Sleep deprivation parenting—it’s a thing

Tired eye

This is not my eye, btw. Stock photo tired eye.

People who have children who sleep well should thank their lucky stars. My daughter is now three and a half years old, and in those three and a half years, my partner and I have not made it through a single straight week without a night of broken sleep, and that’s in very, very good weeks. The truth is, most nights we get, at the most, about four hours of unbroken sleep before we’re woken up by the sound of our daughter’s calls, cries, and sometimes screams.

There will be those reading this who will immediately roll their eyes and make assumptions that we are those soft, weak parents who “allow” our child to act this way by the way we react to the sleep problems. To those I say a) we’ve already tried just about every method of controlling this you can throw at us, b) you’re measuring this against a different child/children, and c) shut up.

When I was pregnant, my partner’s mother laughingly told me that he didn’t sleep well until he was four. I laughed too, thinking I had it all in hand since I had read the Gina Ford book (NB Damn you to hell, Gina Ford). Now I silently, stupidly count the days until her fourth birthday and wonder if we can be lucky enough for her to follow the same pattern. Yeah, lucky. But at the same time, it has become a part of our lives. We are tired. All the time. Because life. Because child.

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How do you explain…

RRH slideshow_0081…death to a three-year-old? A week or so ago, my mum was visiting from Australia and overheard me trying to explain to my daughter why the fly on the windowsill couldn’t fly away. I said it got old, had finished living and now it was dead.

My bubble frowned, then looked suspicious.”What dead?”

“It went to sleep forever,” I said. “It lived as long as it could, and then it got so tired that it went to sleep. Now it’s gone and it can’t wake up anymore.”

Bubble didn’t understand. “Why did it dive, Mummy?” she asked.

“No, sweetie, not dive, die.” Continue reading »


Dancing feetIt’s only natural to start thinking more about manners and their importance when you’re responsible for shaping and guiding a young life. Now that my daughter is old enough to express herself verbally, as well as through body language and facial expressions, I find I’m becoming ever more aware of the differences between the way I was brought up, and the way my friends, peers and I are bringing up our children.

Some of what I’m noticing is a cultural difference, given that I was brought up in Australia and I am raising my daughter in Norway, but much of it is the inevitable generation gap; probably every generation feels that the next one is cruder, less considerate, with worse manners. But I can’t help wondering, in this age of obsessing about whether our children are well-adjusted, confident and happy above all else, are we actually ensuring they will be less polite?

I was brought up in an age of social change; it was the 70s and parents were, perhaps for the first time, beginning to be mindful of how their parenting impacted on the feelings of the child, rather than only how their child impacted on the lives of those around them. I probably felt some of this more acutely, given that my father is a psychologist and was then a guidance counselor in the education sector.  He was also a very hands-on father, which was a fairly new attitude at the time. However, I was still taught to be considerate of others, to say “excuse me” when I was inconveniencing someone, whether it was my fault or not, and to say “please”, “thank you” and to call adults by their last name (Mrs Smith, Mr Jones, etc.).

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Why Being a Working Mother is Like Eating Tapas

Baby and me

Baby and me

How many times have you been told that the modern woman can “have it all”? I’m here to tell you, you can’t. Anyone who says you can is either kidding herself or has a very different definition of “all” than I do. You know what I’m talking about; it’s one of the most common dilemmas for women today: career vs children.

Feminism and the women’s liberation movement have given us so many options that I sometimes feel like it would be easier to go back to being oppressed. At least when women had so few rights, they didn’t have to put unrealistic expectations on themselves. In many cases, they simply accepted that their lot in life was to raise children and look after their husband and household. Sounds gleefully uncomplicated, doesn’t it? (Note: I didn’t say easy.)

I being facetious; I don’t actually want to be a post-war housewife. But I never expected to feel so conflicted about motherhood.

My pregnancy was unplanned and came as quite a shock, even though in the back of my mind I’d always believed I’d eventually find the right time to have children. And in retrospect, it was probably for the best that it happened of its own accord, because there never was a “right time”.

So, despite being unsure I was ready, I took a deep breath and stared into the face of impending motherhood. For the most part, I was excited and looked forward to life with our new family member, but there was a niggle in the back of my mind that I really wished wasn’t there: the one that told me I was “giving up” and turning my back on my career, which I worked hard to develop.

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If you know nothing, say nothing

A jackass

A jackass

A couple of weeks ago, something happened on Facebook that really pissed me off. Really. Like lying awake at night, grinding my teeth and thinking until my brain got sore kind of pissed off. It still makes my upper lip scrunch when I think about it, but I had to wait a couple of weeks before posting this rant about it so that I could get my thoughts clear and write rationally, albeit still passionately, on the subject of dumbasses who make judgmental comments when they know absolutely nothing about a situation.

The context to all of this is that we have been working closely with Bubble’s pediatric nurse and doctors at two different hospitals to try and work out why she is not gaining weight very well. She’s slipped from the 55th percentile down to between the 3rd and 10th, depending on which chart you’re referring to. Even though most people would tell you not to worry, of course as a parent you’re going to worry.

So after much agonizing (and I mean tears, guilt, self-blame etc., etc.) I gave in and started to supplement Bubble’s feedings with formula. Just once a day, but just to make sure she was getting enough food, and enough calories. Even though I have no judgment towards others who formula feed their babies, I had always expected to be able to exclusively breastfeed my baby, and felt awful that I had to compromise that. In many ways I would have felt better if the reason had been that I didn’t have enough milk to give her, but it felt truly terrible to know that I had milk for her, but she wouldn’t take it, only feeding for two or three minutes at a time.

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Dummies and binkies and pacifiers, Oh my!


Bubble and her Wubbanub

When we went to the pre-birth seminar at the hospital, the midwives who ran the session warned against starting babies on a dummy (pacifier) too early because it could cause confusion with breastfeeding. We were a little surprised that people would be so keen to give their baby a dummy before they were a couple of weeks old anyway, so it wasn’t really a big deal to us. We waited the recommended four weeks to introduce Bubble to dummies, and despite her doing very well with both breast and bottle feeding, she was not interested in a dummy at all. In fact, she dry retched whenever I tried to give her one. So I figured it was no big deal; if she didn’t want one then that was one less thing to worry about weaning her off of later, right? Oh SO wrong!

At about five weeks, Bubble started to fuss for the first time. Up until then she’d been a very calm, placid baby who only cried when she was hungry or very tired. But suddenly I had a baby who desperately wanted to suck on something, but still HATED dummies. I tried silicone, latex, cherry shaped, orthodontic… you name it, she hated it. All but one made her dry retch, and that one confused her so much she’d burst into fits of frustrated, angry tears. In the end she settled for using me as a dummy, and wanted to suck long after she’d finished eating. At the time I had an overabundance of milk, so this frustrated her even further; she wanted non-nutritive sucking, and kept getting more food. At this point we even had to give up bottle feeding with expressed milk because the bottle nipple seemed to be just the size and shape of what she wanted to suck on, only the milk came out of that even faster than the breast, causing her to choke, splutter and again cry with frustration.

The one dummy Bubble would accept without gagging was a Tommee Tippee orthodontic latex one, but she seemed at a loss as to exactly how to suck on it. She’d roll it about in her mouth, chew on it, very occasionally suck on it, and then she’d fall asleep seemingly against her will with her face red from frustrated crying.

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