What happens when we bow to societal parenting pressures?

Photography:Poppy Peterson Photography

By Hayley Bukhamsin

Here’s my story… 

**Trigger warning – sleep training story** 

I remember the feeling, vividly. The difficulty breathing, the ringing in my ears, the nauseating doubt. My heart was hurting, hearing her cry in the next room.

5 minutes in. Our program told us we had to do 20 minutes at a time. Everyone I knew did sleep training, so it was ok, right? This was normal, right?

I sat in bed, squirming with the discomfort of doing this ‘gentle’ sleep training.

She had reassured us that all crying would be emotionally supported; that it would only take a few nights; that we’d all be better off for it. 

I tried to remind myself of her words, and reconcile her claim of ‘supported crying’ with my baby crying next door. We were at stage 1, where she was crying in my husband’s arms, but stage 2 was due to start the next night, where she would be expected to cry alone. This is what we were supposed to do, right?

9 minutes in. I posted a message on a gentle parenting group on Facebook, explaining the sleep training schedule we’d been given and how wrong it felt for us. I asked their thoughts. Replies flooded in within seconds; the message was unanimous. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. 

15 minutes in. I read some of the replies to my hubby. We locked eyes and everything clicked. Our whole parenting journey changed course in that one look. And we’ve never looked back.

He said, “Bring her here”.

I scrambled out of bed, ran through and cuddled her, tears staining my face, guilt and relief flooding me in equal proportions. 

Never again.  

Never again would we listen to someone else’s parenting advice above our own considered judgement. Our parenting journey is OURS, and ours alone.

Never again would we trust the standards and expectations set by society over our baby’s communications. Our baby knows her needs and communicates them effectively. Our job is to listen to HER, not to the expectations of others.

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