One of the most interesting aspects of my job is that I get to work so closely with such a wide variety of people and personalities. Coming into people’s lives, especially at a time when they’re vulnerable and emotional, lets you get to know them in a hurry.
I can honestly say that I’ve never really had two families that reminded me of one another. The difference between every family I’ve worked with is simply astonishing.
And obviously, as the demographics that define the traditional “nuclear family” have shifted over time, those differences have become much more varied and fascinating.
One thing that seems to remain somewhat constant is that there’s usually one parent I would define as the primary caregiver.
I’ve seen families where parents split the childcare duties 51-49. I’ve seen others where one parent tackles the feeding, bathing, supervision, education, and doctor visits, and the other reads their bedtime stories.
Both of these scenarios and everything in between is absolutely fine by me, of course. Any two people who can reach an agreement on what works for them in terms of raising their family deserve a medal, as far as I’m concerned.
But let’s not kid each other; sleep training is a tough slog. You’re obviously sleep deprived by the time you decide to take action. You have a few nights ahead of you that will probably test your patience and determination. If only one person’s involved, it will be that much more of a challenge.
So I am writing this post to you today, dear secondary caregiver. If you’re feeling left out of the child-rearing process and wishing you had more of an opportunity to bond with your baby and take some of the parenting stress off your partner’s shoulders, this is your moment.
And let me tell you something... no dinner at a five-star restaurant, no front-row concert tickets, no trip to a tropical paradise, is going to solidify your place as your partner’s hero quite like taking a leading role in getting your baby sleeping through the night. I am not even slightly exaggerating here.
If you’re reading this, I would guess there’s a decent chance you’re already feeling the effects of at least a few nights of sleep deprivation, so you don’t need to be told how serious the effects really are. The thought of months or even years of this seems like an impossible situation, and your partner undoubtedly feels the same way.
So when you jump out in front of the problem and tell your partner, “I’m here, and I’m ready to tackle this situation alongside you,” it may well result in one of the most passionate, heartfelt smooching sessions of your life. Nothing is sexier than waking up exhausted in the middle of the night and seeing your partner already getting out of bed, telling you to lie down and go back to sleep with those three magic words... “I got this.”
Is it easy? No, not particularly. Sleep training can be challenging. There’s likely to be some crying, some moments of doubt, and a few trying nights, but everyone I’ve guided through the process has told me unreservedly that they would do it all over again in a heartbeat now that they’ve got their child sleeping through the night.
So now that you’re ready to take the reins on this horse, I’d like to speak to the primary caregiver again. Call them into the room, hand them your tablet, pass them your phone, whatever the situation warrants.
Are you there? OK, good. So check this out, you lucky duck. Your partner is awesome. They recognize your efforts in raising your baby and want to pull a little extra weight to make up for all your hard work. In addition, they want to take an active role in helping you get your baby sleeping through the night. So congratulations on your excellent choice of a partner.
So what’s the catch? Well, you have one very simple but difficult task here. You have to let them do it.
As the chair of the parenting department, that might not be easy. You’re probably used to having veto power when it comes to baby-centred decisions. Still, I want you to relinquish that for a while.
Sleep training requires consistency, and you and your partner should have a well-established plan you’re both comfortable with. Still, there’s room for each of you to have a different style within that framework.
So please resist the urge to hover over your partner as they figure out their own approach. It’s vital that they know you’re confident in their parenting abilities. Micromanaging someone else’s parenting will likely result in them just throwing their hands up and saying, “Fine, you do it.” Then you’re on your own again, and your partner probably ends up harbouring a hint of resentment.
Don’t undervalue what you’ve got here. This is someone with a deep and genuine love for your child who’s available and eager to help you with one of the most daunting challenges of early parenting. Moreover, they’re willing to do it for nothing! There are a lot of single parents out there who would literally step over their own mothers for that kind of an offer. So be cool.
Let your partner do their thing. You might be pleasantly surprised at their results, and you enjoy the rather sublime experience of watching them build their own little set of inside jokes, routines, and nuances. It’s like the sweetest thing in the world.
So now, bring your partner back into the room, would you? I want to talk to both of you together here. So go ahead; I’ll wait.
Are both of you there? Alright, good. Listen, what you’re about to do is really going to do amazing things for your little family unit. You’re going to get your baby sleeping through the night, which means you’ll both be sleeping through the night again. But you’re also committing to doing it together, making this endeavour even sweeter.
You’re going to learn how supportive you can both be in some challenging moments, how much stronger the two of you make each other, and how unstoppable you are when you parent as a team.
You’re taking a problem that could seriously deteriorate your relationship and agreeing to tackle it together. I think you should both be very proud of that.
I hope it goes smoothly from the jump, but remember, if it doesn’t, I’m always here to help. Two parents presenting a united front is a mighty force. Still, those same parents armed with an expert to help them through this process, well, that’s practically unstoppable.
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting
Providing families the tools & support they need to get their little ones sleeping through the night and napping like champs! Everyone has more fun when they are well rested!
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