you're a banker or lawyer or candlestick maker, you Bread Winners get to leave, you get a break, you can pee whenever you want, your work has material value, and you don't feel like a loser when you can’t manage a shower or finish folding massive mounds of laundry.
So the next time you wonder why your spouse is so stressed when you come home from your relaxing office job, think twice before you ask why. Instead, I dare you to swap jobs for a week and see how it feels to be needed 24/7, to have your work focused exclusively on naps, puke and poops. You will learn a lot, and your marriage will benefit, because you will finally understand what it feels like to walk in your partner’s shoes.
You lovingly rocked and shushed and soothed your newborn, and have likely enjoyed many peaceful moments while she slept in your arms. You learned to ever so gently to lay her down, and it worked – for a while. Then sometime between 4-7 months, you find that you can’t get her to fall asleep so easily, and your previously peaceful sleep routine turns into a 45-90 minute ordeal. Suddenly, no amount of nursing, rocking, bouncing and shushing works, and no matter what you try, she wakes up screaming the minute you put her down. Repeat 8-12 times, night and day, and you end up feeling like you’re in a bottomless pit with no way out. I've been there, I know.
First of all, you haven’t done anything wrong. You’ve been helping your baby sleep, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if it stops working and you find that your entire life revolves around trying to get your baby to sleep, then maybe something needs to change.
I’d like to invite you to think about how your baby sleeps, and be honest with yourself. Do you really think you’re helping her sleep with all the bouncing and shushing and nursing and rocking? Is it helpful to go in and out of the room, pick her up and put her down, over and over again, while she’s trying to fall asleep?
If any of this resonates with you, maybe you can give yourself permission to simply DO LESS. I’m not saying you should send her off to boarding school at 5 months old, but can you simply pull back a little bit, and empower her to feel 100% secure and safe falling asleep without all your help?
You're a new parent, and you're trying to roll with all the constant changes. One day you think you have it all under control, the next you feel like you've totally lost it. You can barely get out of the house and shower daily, and the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on you. This is unfortunately one of the hardest parts of your journey, and an impossible problem to solve. The only way to really cope with all the changes is to embrace it, and know that every time you get into a good groove, something else will change. If you’re emotionally prepared, it might feel a teensy bit easier, but not much.
If you like predictability and routine (like me), you will spend much of your time trying to organize and control everything. That’s fine if it makes you feel better (it does for me), but one thing that will NOT change for the foreseeable future is that you no longer have control over most aspects of your daily life. You will try your best to be the Perfect Mom, to have everything in order so you feel more relaxed; you will have good days and bad days, and few of them will feel totally successful.
The more you allow yourself to let go, accept that your new life is chaos, know there's nothing you do to make it Perfect, the better you will feel. Embrace it, because basically, you have no other choice!
Yesterday, I spoke with a new mom who’s having a rough time. She’s at home with her 7 month old, breastfeeding, doing all the childcare, night parenting, and guilt-ridden for not feeling very happy. Naturally, she loves her son, grateful for the opportunity to be with him, but she feels trapped, lonely, and like every other mom is having more fun. Sometimes it’s so bad she gets into the shower at the end of the day and just cries. She’s crippled by sleep-deprivation, her husband works 12 hours a day, and doesn’t get how awful she feels. He gets to go to work, which is by far the easier job.
A few years ago, when my kids were 2 and 4, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years. He was divorced with no kids, and was so genuinely excited to hear all about my family. “Wow, you’re a Mom,” he said. “That’s amazing! What’s it like?”
My response was a shock, like a bucket of ice water thrown at my face. “I don’t like it at all,” I said, with far too much honesty.
His face fell. His jaw dropped. And I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. Moms aren’t allowed to feel this way, certainly not allowed to say it out loud.
I began dog-paddled backwards,“Of course I love my kids, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but…Diapers? Mopping up vomit? Bleeding nipples and breast pumps? Being awakened repeatedly through the night and at 5-6am daily for four consecutive years?”
No, the truth is that I like nothing about the actual job, yet I love my kids more than anything else in the world. So I do it anyway, even if I hate it sometimes.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I urge you to be honest with other moms. Write about it. Go on camera and tell the truth. Perhaps if we didn’t expect that mothering would be the most joyous time of our lives, we wouldn’t feel so blindsided and guilt-ridden.
Moving into 2012, I'm taking the opportunity to reflect on 2011, celebrate accomplishments and failures, to learn and grow, reconnect with my husband, and move joyfully forward into the new year with renewed passion and commitment to live from my heart, to follow my dreams, to be fully present and mindful, to keep striving for better balance in all aspects of life, and pass that spirit and optimism onto my family.
