Attached Parents at Work

#TransparencyTuesday – Daz’s Story

This is an extremely powerful share I hope you will take a moment to read. -jen

“No one supported my birth choices. The OB already said what I was allowed and not allowed to do. I didn’t matter for months. My voice was overpowered for months. I realized during labor after looking at affirmations and talking to a group of women that I matter. My voice matters to the women who inboxed me who are in abusive relationships. My voice matters to the children who witness their mothers being abused. My voice matters to those women who left their abuser. Most importantly, my voice matters to my children and myself. I went through my labor saying I matter. The last affirmation I looked at before birthing my son is “You had a purpose before anyone else had an opinion.”

A Gentle Parent’s Guide to Sleep

My son is the dreaded non sleeper.  The child that acts like a warm milk is a Red Bull, and bed time is the perfect opportunity to try out every toy in his room.  The boy who sees sleep as a challenge.  We used to co-sleep until he would sneak out of our bed and play or turn the tv on at 3am.  Every parent hits that wall where lack of sleep becomes torture.  When friends and family act sympathetic, but they really can’t know the horror of another 3 hour bed time argument with a toddler.

This week was my wall.  I wish I could do as many do; let my child simply go to sleep later and then sleep in the morning.  This doesn’t work for us.  First, like many pareIMG_2072nts that follow us here at APW, we work or go to study, so it’s important we can wake around 7am and have had a good night’s rest.  Second, my son is one of the many toddlers that laughs in the face of late to bed, late to rise.  It’s still a 6am wake up either way.  We have other children too. We must ensure that our home is calm and sleep-friendly for all of them, without my toddler keeping the others awake. I needed a gentle way to help him rest.  I didn’t want to do any crying or any ‘training’ as such.  I spent a long time wondering, is this even possible?  I spent hours trawling through blogs and sleep help books, all telling me to be gentle and not let him cry-it-out (CIO), but none actually gave me solutions.

I went along to the health team at the local doctors and an angel appeared in the form of a Health Visitor (HV) that was trained as a sleep coach.  Now HVs have bad rap here in the UK.  I would implore you to get to know yours and if it’s not a good fit, change.  This Mary Poppins in a floaty dress, armed with a calm voice and a clip board swept into my home with an air of tranquility.  The opposite of what I was expecting (possibly a Supernanny doppelgänger, and don’t get me started on her).  She surprised me!  She gave me some of the most gentle and sensible sleep advice I have ever heard.  It reassured my gut feeling that being an attached parent didn’t mean I had to be a permissive parent. That I needed to help my son form a good relationship with sleep.  We all have to balance the need to set boundaries, encourage great home habits while still respecting them as people.

 


This blog is to share my journey with my husband and our toddler “F” in our new routine and way of sleeping.

Our main issues:
  1. “F” does not have a good relationship with bed time.  He does not calm or wind down enough in the evening.
  2. I put him back into his bed over 20 times, often over 1 to 2 hours in the evening, before he ‘gives in’ and falls asleep.
  3. “F” is not a ‘good eater’ and wants lots of bottled milk to fall asleep.  His lack of sleep and food combined makes for a very cross and emotional boy at times.
  4. He wakes in the night crying, until we give him a milk or get into bed with him.
  5. He refuses to nap in the day, resulting in some 24 hour periods when he gets only 7 hours of sleep; not enough for a two year old.  This is affecting behaviour and learning.
Our goals:
  1. Help “F” sleep wellScreen Shot 2015-05-24 at 5.52.24 PM
  2. Fall asleep calmly and by himself, if possible.
  3. Have 11 hours sleep in a day/night.
  4. Be able to settle himself when he wakes at night (unless, ofcourse, a nightmare or feeling poorly).

Maybe yours are similar, and if so I hope you may find some help from this too.  And here is how we are going to do it…

You do it together.

If you are lucky enough to have a partner in crime, in my case a husband, you have to be in it together.  You have to both be ready to have a night of even worse night’s sleep in order to get to the good stuff.  If you’re both not on board you, need to address why.  If it’s sleep, perhaps one does the staying up at night, but they get to sleep a little in the day?

No more bottles.

This broke my heart when I first realized it needed to happen.  If I was breastfeeding, perhaps the scenario would be different.  But very simply I need to help him learn to be ok with sleeping without the sucking motion or liquid of a bottle.  He is very wet at night because of the liquid in his nappy.  It’s filling his tummy so he is not eating enough solids.  So no more.  Instead, before we start the bedtime routine he can have some warm milk in a cup with a snack.

