Today is my oldest’s fifth birthday.
FIVE YEARS OLD.
In these five years, I have learned a lot of things, so today I'm going off track of what I typically share and I'll be sharing five (random) things I've learned in these five years.
1. To want to sleep is not selfish.
Starting off strong with SLEEP!
It is not selfish to desire something that is a genuine need.
We would never think that someone that’s starving is selfish because they want food.
They're not being selfish. They're just trying to stay alive.
The same with sleep; we need to sleep to survive.
It is not selfish.
I learned this the hard way because selfishness is what I felt...
A little background: My husband and I were married for about 10 years before we were able to conceive. I was so excited to have a baby that I didn't even care that I was up multiple times a night feeding and doing all the things because I had a baby - I was so excited. But then the “honeymoon phase” wore out and, though I was still very excited that I had a baby, I was very exhausted and just wanted some sleep. I tried all the things (except for sleep training at the time) and sleep just wasn't happening consistently.
We ended up bed-sharing. It was beautiful for a couple of months and then it was not beautiful because around eight months old, he was waking up again all throughout the night even though I would offer to nurse him back to sleep.
He didn't care, he saw mom and dad and he wanted to play even if it was 3am. So, that wasn't working.
I felt at a loss as to what to do because I was consumed by the parenting mentality that to truly love and attach to your child, you have to be physically present with them 24/7. (not true, by the way)
It was so draining.
Every piece of advice that I read about how to be present with your child 24/7 and get them to sleep just simply wasn't working for us. I really genuinely tried to make it work and we just weren't getting sleep.
So, we sleep trained. (this doesn’t have to be a last resort, either, by the way)
I didn't know exactly what I was doing. I was just piecing together all these bits and pieces of things that I read off the internet. (I do not recommend that.) It was just hard to do solo.
Side note: this is why I am a sleep consultant! I don't want families to feel like they don't have the option of sleep training or the support they need!
2. Newborns are noisy.
Newborns are so noisy and they don't need to be attended to nearly as much as they make it sound like they do. Especially when they're sleeping.
So hindsight, my son was not needing to eat as many times throughout the night as I was actually feeding him. Turns out he was just transitioning through sleep cycles or was just having a partial arousal and I would end up waking him up to feed him thinking that’s what he needed.
I just didn't even know that was a thing until after the fact. (You don’t know what you don’t know.)
So, if you have a newborn and it feels like they're waking up all the time throughout the night, give them a minute or two, or 10, to see if they are actually, genuinely awake or if they're just being a noisy sleeper.
3. Boundaries are beneficial and personal
Boundaries are beneficial and they look different for everyone.
The boundaries that I have set for myself are not a judgment of or a reflection of anyone else’s boundaries. Nor are anyone else’s boundaries, a reflection of or a judgment of my boundaries.
Everyone has different needs and different things that they can handle as a person, but especially as a mother (that’s a 24/7 gig), boundaries are what help keep us sane.
Sleep very much ties into that sanity, but that's not the only space we need boundaries. (sleep training is just setting healthy boundaries around sleep.)
We need boundaries in all areas, even if it’s to just say, “Hey, I need a break.” That's something that we're really starting to implement in our home - taking breaks when we're feeling emotionally overwhelmed. And not only implementing it with our children but with ourselves as the parents! We're trying to model that to set a healthy boundary and show how to do it. It’s something that is very beneficial for all of life.
4. Motherhood was easier before I had children.
I love to read and those parenting books, without the practical application, don’t hit quite the same.
This season of motherhood is by far the most sanctifying/refining time in my life. Nothing can pull out the worst in you like having someone always pulling it out of you.
This is a season of finding things within myself that I didn't even know were present.
It’s said that your love grows once you have a child. And that’s true. But I found that it’s not only the love that grows but also the anger and the emotions that I didn't really want any more of - the not-so-feel-good emotions. It's in those times of big emotions that I learn more about who I am and what needs to be surrendered.
So this season of motherhood is hard and it is good because it's often through hard things that we become better people if we allow them to do that.
5. The mundane matters.
The things that we do over and over and over and over again really do matter.
But even more so, our attitude while doing the same thing over and over and over again matters.
This is one thing that has really stuck out to me with having children, how much they like to do the same thing over and over and over again. They like to read the same book a million times, they like to watch the same show a million times, they like to wear the same clothes a million times, the same tasks, anything, especially when they're learning something new. They want to do the same thing over and over again, like fill a bucket, dump it out, fill a bucket, dump it out. It's like how many times can we do this, but it's in these repetitions that they are learning and they are being comforted.
Also, a great reason that bedtime routines are so beneficial is that they are comforting and they are teaching our children that it is time to go to bed.
It's in our repetition, even in our own lives, that brings comfort to our children because it's something that they come to expect. But it also helps us. These are prime opportunities for us to teach our children, be with our children, support our families, support ourselves. They matter. Like everything, every mundane thing we do that most of us has to fight complaining against.
We all want what we do to be something special, but because everybody does the mundane things, they aren’t special. But, just because the mundane doesn't feel special, it doesn't mean it's not important, valuable, and quite okay.
These mundane things are ways for me to show love to my family, even if I don't always feel like they appreciate it, or always help but, we don’t only show love when it’s going to be reciprocated, right?
Though these aren’t necessarily the five biggest things I've learned, they're top of mind lately and I appreciate you reading about them.
What are some lessons parenthood has taught you? I’d love to know! Leave a comment here or send me a DM on Instagram @goodnightfamilies!