I have been having a hard time lately, struggling to cope with the everyday demands of my life. I haven’t felt like myself, as a person or as a mother. I have been snapping at my husband and son. That’s not who I am.
I resolved to enjoy Finley more, to take time to have special moments with him. Yesterday at daycare he had a 2.5 hour nap, so when he got home he was super cheery. Even though I had to clean the house, I did it with minimal stress. I sat with a book* and a cup of tea before making myself do anything. And when Finley wanted to help with the vacuum cleaner, I supported him and was patient and praised him. (Even though anyone who has ever had a toddler helper knows that it’s much quicker without the ‘help’!) Instead of treating his helping as an intrusion, I used the opportunity to connect with him.
Finley didn’t ask for boob when he got home which is an exciting new development, but he had a big drink at the breast at 5:30. Unfortunately, this meant he didn’t eat a single scrap of dinner. Matt and I could not entice him to eat. He refused tacos, and wouldn’t even eat banana, the hero of the pantry.
Predictably, last night he woke up at 3:15 because he was hungry. Matt got Finley up at 3:45 when his alarm went off, and I brought Finley into bed and fed him to sleep**. Then he woke up when Matt came in to say bye at about 4:30. Finley was crying when Matt left, which was very hard on Matt. I got Finley back to sleep without having to feed him, then made sure to text Matt to tell him, because Matt was feeling pretty guilty for waking him. (I don’t normally have my phone by my bed but I had it there for an alarm.)
As he was leaving, Matt said “I’m sorry the routine got disrupted for you,” which was really validating for me.
Finley woke again at 5am. I got frustrated at this point and spoke harshly to him. Then I remembered Matt’s words. And I reminded myself that he is fighting a cold, as well as having skipped dinner. I was able to extend my compassion towards him rather than my frustration. And I fed him back to sleep – again. I turned off the alarm and went to sleep properly for the first time since 3:15am. We both slept until 7:10.
So last night was a hard night. But so was Wednesday night last week. Last week on Thursday morning, I still hauled myself out of bed and got us to daycare and work on time (or 9:15, which is as early as I can get to work when solo parenting). But then I had to leave work after lunchtime because I was so tired that I couldn’t actually function. So I resolved to do things differently this week, and that’s why I turned off the alarm and let us both have a sleep-in.
After sleeping in (yes I live in a world where 7:10 is a sleep-in, no I do not enjoy that fact) I followed the morning routine sequentially rather than on a timeline. I texted Finley’s daycare educator to tell her we would be late. I dropped Finley at daycare, downloaded to Finley’s sympathetic daycare educator, told her how much we appreciate her, and drove home. I walked to the local shops with enough time before the next bus to get a takeaway coffee. I had even remembered to bring a keepcup that was left in the car from yesterday. (I know that’s gross, but I apologised to the barista and asked her to clean it, she didn’t seem to mind.) I even had a couple of minutes spare to sit in the sun outside the cafe before going to the bus stop.
I made it to work just before 10am. 45 minutes after I would normally get to work on a solo parenting day, and with a lot less stress and tiredness. I was also able to stay at work until my normal time instead of going home early to crash but never really recover.
Something that I find so hard about parenting, especially around sleep, is that there are so many variables involved in getting enough sleep. Pre-Finley, getting enough sleep involved going to bed on time. Now there are so many factors and unintended consequences. I have to constantly change things up and improve things. If it’s not hunger, it’s that his room is too cold. Or too hot. Or he is sick. I thought that once Finley was sleeping through the night, after months of sleep training, set-backs and persistence, that that would be it: welcome to the land of people who have had enough sleep (actually a minority of Australians live in that land).
What I learned from last week’s experience, was to sleep in after a rough night instead of busting a gut to have the normal routine. And what I learned from last night’s experience, was to not let Finley have breastmilk after 5. Just snacks then dinner.
Most of all, what I learned was that I am better at adapting to changes in routine when I (and others) acknowledge that it’s hard, and when I give myself pockets of slowness, like my cup of tea and book yesterday afternoon, and my cup of coffee this morning before the bus.
Postscript: I have been open in this post about my parenting decisions, including some controversial (feeding to sleep, cosleeping) because I have been inspired by Heidi, blogger at Apples Under My Bed, who is further along the gentle parenting spectrum than I am and shares about all sort of practices that the MACH nurses wouldn’t approve of (mostly to do with sleep dependence). Good on her! Her blog has also inspired me to follow my own parenting instinct, as I did in this story. Last night I was able to do what I needed to do in that moment, rather than following external expectations.
*City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, LOVING it
**This was really unusual for me to do that, and doesn’t normally even work, but I just knew it was the right thing for him in that moment.