Short, calm and clear bedtime routine.

Children, especially toddlers, need to know ‘what’s next’.  They relish repetition and routine because it creates an air of security and safety.  Bedtime should mirror these needs.  It should be no more than 30 minutes for bath and bed.  Any longer and it becomes part of their normal day as they cannot differentiate it as a separate time.  Bedtime wind-down is important.  Imagine if someone shouted “right, bedtime lady!” as you were happily emailing and watching your TV show.  So…

  1. No TV after dinner and before bed.
    The light simulates day and TVs do not create a quieter household (Happy to admit I’m nervous about this one).  Curtains drawn in the main rooms as well as their bedroom. Signal the change to evening visually in your house.
  2. After dinner activities: reading or quiet one-on-one play in the lounge.  You need to help the bedroom be the calm, sleepy place your child associates with sleep.  A puzzle or The Gruffalo is going to be a favourite in our house, I think.
  3. No more than 10-15 mins in the bath.  Any more than this and it becomes a play time instead of a wind-down. A calm, soothing warm bath means that when a child gets out the cold will help prepare the body for sleep.  The temperate drop is similar to what happens to our bodies when we fall asleep.  If your child likes a noisy play bath, swap it to the morning.  Blow bubbles or play with a couple of toy cars.  Something expected and not too stimulating.
  4. Once the bath is done you don’t return to the lounge or any other part of the home. We signal bedroom is bedtime.
  5. If you have a non verbal child, introduce some flash cards or pictures you can make together.  A bed, a bath and a picture of the moon would do well.  Pop them on the wall and point to them when you are about to do each step.  Again, repetition is your friend here.
  6. Sleep!  Right, so here is the bit you have to nail.  The actual head to the pillow; snoring is the aim here.  I don’t believe in allowing a child to cry themselves to sleep alone, have you ever done it?  It’s pretty horrible.  I needed a gentle way.  A firm way that involves no shouting or in any way leaving them to scream.You may have heard the method below in other techniques.
“The Boring Mum”
  1. The first few nights, lie or sit next to your babe until s/he falls asleep.  This may take two minutes (yeah, right) or two hours.  Doesn’t matter.  If you have a child that gets upset, comfort them, but don’t engage in play.  You’re going to just say “shush, sleep” and close your eyes or read a book.  Most people will agree this is a sure way to get them to sleep.  My American friend Amy calls this “The Boring Mom” method.
  2. Then, every three nights, you start slowly moving yourself further from them.  Perhaps you start sitting on a chair in the room.  Then a few nights later by the door.  Then the hall.  Eventually you will be sitting on your sofa with a big glass of wine and a smile (that’s the aim anyway).
  3. If they wake in the night, you repeat the same steps above.  You reassure, check they don’t need a drink or a change, and then sit.
  4. As for naps, if you can establish a calm and gentle way of them falling asleep, the naps will come.  I will still do “The Boring Mum” method as often as I can in the day for naps.  It’s hard when you have other children.  I am hopeful that if he enjoys the sensation of falling quietly to sleep, he will not resist the naps.
  5. If they have a good night, lavish on the praise.  If not, you don’t talk about it and you move on to the next night.
  6. Keep a sleep diary.  Note the times and hours.  It may seem like your not making little progress until you look back and reflect.

Emillie ArmstrongAll of the above is going to be hard work.  And I believe you have to be in the right mindset for all of this.  I don’t believe you can skip a step either.  You need the routine before you can help them fall asleep.  But the prize at the end is a rested, calm, and sleepy child who wakes up with a grin.  I expect this to take at least a couple of weeks.

It’s also really important to note that at first, your child may react well to this.  Until night three or four when they go “Whoa, this is serious.  She is genuinely serious about this.  I think not mum!” and they have to take some time to process the change.

Some of this may work.  Some of it may not.  Some of this may have to be changed.  My sleep coach is coming back in two weeks to review.

So lets do this!  I will keep you posted and track our progress, not just counting the hours but the change in our family too.

Emma x

I’m Not a “Wicked Step Mother”

When I became a step mother, back then to a little two year old boy, I scoured the internet for support and help. There are so many books an blogs on how to be a ‘great mother’, but nothing on being step parent. Nothing on how to help raise a child when you skipped the first training sessions. Nada. Zilch. Anything I found raised issues of parents fighting and custody problems. Nothing on how I could help raise this sweet child, and how to overcome the battles and obstacles I faced.

