Going Deep with Sarah + Teresa on co-sleeping and sex, bedtime difficulties, and more
In this month's Going Deep, the ladies tackle some difficult questions about bedtime difficulties, how in the world to make space for both sex and co-sleeping, dealing with mom guilt as we send our little ones off to preschool, the realities of changing dynamics with your partner when you add a baby to the mix, and how they knew when they were ready to have children. We love hearing from you all, so please send your questions to us here!
Hello, I have a 2 1/2 year old toddler girl with very strong opinions. For a few months now, bedtime has become a nightmare. She will go hysterical and make herself vomit (she has a weak gag reflex as she had reflux as a baby). She has developmental delays (only just started walking last month) and close to no language (she is being raised bilingual, as I am French and daddy is British). She basically won’t go to bed unless she is rocked in her buggy or in bed with me (which is painful as she scratches me, jumps on me, kicks or pokes me in the eyes or puts her fingers in my mouth etc.) We feel like we have tried every technique under the sun. It takes hours and she doesn’t get enough sleep so she falls asleep again not even 2 hours after waking up in the morning consistently for about 40minutes/1 hour and will nap also in the afternoon for over an hour, sometimes over 2! Her screaming is driving me insane and she knows it. I’ve been firm, calm, sometimes angry, also tried ignoring it, loving on her, even sleeping on the floor next to her cot and ninja-ing out of the room, but it’s becoming ridiculous and I’m so exhausted... Any advice?
TP: Hi! I would try to get to the root of the reason she is having so much anxiety at night time. With my son Bodhi, he just isn't ready to do the bedtime routine without me, so I lie next to him at night in his own bed until he falls asleep. I use it as an opportunity to discuss his day with him and I try to keep a solid routine for consistency; dinner at 6:15, bath at 7 (every second day), then PJs, teeth, 3 books in bed by 7:30/7:45 then we have a 5 min chat about his favorite things in the day, the hard things in the day and the things he learned in the day. We snuggle and he falls asleep.
Having Mama next to him gives him the support and security he desires and it’s also a really nice way to connect at the end of the day. Perhaps because your daughter doesn’t have the means to communicate with you in the way she wants to, she may be feeling frustrated and can only express her big feelings by screaming and crying. I certainly know some children are more sensitive at nighttime and since it seems like she enjoys being in your bed maybe she is asking for you to cuddle her down to sleep. You can maybe say, “Mama thinks you’re ready for a new special bed! Let’s have fun picking it out together!” and get a toddler bed with a rail so you can crawl up in there with her and then when she is asleep you can walk out. If she scratches you or hurts you, you could say to her; “Mummy’s body isn’t for hurting. Mummy wants to snuggle you to help you sleep” encouraging her to use her words. My kids haven’t ever had a crib, we bought one the first time round with Bodhi but he never liked being in there and I completely understood so we gave it away and never used it again. He loves having his own bed though. Good luck to you! You seem like a great Mom and I’m sure it’ll all figure itself out.
SWO: I agree with everything Teresa said and I would just like to add some things in hopes that it might be something you haven’t tried. First, I would run this by your pediatrician as they may have some great insight from a medical and developmental perspective. Also, as Teresa wrote sleep can be assisted with a nighttime routine. Even if you have already tried this, you could switch it up by discussing a new approach. I was just talking to my friend who is one of the best Doula’s in LA and she suggested a way to encourage this routine and get your child interested may be by making a chart with pictures. For example: First we have dinner, then bath and teeth brushing, then pjs, books, (a limited number of songs) a couple songs, and then we rest our bodies. If you have a little chart with pictures your child can mark them off or move a check into the box after each step has been accomplished. She also suggested reminding your daughter throughout the day that it’s so good for us to rest our bodies, like how good it feels and how it is something we “get" to do so it doesn’t feel like a punishment, but this wonderful healthy thing for us to grow bigger and stronger.
