By Abi Copley
Since starting my maternity leave, I’ve actually been able to sit and read a magazine and browse the amazing articles here at The Natural Parent Magazine! It’s been blissful! The latest publications have really resonated with me, and I wanted to add my voice in support of the gentler approach to parenting.
Before we had our son, my husband and I sat down and talked about how we might manage certain situations. Bedtime was a big discussion we had, as well as discipline. Obviously, we had absolutely no idea of what was about to hit us a few weeks later. Our grand plans quickly went out the window as we learnt what parenting was really about!
The first few months went fine. We existed in our own family bubble and our beautiful baby boy slotted into our lives so easily that we forgot what life before him was like. But… that little earworm started. The cruel, niggling word: “they”. “They say,” I would think and repeat to myself and my husband. “They say he should sleep for X amount of hours.” “They say he should sleep through the night.” “They say he should self-soothe.”
Any lingering remnant of the decisions we made as a couple in those days before I gave birth went flying out the window, as I let the expectations of other people settle into my mum-doubt filled brain. What followed was a torrent of bad choices and waves of anger swirling us down into a deep-dark pit.
During this time, sleep and bedtime was all I could think about. I developed a crippling anxiety about bedtime that would have me consumed by dread as the clock ticked towards the evening hours. I couldn’t enjoy my son as I should and my marriage was suffering.
While I knew routine was important for my son, I had become so focused on controlling the situation that I had forgotten that underneath it all, he is a person too; with all the wants, needs and rights as me.
One night, after my son and I were in hysterical tears, I stormed out of my house. Sitting in my car, in the pitch black, I sobbed until I had nothing left. I forced myself to take a long hard look at what was happening. I tried to think objectively about what it was I was having so much trouble with.
Reflecting back on the months leading up to this point, I admitted to myself that I wanted nothing more than to go back to those blissfully sleepy times where there were no battles, no tears and no expectations on either of us. While I knew routine was important for my son, I had become so focused on controlling the situation that I had forgotten that underneath it all, he is a person too; with all the wants, needs and rights as me.
I spent a long time after that night reading and talking with other mums about alternative ways to parent. I allowed myself to believe that parenting wasn’t about me being in control, but a two-way street between me and my child; no matter how small. I felt myself soften and welcome in this new direction. It was liberating and, essentially, healing.