Why Mothers Need Real Support, Not Sleep Schools

Photography: Victoria Gloria Photography

By Haylee Hackenberg

In the wake of the Victorian Premier’s announcement in November 2018 that his Government will back the funding of residential “Sleep Schools”, I’ve been reflecting on parenting “in this day and age” quite a bit.

Now, let me be clear, this is not a piece about the dangers of sleep school.

Nor is it a judgement on those who have used or will use sleep school.

This is a piece about why, without fail, the instant a mother admits she is struggling, the collective societal response is to “fix” her mothering (yes, I know, men parent too, but they can write about that, if they like).

What I want to know is, where the hell is the support for all the other, less important areas of life?

When my daughter was a few months old, and going through a growth spurt, I made an offhand comment to a group of people about how she was only sleeping in the carrier. The responses were immediate. The responses were loud. The responses made me question everything I was doing and consider whether I was cut out for this mothering gig after all. They ranged from stopping breastfeeding, to leaving my baby to cry in the cot, to, yep, you guessed it, heading off to sleep school. The thing about each of these comments, is that not one considered a) whether there WAS an actual problem, or b) how I felt about those options.

What I really needed, in those early days, was help with the cleaning, help with the cooking, someone to listen without judging, and more importantly, to adjust my expectations. And I, really REALLY needed the world to adjust their expectations of me.

WE KNOW that the formative years of a child’s development are central to their success as a human being. Yet we, as a society, act like having the dishes done and our bodies suitably bounced back ranks higher on the list.

The fact was, I loved my daughter sleeping on me and I didn’t actually want to change it. But every time I lay down with her at nap time, I mentally reviewed all of the housework and life admin I should have been doing. This isn’t some head-in-the-clouds, fantastical idea about the perfect mother and child bond. This is science. WE KNOW that the formative years of a child’s development are central to their success as a human being. Yet we, as a society, act like having the dishes done and our bodies suitably bounced back ranks higher on the list.

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