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Okay, parents, let’s just get it right out in the open. It’s the elephant in the room for many of our consultation clients, but we think it’s high time we addressed it here on the blog, and talked about it openly.
We’re talking about sleep training guilt.
Have you felt this? Does the idea of sleep training in order to achieve hours of glorious, uninterrupted night sleep and long, peaceful naps sound wonderful to you? But maybe it’s also tainted by a weird, lingering feeling of guilt, that somehow even wanting to sleep train (much less actually doing it) is somehow selfish?
If so – you’re not alone. MANY of the families with whom we’ve worked have said this very thing as they’ve started their consultations – “I’m so excited to be doing this finally, but I also feel super guilty. I feel selfish for wanting to fix my child’s sleep!”
Well, readers, this is the question we’re answering in today’s post: Is sleep training selfish? We say yes AND no – read on to find out why!
Sleep Training “Selfishness”: Why The Guilt In The First Place?
Why does sleep training feel selfish in the first place? Well, most of us end up sleep training out of our own crippling exhaustion. While some parents do sleep train solely based on their baby’s needs, for most of us, it’s a combination of “my baby isn’t getting enough sleep, and NEITHER AM I!!” Because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we need sleep, too. We need adequate sleep in order to have healthy relationships with our partners, to enjoy our daily lives and activities, and to be the best parents we can be.
I also think that sleep training guilt over “being selfish” has a lot to do with the pervasive myth of The Super-Mom. What is the super-mom? Well, super-moms…
- …breastfeed with ease (no latching problems, nipple soreness, or supply issues, thankyouverymuch) and do it exclusively for years.
- …make ALL baby and toddler food from scratch, using only organic, locally-grown ingredients.
- …can churn out ALL the crafts on Pinterest – and theirs always look just like the pictures. (Meanwhile, mine end up looking a whole lot more like Pinterest fails…anyone else??)
- …retain their girlish figures indefinitely (because why let a little thing like multiple pregnancies be an excuse for saggy tummies and less-than-lovely breasts?)
- …have 18 month olds who are potty-trained AND reading independently.
- …are unfazed by their toddlers’ monster-sized tantrums and NEVER resort to raising their voices or losing their cool.
- …can happily subsist on just a few hours of sleep per night, and still be patient moms and loving spouses all day long.
Now, not all of these are unachievable dreams — some of these bullet points may describe you, actually! (Although if the bit about the girlish figure fits you, I have to ask — what’s your secret???! 😉 And that one about never raising your voice — could someone please tell me how to manage that on a daily basis??) But the point is that there is NO mom out there who fully fits this profile – because it’s not realistic. A mom who could pull all that off would be more robot than human. Especially that last one — while a small percentage of you may be able to function long-term on very little sleep, I’ll be you’re doing just that – functioning. Not living life to the fullest, not enjoying your family and your life – just functioning. And I’ll bet that most of you (me included) can’t even function on just a few hours of sleep for very long.
You know, I used to wish SO HARD that I was the kind of mom who could be up with the baby all night long and then be sweet and calm and happy the next day — but I’m not. Not by a long shot, actually! I need a minimum of 6 hours at night to function well the next day, and if I have a few nights in a row of getting less than 8 hours of sleep, I need to make up for it with one or two nights of getting 9 or 9.5 hours. I used to feel bad about this – can you believe that? I used to feel guilty for needing to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. But it’s true – and I’ll bet most of you can relate. Because that’s not what super-mom is supposed to do; she’s not supposed to let a little thing like constant sleep deprivation slow her down!
Is Sleep Training Selfish? For Some Of Us…Technically Yes!
You know, the word “selfish” is a pretty loaded one – it has a ton of negative connotations. Lots of dictionary definitions define selfish as being supremely concerned with oneself, and not caring about the needs or interests of others. In short – selfishness is bad, by standard definitions!
But do you know what selfishness technically means? Break the word down, and it simply means ‘concern for one’s self.’ By this definition, then, sleep training can be selfish, if you do it out of a concern that you might literally DIE if you don’t start getting enough sleep! Or if you do it for fear that your marriage might fall apart if you and your spouse don’t start getting enough sleep, and you don’t want your partner to leave you. Or if you do it because you feel yourself sinking into a deep depression that you know is brought on by sleep deprivation.
Technically speaking, those are all “selfish” acts – they’re done out of concern for yourself.
Is Sleep Training Selfish? Ultimately, No.
I think we’d all agree that our reasons for sleep training involve more than just our own wellbeing. Most of us sleep train for our spouses and partners, too – we recognize the toll that sleep deprivation is taking on them. And, of course, we do it for our children, because we know that as long as they are waking too often at night, or taking too-short naps, they are not getting the rest they need for healthy development. And many of us know firsthand that our overly-tired children are simply too tired and cranky to enjoy each day – and that’s something that no parent wants for their child!
So, even if some of your motives for sleep training are technically “selfish”, in that they are focused on your needs, it’s likely you have other reasons for sleep training, too.
And what about those “selfish” motives? Should you feel bad about them? In a word – NO. Taking care of yourself, while it may not be part of the “super-mom” myth, is in reality a very, very healthy practice. If you are so busy taking care of everyone else in your family that you completely ignore your own needs, it won’t be long before you are too burnt out to be much use to anyone. Better to pay attention to yourself AND to your children and your partner – better to focus on meeting your own sleep needs AND on making sure that the other members of your family are rested.
You Don’t Have To Feel Selfish For Reclaiming Your Sleep — Let Us Help!
If you feel desperate to solve your baby or toddler’s sleep problems, and to reclaim your own sleep, don’t let yourself be bogged down by guilt! Sleep training may be one of the best decisions you ever make for yourself and for your family – so why not start today? Our trained sleep consultants are standing by, ready to help you get started. Your consultant will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for you and your family, and walk you through every step of implementation.
Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!
How about you – have you struggled with sleep training guilt? Do you think sleep training is selfish? Share your opinions with us!
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