This actually helped my two year old so much. She was not excited about going to bed and would get upset when I would pull out the carrier that I had been putting her down with. I then realized she needed a new approach to bedtime and now we do our routine and then I lay with her and snuggle for a little bit as she is falling asleep. My son needed consistency. He needed the routine, and a set number of songs and then we would say goodnight and walk out of his room. He would ask us to come back and we would stand at the door remind him it was time to sleep and then walk back out into the living room. We found that very soon he would sing himself to sleep or chat in his bed to his animals and although it wasn’t always this way sometimes he would just fall asleep. I just did a little search online to see if anyone had a crafty way of making a chart like this and found this little shop. good luck!!)
My little wild one just recently turned two years old in June and my husband and I have decided it’s time for him to go to preschool and for myself to return to work. He’s an extremely physical boy and I have difficulty keeping up with him on a daily basis. However, “Mom guilt” has kicked in hard and I can’t shake these negative vibes surrounding sending him to school. How do you handle “Mom guilt” and make the right decisions for your own families?
SWO: Hi Tyler, The good news is you are not alone. “Mom guilt” Is something we all struggle with. As I would try to tell myself, It’s important for moms to take care of their own needs. In turn, when we take better care of ourselves, we can also take better care of their children. If you want to go back to work, then you should do that. Preschool can be an amazing experience for your little one. It’s so good for them to be around other kids their age. My daughter just turned two and I recently started her in a petit ballet class. I see her interact with her brother everyday and I didn’t realize it would be so different for her to be around other 2 year olds. I almost feel bad I didn’t have her in a class sooner. She is blossoming and growing in ways they only do around children their own age. I think you will love watching your son enter into this new experience.
TP: Hi Tyler, I know how hard that can be, I think Mamas are always struggling with Mom guilt in some form. In this case though, really liberate yourself from those feelings because it will be such a wonderful experience for your son. Forest started at a toddler transition class a couple of months ago. He loved it so much and absolutely THRIVED. He is only 1.5 years old but I just knew since he is a very independent and adventurous guy that that kind of environment would do wonders for him. He will begin preschool in December when he turns 2!
Bodhi started going a couple hours a day 3 times a week since he was 1.5 years old. I knew he’d love the social aspect of it, being around other curious and rambunctious children his own age. I also got a couple of hours to myself which was very foreign at first, but then I really utilized the time to work towards some career goals.
You’ll see your son blossom in preschool, he’ll make friends his own age and navigate important experiences from outside of your care and then suddenly you’ll be so happy you followed your instincts. It’ll also give you the gift of having some time to yourself and reconnection with your husband so that you’re being the very best Mommy you can be! Wishing you the best of luck!
Is it hard to juggle co-sleeping with children and setting aside time to be intimate with your husband?
TP: Hi, good question! I find it’s hard because I’ll usually be so wrecked by the end of the day that I’m falling asleep at 8/8:30 right after the kids have fallen asleep! Mark will stay up doing work and usually comes to bed closer to 11/midnight after I’m fast asleep. Mark and I realize that we have to set aside time during the day to be with each other, when Forest is napping or my mum has taken him to the park and Bodhi is at school. You have to get creative! it doesn’t often get to be very spontaneous and Mark and I LOOOOVE our sleep so with some extra communication and focus in this area we are doing alright!
SWO: It's a good question. I can see how it would look challenging but we always find a way. We have always put our kids to bed in their own beds or on a lil bed next to ours on the floor at the beginning of the night and then pull our little one in bed with us when we go to sleep. My son comes and crawls in bed between 3am and 6am. We have time from when they go to sleep until we go to bed to watch a show, chat about our day, have a glass of wine or do anything else productive with our “adult” time. :-) Also intimacy doesn’t always take place in bed. :-)
My fiancée and I are in the beginnings of planning a pregnancy within the next year. My deepest curiosity at this point is how my fiancée will be affected by the presence of a new little human and all that entails. In your experience, how do husbands handle being sort of de-throned from the bed and coming second to baby? It just seems like such a drastic shift in the family dynamic where they are sort of the ones who give up getting a lot of attention and time emotionally sexually (physically).
