When I sat down to write last time, it was to address this topic.
And then my mind took over.
So here it is.
I never imagined that I would be a stay-at-home mom. One that lived for made-from-scratch meals, a clean house and arts and crafts. I was raised in a wave of female empowerment that equated worth alongside the same financial success as men. And there was pride in breaking away from the traditional role of housewife and mother.
But when I had my son, everything changed.
I was already in my third of three very unfulfilling and stressful jobs where I was undervalued and dealing with assholes and drama on a daily basis.
And something inside of me was screaming that this wasn’t right. This wasn’t how I was meant to be spending my life.
So I quit. We sold everything. And moved from Los Angeles to Ecuador so that we could spend more time together living life.
At first it was hard.
Nothing felt natural.
I read books which made perfect sense on paper. But failed to implement the principles in life. A rare instance where my academic mind was unable to connect the dots of knowledge to action.
Let’s hire a nanny, my husband would say as I dissolved into a puddle of tears.
If I can’t figure this out now, I never will. I imagined my son in ten years, a teenager and the nightmare it would be if we weren’t able to connect. To communicate. To respect each other. And I knew that paid help wouldn’t solve the problem. That I needed to be the one to forge that relationship.
It’s been a journey. One that I am beyond grateful for. And over time, the things that I wanted to achieve started to unfold. But it wasn’t by making my way through a checklist of expectations set upon my son to complete. It was by flipping the script. Putting the responsibility of success on myself and not him. As a teacher and guide to developing life skills and not an enforcer of rules to be followed.
Which brings me to my topic…at last.
One of the greatest challenges parents of little ones face. A challenge that plagues humans of all ages. With our son, it was a struggle at every stage. And I had no idea how to help maneuver him through it. Wanting to comfort him, but also wanting to provide him with the confidence to manage it on his own. To understand his own needs without me telling him what they are.
I read the books.
But it all seemed so obscure.
So when my daughter’s latest developmental stage started affecting her sleep, I knew I needed some help. She was growing and changing. A wonderful and exciting new phase with movement. We unswaddled the arms and made the decision that sleep needed to be in the crib. It was no longer safe for her to be sleeping with us or unattended in the bed.
And she didn’t care for it at all.
A week of poor day naps turned into a month and I was exhausted. My brain was foggy. My routine inconsistent. I was desperate. I let her cry it out. Shed a few tears myself and resolved never to do it again. Not like that. I had become an attachment mother. A title I had previously judged for being too hippie with the impression it would lead to overly coddled and entitled children before I had my own.
I looked into her eyes. Ringed with dark circles. Confused.
And I knew I had to figure it out and soon.
Three days into our new process and I am happy to report that she is regularly sleeping peacefully in her crib. And all those steps that felt so foreign in black and white type, now make sense. I’m eliminating some bad habits, like using nursing as a mechanism to induce sleep rather than to nourish. And have created a process that is consistent and allows for flexibility to maintain our dynamic in a way that I feel comfortable with.
It has been amazing.
That time spent putting her to sleep is now enjoyable for both of us.
When I notice her getting tired, I do whatever I need to do to make her comfortable for the nap. Change of clothes and diaper and feed. Normally, if she fell asleep while nursing I would count that as a score. Barricade her with pillows and try and sneak out. But now, I pick her back up and place her in the crib. If she wakes, we play and talk for a few minutes. Me gently reminding her that it’s time to rest and that she needs to sleep here to be safe. When she starts to fuss, but is not yet crying I pick her up. Close the blinds. And put her in a sleep sack. Gently rock her until she is calm and place her down in the crib. A kiss and the promise that I will return in five minutes to check on her.
And then I leave.
Set the timer always for five minutes. This is where I remain firm.
I go back and gently rock her. Almost every time I’ve been able to place her down asleep after one increment. However, if she’s still awake after five minutes or wakes up when I put her down, I leave and set the timer again.
Rinse and repeat the five minutes of rocking and the five minutes of solo time to soothe as needed. This includes if she wakes up too early from a nap.
And I’m on cloud nine.
And I’m sure any parent who has struggled with this knows exactly how I feel. Not just for my own sanity, of course. But for being able to provide for my baby and help her feel safe in this new space.
So for all you attachment mamas and papas out there. There is a way to be both. A way to nurture, while also propelling your baby forward into independence in a way that respects your values.
And now – time to relax.