Every journey and every family will be different, so, here is a tiny piece of my story and my advice to you. Countless conversations with professionals, experience and tears has given me these insights…


1. You are not his mother.

Yes, I hear you say. You know that. Well, the first growing pains I faced were the people and family who assumed I would want this role (I still am judged by others who assume I am trying to ‘take him away from his mum’, as if he is some sort of pet who can be bought with treats and kind words). You may automatically be the ‘wicked step mum’ before you can say so much as a hello to anyone. I had no children of my own when first meeting him, and I had no intention of being called mummy. But, I found myself sucked in. I would have an opinion on the little things, then the bigger things. I helped with potty training. I did the homework as he got older. And if that works for you guys, fine. BUT. You are not the mother. Perhaps you think your way would be better, and maybe it would. Your role is to guide your partner and help him raise this child, but not to do it yourself. You have to be clear in your role in the home, for yourself and the child.

2. You will get to be the bad guy a lot. 

Think about it from a kids point of view. He doesn’t get to do something he wants, so who does he choose to be cross with? His dad, who he loves, or you who is conveniently right there and then he doesn’t have to fall out with Dad. Yup. You. Don’t take it personally. Take the hit for the team every now and then, but ensure you’re not on the end of the firing line all the time. That gets pretty stressful. And as for family, try to build up relationships all around you , including the other parent. Because there will be a lot of ‘Mummy lets me do this’ when they want to eat ice cream for breakfast.

3. You will get to do all the crap and none of the credit.

I’m not selling this, am I? But simply you will probably get to do the laundry, the homework and the dinners while everyone else but you gets the credit when they do well in school. You get to tidy up the mess, but you may not get the loving cuddles and whispered “Love yous”. It sucks. This is where your partner steps up and ensures you feel valued and loved. I will be honest and say this is a big deal for me, and I have found communication with my partner is key.

4.  It’s ok not to love them.

Before you start jumping up and down, I feel strongly about this one. I do love my step son. But it has been a long hard journey. And yes, its a different love from my own children. And thats ok. He doesn’t love me in the same way he loves his Mum. The main thing is we hold a piece in our hearts for each other. If you are told that you have to treat them like your own, thats wrong. It’s very hard to love a child that doesn’t always show you love back. You treat them as equally as children– with love and respect.

5. If you have other children, you’re in for a treat.

So here is the good bit. The bit that makes me cry and smile and fall in love with my little family all over again. If you have other children, they will love them so very much. The politics and the drama goes unnoticed by baby eyes. They are young and innocent and oh so in love with this other little human that is their sibling. Watching my step son make his sister laugh, his brother chase him round the room and play cars makes every single moment of hard work worth it.

6. You get to be something very different and very special.

So who does my step son laugh the most with?  Probably me.  I don’t have to be serious. I can tell rude silly jokes, and relive my old school TV programmes and eat a stupid amount of chocolate before dinner. In our home it’s not my job to set the boundaries for my step son. It’s my job to help and support my husband in the ones he put in place. I don’t always have to be the responsible one with him. I find common ground with him and make sure we get time together the same as my own children.

When I started this journey with my husband, I spent so much time worrying and being judged by others. I come to these conclusions through years of learning and professional advice. I was once told that any feeling I had was ok. That I should accept the way I felt about my tribe, share it with my husband and then work on it. This empowered me to accept my family for what it was, and grow it peacefully and in its own time.

So what is it like to be a step parent? It’s exhausting. It’s rewarding. It sometimes harder than having your own children. After the years of hard work, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if I am sometimes the wicked step mother…

Hi. Your baby isn’t a sinning, tantrum throwing, evil genius trying to manipulate you.

Science has always been my wheel house, my comfort zone, my happy place. I thrive off understanding why things work the way they do. There have been a bazillion times when science has contradicted the beliefs I held and I’ve struggled with cognitive dissonance, but at the end of the day science (and instinct and psychology) are what validate and guide my parenting style.

I pride myself in being level-headed and open minded, but I am human and get angry.  I can count on one hand how often I share angry rants on Facebook, but this was the most popular one to date so I thought I would give it a more permanent home here.

Human babies are one of the most helpless creatures at birth in the animal kingdom. They are driven by instinct and a staggering amount of neural development happens in the first few months after birth (aka the 4th trimester). And that was the driving force behind my little rant. It was in response to someone who thought her newborn was sinning because his cries were motivated by anger, throwing a tantrum, he was manipulating her and needed to be left alone to cry to be taught a lesson.  A newborn.  Have you met a newborn?  I just can’t.