SWO: This is such a beautiful and thoughtful question. I didn’t think much about this when I was pregnant. I knew things would change a bit, but I didn’t feel like it would be permanent. It is always a transition right after you have your baby. We had some time of dad in the guest bedroom because he worked such crazy hours, and sleepless nights of confusion looking at one another at a loss wondering how we could calm our baby. Everything gets much easier as they get a little bit older and you feel you have a handle on things. Sometimes your love for your partner really grows as you watch them develop into a father. It is all very personal to the couple. Communication is incredibly important and since you are thinking about this now, I would ask your fiancé if he has any concerns and talk about ways that you two can communicate openly so if these feelings ever arise he won’t feel alone or guilty for having them.
My husband has always been a fantastic communicator. If things felt off with us or if it ever felt like too much had shifted he would talk to me or I to him and we would figure out a way to make time for “us.”
We did, however, feel very strongly about not wanting having a baby to change our lives in terms of travel, or going out. We didn’t want to be handcuffed to our home for naps or feel like who we were was so insanely different post-baby than it was pre-baby. We wanted to bring our baby with us places and travel light and make him a part of our lives in a very organic way. Some things were for sure harder but it worked so well for us to have this mentality that we still felt like the same couple doing the same activities, going on the same trips, but that now life had been enhanced in such a major way because we were able to share it with this tiny human that we both loved so deeply.
TP: Hey Kate, You never really know how your partner will respond but the willingness to have a baby means that they’re down for the challenge. I think the most important thing is to not lose yourself in the early months. The only way to do this, I believe, is to ensure you’re having time for one another outside of the kids. I remember I was in such a love bubble that my husband's needs were completely pushed aside for the first few months after Bodhi was born. Luckily, my husband is a great communicator so he shared his feelings with me and we adjusted accordingly. We had my mum take care of Bodhi for an evening each week so we could be with each other, chat about life and remember that we had identities, dreams, and goals outside of being new parents. If you can take that time to have one on one time together, it’ll make all the difference and the change doesn’t have to be so radical. Your life can continue as it was but in an enhanced way, making adjustments along the way, but be careful not to lose who you two currently are. Enjoy the experience, there’s nothing like becoming a parent for the first time.
How did you know that you were ready to have a child, I’m 23 and I keep going back and forth about if I feel like i would be a good mother or not and just wondering how you were confident enough in yourself to know you were ready to have a child
TP: Great question! There’s no way to know how parenthood is going to change you or affect you, you just learn along the journey. I think if you take a look at your life and you have a wonderful stable, supportive and mature partner, you’ve reached a lot of personal/work goals, you feel ready to be completely dedicated to another little being and your finances are stable then they’re some indicators that you might be in a good place to have a child. Some people have many things “perfectly in place” and still don’t feel ready and others don’t have any of the above and still manage to parent beautifully. It’s really such a personal decision. I had a burning desire to be a mother, I knew I could support a baby, and I had just met the love of my life so we just jumped in. Good luck!!
SWO: I always felt very maternal. I always knew I wanted to have kids. It’s such a personal choice, you may find a partner and feel ready very early on, or you may not feel like it's time until later in life. You may decide to have kids without a partner. Confidence as a mother can come from a lot of different places. You can read books about pregnancy, and parenting. You can read books about baby’s first years. You can take baby care classes, and read blogs about parenting (i.e. YZM ) :-). You can feel super ready by doing lots of research and then feel overwhelmed after your baby arrives. You really never know until it happens and the good news is you will be surrounded by so many women in the same position as you. You can lean on the women around you and make friends through mommy and me classes to help share your daily struggle and personal victories. There are so many ways to help prepare yourself for motherhood. Personally, I’m grateful I waited to have my children until I was 30. I had my twenties to work on myself, my relationship, and to enjoy that time of growth in my life without rushing into the next chapter. By the time I became pregnant with my first, I had been wanting a child for a while. I had spent seven years with the love of my life, and we were ready for our family to grow.