Tag Archives: bed sharing

‘Let’s play sleeping’

Last night, both of my children slept for 12 blissful hours, I had an unbroken night and I now feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Ha ha ha ha!

Forgive me – my mind momentarily wandered into the realm of fantasy.

Of course they didn’t. And of course I don’t.

Sleep is a fairly contentious subject when broached in the presence of a parent of small children. Because, chances are, they aren’t getting enough.

As a runner, I’m well aware the golden rule when upping your mileage is to ensure you’re getting enough quality shut-eye, in order to aid recovery – yet another reason why I now breathe a monumental sigh of relief that I decided to pull out of this spring’s marathon. Because let’s face it, I could do all the training I like, but these days, when it comes to gently resting my head on a pillow every night, closing my eyes and switching off – well, it’s kind of out of my hands, isn’t it? My nights are now very much dictated by the two little sleep thieves I have created.

When it comes to night-time, they’re not bad bad. They’re just… well, not exactly brilliant.

The current routine includes the three year old needing to get up for a wee at some point in the early hours, with an occasional nightmare that requires cuddles and gentle reassurance to help him drift back to sleep. Pretty standard stuff.

The baby? Well. She is developing a far more creative bedtime schedule. She sleeps in our bed with us – a deliberate choice that we made from the start and are sticking with for now. Having her close feels right (although I’m aware this isn’t for everyone) and ensures she sleeps peacefully (she’s a bit like a cute hot water bottle), waking only to feed several times before settling down once more.

This, at least, is the theory. And in all honesty, for the most part it’s how it goes.

Apart from those nights when, for no clear reason, she wakes when it is still blatantly the middle of the night and starts making sweet ‘wake up Mummy it’s morning’ gurgles (at least, they would be sweet if it wasn’t THREE O’CLOCK IN THE SODDING MORNING! GO BACK TO SLEEP!).

Apart from those nights when she misjudges a midnight kiss on the cheek and head butts me instead, resulting in a rude awakening and a fat lip for Mummy.

Apart from those nights when she simply has to sleep in the shape of a starfish, slap bang in the middle of the bed, leaving me and my husband clinging to the edges like something out of Cliffhanger.

Apart from those nights when she decides to creep slowly up the pillow and do her Darth Vader impression directly into my ear, scaring the sh*t out of me.

As you can see, co-sleeping has its pitfalls.

So it was last week when, after a particularly bad night (three night wakings from the boy; five night wakings from the baby) I felt – how shall I put this? – f*cking shattered. I’d valiantly battled through a morning of painting and Play-Doh, supported heavily by my sponsors, Caffeine and Sugar. But by mid-afternoon, I was fading.

‘What’s wrong Mummy,’ my son asked.

‘Mummy’s very tired,’ I replied, stifling a yawn.

‘Poor Mummy. I know! Let’s play sleeping!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I never once believed any actual sleep would take place during the course of this game, but the opportunity to shut my eyes – even for just 20 seconds – was too appealing to pass up.

‘Good idea,’ I replied. ‘I’ll sleep here [positioning myself horizontally on the sofa]. Night night.’ And I closed my eyes.

‘No Mummy! NOOOOO! Get OFF! This is MY bed! You need to sleep on the floor. Like bunk beds!’

Okaaaay, not ideal, but hell, if it still involved some kind of closed-eye situation, I’d take it.

I dutifully slunk onto the floor (leaving my pride on the sofa). The baby started hammering a xylophone with a piece of Duplo. Not perfect, admittedly, but once I closed my eyes it was a good enough approximation.

Silence. For five seconds.

‘And now Mummy,’ a little voice declared loudly, ‘I’ll jump on you.’

‘Oka… wait? What?’

I should be thankful, I suppose. He did warn me.

Sleep

She’ll sleep well anywhere. Apart from in bed.

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Not perfect? That’s perfectly fine…

The other evening, I sat down for dinner with my children. It looked like this: the two-year-old was eating a waffle and fish fingers. With lots of ketchup. The baby was being spoon fed straight from a jar of puree. We were sitting on the sofa in front of the telly. We weren’t even watching some sort of educational CBeebies offering… we were glued to Dragons: Riders Of Berk.

I’ll be honest – this wasn’t quite how I’d pictured mealtimes, back in the days when I was enthusiastically whizzing up a homemade puree out of an organic butternut squash.

A few years ago, I would have been mortified at the current scene (which admittedly is not every mealtime, but is regular enough that I couldn’t legitimately call it a ‘rare occurrence’). But you know what? Something has changed.

I’ve dropped the guilt.

This wasn’t even a conscious decision. It happened when my daughter was born. It happened because, frankly, running around after two children instead of just the one – and once more being on call during the night as well as the day – I simply don’t have time to worry any more. I don’t have time to worry whether the TV has been on for an hour more than it ‘should’ have been; whether all meals have been made from scratch; whether not taking my youngest to baby yoga/baby ballet/baby sign language/baby sensory classes is going to somehow stunt her development; and I certainly don’t have time to worry about how everyone else is raising their children – and how I compare. Ultimately, however parents get through the day, we are all doing the best we can for our children. And if that means a ‘from the freezer’ meal while glued to The Bedtime Hour to avoid meltdowns every so often most evenings, then that works for me. After all, tummies are getting filled and my children are happy. So now, rather than beating myself up about it, I’m happy, too.

There have also been a few actual parent fails this week…

I had 10 minutes to clean the house the other day and, on leaving the front room to locate a broom, returned to find the baby had discarded her toys in favour of the vacuum cleaner’s electrical cord and was cheerily using it as a teething toy.

Cable teether

‘Baby toys? No thanks Mummy, I’ve found this’

Then yesterday, while cleaning the splash mat after my daughter’s enthusiastic baby-led lunch, the toddler swiped the Dettol (which I’d left lying on the floor) and casually gave his little sister’s head a spritz.

BLW lunch

I’ll admit she needed a clean. Just not like that

In days gone by, both the above would have left me feeling like such a bad mother I’d have needed a 12-week course of therapy. These days? We simply rectify the situation and get on with things. Happily. No guilt.

It’s a revelation.

There’s been one other major change that has led to me feeling so much more relaxed and happy as a second-time-round parent: not only do I no longer have time to worry, but I have also not had a chance to open a single baby book.

Not one.

They have remained closed, on the shelf.

Which has resulted in all those ‘shoulds’ remaining on the shelf as well. Gathering dust. Where they belong.

Instead, I have been parenting by instinct. If it feels right to me, then it probably is. It’s liberating not to feel judged by a few hundred pages written by an author who does not know me, or my children. Not to be made to feel that I am somehow ‘spoiling’ my baby by cuddling her to sleep [check], bed-sharing [check] and baby wearing [check] (incidentally, I’m not saying any of this is the ‘right’ way to parent. It’s simply right for us).

Snuggles2

Sleepy cuddles to go. Nothing better

Ironically, this newfound ‘no-book’ attitude led me to an interaction on Twitter, which saw me recently attend a book launch. The Confident Mother by Sherry Bevan is a parenting book – but not as you know it. Comprising interviews with some truly inspiring mothers and experts, it doesn’t tell you how to parent: it simply helps you trust yourself. Its message is simple and brilliantly empowering – being good enough is good enough. Really.

I am not the perfect mother.

But I love my children with a love I never knew existed until they were here.

And that’s good enough for me.

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