I need to vent…
Babies do not cry for no reason.
Babies do not manipulate you.
Babies cannot be spoiled.
A crying baby is not sinning.
Babies cry for a reason. Missing YOU is a reason. Missing you is a NEED, not a weakness.
Self-soothing is bullshit. They stop crying because they have given up hope that their caregiver will respond to their only method of communication, crying.
Infants do not throw tantrums.
Parenting does not stop when the sun goes down.
Babies develop critical connections mentally, physically and emotionally when you touch them and respond to them. You are SUPPOSED to hold them and answer their cries.

Please hold your children. Listen to them. Respond to them.

Jen 

/rant


When I share information about these important topics on Attached Parents at Work I am often met with, “I disagree.”, “That’s just your opinion.” “That’s not what it says in the bible.” or (and this is my personal favorite) “Science and research is crap!

Here’s the truly beautiful thing about science. It’s a truth that always wins out when dueling my cognitive dissonance. A truth that prevents me from taking new

Freedom of Thought

Freedom of Thought

information personally or as a judgment on my past parenting choices. Science is true whether or not you believe in it.  Science doesn’t have an agenda.  It is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions.  It’s a neutral third party.  It’s always evolving, moving forward, changing and progressing.  We need to set our egos aside so we can grow and learn from it.  Our children are worthy of parents who do not allow pride to stand in the way of progress that is in their best interest.  That list above, my angry rant, it is research-based information.  Frankly, I don’t care if you disagree or can’t find it in the bible, because science.

Look, I know we’ve been conditioned to think babies need to learn independence from the beginning and sleep in their crib in the nursery, but if your gut is screaming at you because that doesn’t feel right, there’s a really good reason for that. Modern parenting isn’t doing our children any favors. It’s certainly more convenient and practical to put them in another room so we can force them to adapt to our adult world as quickly as possible, but babies have a genuine need to be close to their caregivers 24/7.  And that need does not end when the sun goes down.

Parenting is hard and there are no vacations. We are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the minute those babies come earth side. If you are not willing to make the sacrifice(s), perhaps a plant, fish or cat are better options for you.

 

Welcome to our new home

Attached Parents at Work is a community dedicated to attachment parenting, positive discipline and nonviolent communication. Anyone wishing to join us in our journey is welcome here, but this is also a safe place for parents who work, go to school or are apart from their children for any reason.

This community advocates for the respect and equal rights of children. As such we are dedicated to educating parents about nonviolent communication, bodily and genital autonomy.

Please join our active community on Facebook. Visit our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or talk privately with other members of our community in our private group.


The Attached Parents at Work blog is a compilation of original work written by myself, Jen Bussey, as well as many of the members of our community.  I felt like it is important for the blog to be representative of our village, not just the world according to Jen.  There are so many walks of life that make up our beautiful community that I want there to be something that everyone can find relevant here.

Check out the author’s name at the top of each article.  If you have a favorite you’d like to see more from, please let me know via email or leave a comment on the article.  Click here to subscribe.

Shoes

When it’s time to retire a pair of my son’s shoes I think about what we did together in those shoes.

Did we stomp enough puddles?
Take plenty of walks together holding hands and exploring?
Did I say “yes” to getting dirty instead of worrying about keeping his shoes nice?

It’s not a test or a standard I hold myself to. It’s a nice walk down memory lane. A reflection on how much he’s grown and how much we learned together. It’s easy to get frustrated at the never-ending replacement of clothes and shoes. This gives me something to look forward to.

Attachment Parenting After the 7 Baby B’s

Since October I’ve been using my lunch break every Wednesday to sneak over to my 6 yr old’s school for his running club practice. All of that practice was to prepare the kids (and some parents) for a community 5k. Today was the big day! He held my hand as we navigated the crowded race start. Then at the end he took off all by himself, left me in his dust and made crossing the finish line look easy. I stumbled over it 31 seconds later lol. Later he told me this was the best day of his life (aww!) and can’t wait to do it again… with me!

I have always wondered how attachment parenting evolves after the babywearing and breastfeeding years. Maybe this is it? Sweet moments when he checks in with me for just a little reassurance by reaching for my hand. Planning and preparing for our next adventure together. And leaving Mom in the dust when he’s ready to go it alone, knowing she’ll stumble by soon enough.

I cannot wait to do it again, but now I need to go soak my 30-something tired muscles in a bath!

jen

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