Mommy guilt. It’ll drive you crazy if you let it. We all feel it and it eats at us in the deep depths of our souls.
And how can you escape it? It’s only natural to question whether you’re ‘doing the right thing’ when you’re making decisions on behalf of another human being. I mean, what wildly immense power to have!
What makes mommy guilt so sooo much worse is when it’s coupled with a sense of shame. And it’s the shame, I believe, that mommy’s should and could do without. That sense of shame most often comes from the outside in – from family, friends, or worse yet – strangers – who cause mothers to feel vilanized for making tough decisions that they hope are right for their family.
Moms can and are shamed for just about anything, but in this case, Im talking about sleep training. We all know that there are two distinct camps – those who consider cry-it-out a viable form of sleep training and those that consider CIO to be downright child abuse. I’m not here to argue who is right and who is wrong. Based on the endless hours, days, weeks of my own research, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one really knows. There is research that can be held up to strongly and fervently support both views and I am yet to see a randomized-controlled study that looks directly at the effects of CIO on an otherwise healthy child who is showered with unconditional love for every other waking moment of their day.
So, again, I am not writing to partake in the debate itself. What I am here to say is that whatever people so strongly believe – please stop writing articles and blogs with the sole intention of shaming other mothers. I see there being only one way to do that – write every article or post with the intention of helping another mother. That requires the following:
- Start the piece with a supportive tone, acknowledging right away that motherhood is hard as hell, the being sleep deprived makes it that much harder and that we are all in search of just one thing- a gentle and effective way to get ourselves and our overtired babies the sleep we both so desperately need to be healthy. Show me you’re an ally, not my enemy.
- Share your views, the research you have collected, etc. and be direct about your convictions, but try to refrain from using hateful terms like ‘abandonment’ and ‘abuse.’ Do you really think that a desperate mother who leaves her baby to cry should be considered an a child abuser or one who’s goal is to abandon her child? Even if you feel that leaving a baby to cry for any amount of time is abandonment, think about how that word stings a whole in the heart of a desperate mother and ask yourself if you can get your point across without it.
- Approach your argument from an objective place – don’t base it on your sweet sleeper who learned early and easily to self-soothe, or your child who is still comfortably co-sleeping with you at the age of three. Don’t even base it on your sister’s kid who she committed months of the pick up/put down method to who finally, at 18 months, learned to sleep on his/her own. Every baby is different. Don’t make your own judgements based on the few babies or situations you know.
- Provide some viable alternatives. This is a huge one. I can’t tell you how many of these articles filled with pages of ‘you should nevers’ end abruptly in the absence of meaningful solutions. Ask yourself why you’re writing the article in the first place? If it’s to genuinely help moms look to alternative ways to sleep train, perhaps offering that poor, exhausted mom a few ideas of how to help their overtired child sleep who hasn’t responded to the seven other methods she could think of – then offer some help! If that’s not the purpose of the article, well, then I beg you to explain to me what is.
- Acknowldge that your solutions may require me to continue to spend hours each evening in my child’s room where he will lose valuable sleep he needs for optimal health, where I will silently grow crazy and frustrated while I look for other solutions, where I’ll miss week, months, or years of precious and already very limited one-on-one time with my husband and to focus on our marriage.
- End your piece by reminding me that while you adamantly oppose CIO, that if I choose to do so, you understand that I am not a terrible mother who doesn’t have my child’s best interest at heart.
My little man is a challenging sleeper to say the least. At 19 months old, we find ourselves where we’ve been 7, 8, maybe 9 times over the past year and a half – he has lost his will to self-soothe and has regressed back to a place where he requires our attention for hours on end, pushing his bedtime more than 1-1.5hrs back each night. We should be so lucky to have a baby that would willingly be nursed or rocked to sleep. He also has no interest in co-sleeping, although that’s a relief given that it’s not something I’m eager to engage in in my house. We have done CIO before and it has worked well. But, a regression inevitably comes. And this time, I’m struggling to bring myself to do it again. I’ve read so many of these terribly negative, unhelpful anti-CIO articles and blog posts recently that I’ve been mommy-shamed into a place where I can’t do the only thing that I’ve found works for Toby to learn to fall asleep on his own and for me to regain my sanity, my sleep, and time for my marriage.
I feel alone. I’ve been shamed, but offered no support or advice. I’ve allowed myself to be shamed even though my search continues for a study looking specifically at the effects of CIO. I’ve allowed myself to be shamed even in the absence of such research because, frankly, it’s not that hard to shame a mother. We’re filled with mommy-guilt and self-doubt even in the absence of these articles.