Based on the headline alone this column could be about my children and how they fight over every single toy/book/bit of fluff that we own. But actually, it's about me. Me being a jealous old b*tch.
I try to be as honest as possible here and in my Dear Mamas podcast. Even when it's embarrassing. Even when it makes me look awful. I think we need radical honesty when it comes to this parenting thing. We need less Instagram perfection and more tired reality.
Also, for some unfathomable reason, I have been called a parenting expert in a few places. In case it isn't CLEAR AS DAY I am not an expert at anything (particularly not parenting).
I have a feeling that the people who call me an expert have never read this column.
Anyway, I don't see this as a broadcast, I learn so much from everyone who comments (well, everyone except the dickheads). I feel connected and far less isolated when I read your comments. I don't know what I'd do without this community we've built up around a few silly posts about sleep. It's not me talking at people (I hope).
And that's what I've been thinking a lot about: How the comments that say "my child hasn't slept through the night yet and they're 16 months old" make me feel better about EVERYTHING. And how the comments like, "My darling Phenergan started sleeping through from two weeks old " or, "My cherub Narcolepsy has six-hour-a-day naps" make me want to punch a wall.
Like, look at this woman:
My first reaction, if I'm honest, is: I bet she's a b*tch. But she probably isn't. It's possible that's just the very tired me talking and she hasn't actually done anything at all except pretend to sleep for a stock photo. So I need to stop imagining people on fire just because they talk about how much sleep they're getting.
Or just because they say things like, "We had one sleep regression that lasted two days - it was Hell. But little Quinoa has slept 22 hours for the last six months so I probably shouldn't complain".
I try, I do. But when your child can't even have a sleep regression because that would mean they have to bloody regress from sleeping and they've never bloody slept, ever - it's really hard to keep perspective and not turn into a green-eyed monster.
In all seriousness, I don't want to be a monster.
It seems particularly unfair that when you need connection the most as a parent there are all these barriers that begin to pop up. I think one of the biggest barriers is jealousy. I sometimes (often, if I'm honest) feel incredibly jealous of parents whose children sleep through the night or who have good (longer than 45 minutes) day naps.
I try to remember sleep isn't everything. But it's a bit like air, I guess: you don't think about it until you don't have it. I feel really bothered a lot of the time, as I listen to people talk about their child having two or even three (!!!) day naps. Or about their child waking early but sleeping all night. In my head I begin this spiral: "How come you get good day naps AND you only have one wake up a night?" or, "Oh please, do not b*tch about day naps when your child sleeps 14 hours a night".
I don't want to have this kind of thinking. But I do have it.
Doing this doesn't help me at all. For a start I just look like an absolute weirdo not contributing to the conversation and just jerking my head around whenever someone says their baby is sleeping through and she/he's 10 months younger than mine. Feeling envious doesn't make me feel better, it doesn't make my child sleep, but I often find myself getting deeper into that jealous spiral. I have to try hard not to.
I find I have to constantly remind myself to have empathy for others, and not to begrudge others for their sleep. It's hard. Not sleeping makes me a b*tch a lot of the time so I need to keep saying, "Be kind, be kind, be kind. I need to un-b*tch myself".
The thing that has helped me the most with this is through conversations online with other parents whose children loathe sleep. It reminds me there's not something wrong with us, and there are others who know what this kind of dull terribleness is like. Those conversations make me feel better equipped to keep things in perspective and not let monster-me take over.
I am a huge champion of just accepting your circumstances when it comes to the way our kids are. Some kids don't sleep, some kids do. Some kids are clingy, some kids aren't. Some eat well, some don't. Some are anxious and shy, others are confident and social.
I often think there's little we can do as parents to change this, other than to provide a safe environment for them to be what they're going to be. It's kind of just working around the unique individuals our kids are.
But despite repeating that mantra of, "We are all different, but we are all in this together", I falter. I carry the weight of often feeling like the only person in the room whose child STILL isn't sleeping. The person who yawns during a really important conversation. The one who forgets things. The one who is often the least productive person at any given time.
I'm real tired of always looking baked as well.
But I really need to remember I'm not the only one who feels like this. And that jealousy won't make me bright eyed and bushy tailed. It won't make me productive. It won't provide me with rest or energy at all.
Connection will though. Connection with others will build me up and make me strong.
And I can't let jealousy stop me connecting with others. Especially when I know in my heart that a full night's sleep doesn't solve all parenting problems. Getting eight hours (or even a solid six) doesn't mean you don't have challenges. I know this. It's just that in the thick of it sometimes it's hard to see.
I have had exhausted mums rally and cheer for us the first time Ham slept through. He slept through twice more and twice more I felt buoyed by the celebrations. I want to rejoice at rest for anyone and everyone. Whether they've had it consistently from an early age, or whether it has taken months, or years.
Sleep should always be a thing that is met with joy - regardless of who is getting it. I also think there's a fair bit of hyperbole that goes on when it comes to sleep milestones: I really do believe Baby Narcolepsy, Baby Phenergan, and Little Quinoa probably aren't sleeping as well as their parents claim. So that helps when I just don't have any reserves to remind myself to be nice.
In short, I'm working on it. I'm working on less jealousy and more empathy and more acceptance and more of all those good things that push away the bad sh*t.
These thoughts are brought to you by another 4am wake up after six million other wake ups and me trying to be a better person despite never bloody sleeping.