You may resolve to recommit to your health, pursue a new passion, reinvent your career, improve your marriage, or whatever you want to achieve in the new year. But when you set your resolutions or goals or whatever you call them, do you ever hear a subconscious whisper of doubt or fear, that you will fail to achieve your goals? It may be so faint you don't hear it, or maybe it's not there at all and you truly believe that you can accomplish ANYTHING you put your mind to. If that's the case, congratulations, you are a rare and exceptional person! Most of us, however, doubt our potential and have a deep-rooted fear of failure.
So I ask myself today, how is this year different? How will I possibly accomplish everything I want to do? Can I really live the life I've always dreamed of? Can I change the things I want to change and lead my family by being an inspirational role model? What fears might prevent me from achieving my goals, and being the mindful mother and woman I want to be?
Life is humbling sometimes, but humility, gratitude and optimism are what propel me forward, to believe that I really can do whatever I set my mind to do.
Thank you 2012 for the opportunity to reach for the stars, and truly believe that I can make all my dreams come true.
Maybe you've never felt this, or maybe you simply can't admit it to yourself. But have you ever looked around your home—surrounded by diapers and strollers and sippy cups—and felt like you were trapped in a bad film? Have you ever woken up and thought (while your child is endlessly whining and demanding your undivided attention), My God! What have I done? I have. Many times.
My childless girlfriend casually said one day, "Oh you probably can't even remember what it was like before kids..." Um, no, not exactly, I thought. I honestly DO remember life without kids, and frankly, I miss it sometimes. I miss sleeping in and the Sunday Times and spontaneous adventures and a life without constant interruptions!
Don't get me wrong. I love being a mom and I wouldn't trade my kids or life for anything else. But if I'm honest with myself, being a parent is a lot of undocumented, hard work, with very low ROI (return on investment), and it's not glamorous. Not at all.
My solution? Have a life of your own outside your family (I'm literally writing from a hammock on a Mexican island with aforementioned childless friend). It will give you the opportunity to miss your kids, and be fully present when you return. So go ahead, leave your family every once in a while! I promise it will be worth every moment you are away, and your family CAN survive for a few days without you.
I write and think a lot about work/family balance, and how difficult it is to find you’re groove. Whether you’re the primary caretaker, work at home or in an office, it’s hard to find enough time to get it all done without having a nervous breakdown. (It’s normal, so stop beating yourself up about it!)
The question I’m thinking about today is not about how you should juggle X, Y or Z in order to find balance. The question is, are you HAPPY? Are you doing what you think you SHOULD or MUST do, or are you doing something that really INSPIRES you and brings you JOY? Are you living the life you want to model for your kids? Most of us don’t take the time to ask these questions, or put happiness on our priority list, but we should.
Because at the end of the day, your kids don’t care about the square footage of your home, the size of your stock portfolio, or the brand of your car. They just want unconditional love, and happy parents.
Seven years ago today, I became a mom. It was as humbling then as it is today. While I strive for a Utopian work-family balance, sometimes I feel like a miserable failure.
Reflecting back on those first days and weeks and months of motherhood, I can't say I enjoyed it much. I felt awful. I had extreme difficulty with breastfeeding; I felt overwhelmed and overly-anxious, lonely, crippled with sleep deprivation, and torn between staying home with my baby or going back to the job I previously loved. I felt plagued with guilt and fear, and suffered from severe postpartum depression. I slept about 8 hours a week for roughly 6 months. I thought I was losing my mind.
How I managed to get myself out of this is a long story, but somehow my husband and I were able to reinvent our lives from two parents with full-time jobs and a (wonderful) nanny, to two parents running home-based businesses and ample time for ourselves and our family.
Though often I feel like my family is totally out of balance (and always feel like it's my "fault" if we are), I endeavor to keep us all on track, and have ample time/space for everything, everyone, and be fully present in every moment.
It's extremely challenging to cultivate balance, and feel happy in all aspects of our lives, but I truly believe it's possible. I have a long, detailed strategy of how I balance family and work, but even with all my lists and systems and strategies, it doesn't always work.
In those moments, when everything comes unraveled, I try to not judge myself, because that's just the way it is with kids sometimes. It's a mess, and it's magic, all at the same time.
So all this is to say, keep striving for balance, people. I believe we CAN enjoy our work and family and ourselves, if we make it our top priority.