One recent afternoon, Linden was (suprisingly) contentedly sitting in her stroller on the way home from the park. We passed by another mom and child combo, and the mother looked down at Linden, smiling. “She looks so well-rested and happy! She must be a good sleeper!”
Now, if you’re a parent, you understand how big a deal baby sleep is. For those of you who aren’t parents, I will try to explain: Everyone jokes about how you will inevitably be sleep-deprived after your kid arrives and until your kids move out of your house. But one night as you sit there bleary-eyed with your wakeful infant for the 3rd time in the past 5 hours, the reality of that little joke will suddenly bubble up, and it will spill into every second of your day and night, like milk suddenly boiling out of the pot and scalding its way across the entirety of the stovetop. Your child’s sleep becomes an obsession. You read multiple books, Google your way through insomnia (yours or your kid’s), you ask every parent you meet–perhaps even before knowing their names–“how does YOUR kid sleep?” hoping that they’ll either say “like shit” so you can feel better about yourself, or “wonderfully” right before they share their magic sleep secrets with you. You quickly learn that even though we all need sleep, you cannot force another person to sleep. No amount of sheer will on your part will make your kid sleep. And when your child does sleep through the night, it is the Holy Grail of parenting. That first day after the first time your kid sleeps through the night makes you feel like Bradley Cooper on that little clear pill in “Limitless”–you feel like you can do pretty much anything.
So for another parent to remark that your kid looks well-rested is practically as satisfying as being told that your kid is a genius.
As we continued home to make dinner, I thought to myself, “yeah, she is a good sleeper.” Linden was a sleepy infant. She was doing 10-hour stretches when she was a few weeks old. But then that stopped when she was about 3 and a half months, and the inconsistent sleep continued for many, many months thereafter. It’s only been since about this January that she has become a good, consistent sleeper whom we can count on to make it through the night 11-12 hours without waking. And it took a lot of patience, trial-and-error, and most importantly consistency to make that happen (consistency, meaning our evenings are quite inflexible and we have no social life). So the compliment made me feel proud. I felt like “yeah, I have done a good job with this!”
It’s so easy to focus on the things that are not going well. And especially as a parent, those failures really weigh on you–if you’re like me, you sometimes take those “failings” personally. We are surrounded by so much commentary on parenting–blogs, books, TV shows, Dr. Google, message boards on parenting sites, other parents, the example (or shadow) of our own parents. While it’s great to have so many resources, it’s also easy to let that glut of information weigh you down and make you question your parenting decisions.
But chances are, there is at least something that you’re doing well! How often do you take the time to reflect on your victories? Because once you praise yourself for one thing, you’ll start thinking of other successes, and the end result will be a big boost in confidence.
And of course, this advice is broadly applicable, even if you’re not a parent. Whether it’s reflecting on your job performance, your appearance, your relationships—celebrating the victories, no matter how small, will help you get through the tough spots.
So stop beating yourself up! Be kind to yourself. And get some sleep…
Do you take time to reflect on your success? And how about it–does your kid sleep?