As you may or may not know, NSSN Twitter account has been under fire recently for defending parents’ right to choose whether they sleep train their kids or not. Let me say this right from the start: I am not an advocate of sleep training. It worked for me, it may or may not work for you. Whatever you choose to do is entirely up to you. What I am an advocate though, in the most passionate way, is a parent’s right to make his or her own choices regarding the upbringing of their baby without fear of judgement, attack or bullying from others.
Those against sleep training call it abuse. They think it’s neglectful and lazy parenting. Some of them may even call you a wanker. They have lots and lots of emotive words at their disposal that will make you think you’re a terrible person, let alone parent, if you decide to embark on sleep training.
Quite simply, it isn’t ‘abusive’. Stubbing cigarettes out on your child is abusive. Punching your child in the face is abusive. Laughing at your child and shaming your child is abusive and YES, leaving them to cry in a pile of their own mess while they vomit all over themselves while you ignore their screaming for hours and hours on end is abusive and neglectful and lazy. But sleep training is NONE OF THOSE THINGS and it is not abusive.
If you don’t agree with sleep training then I fully support you in that. I have a friend who absolutely does not agree with it but does that mean we can’t be friends? No. Does it mean she thinks I abused my baby? No. Do we respect each other’s right to make our own choices. Yes. Do we feel the need to make other people feel shit about themselves? No.
Recently, hypnobirthing teacher and Lactivist, Lottie Daley wrote an article published on the Huffington Post called, My Husband Ignores My Cries which you should read. You should read it because it’s a perfect example of the kind of emotional bullying that people who refuse to acknowledge both sides of a story do. I respect her right to disagree with my views and to think that I am wrong; I even expect her right to believe that sleep training is abuse. What I do not respect is her self-righteous belief that those who do not agree with her are abusive, lazy, neglectful and terrible parents.
It’s a flawed analogy in the first place because comparing an adult relationship with a parent / child relationship is like comparing how I feel about my boss to how I feel about my dead granny, but that aside, what Daley does do is illustrate my point perfectly. There are women, mothers no less! hypnobirthing teachers no less! who feel the need to impose on other mothers their view that they hold to be absolute, right and unimpeachable. Her article is an fantastical imagining based on nothing other than her own opinion but presented in such an emotive and inflammatory way that parents who disagree are met at every turn with, “Well, it’s abuse so you’re wrong.”
To that end, I have created my own version of her article which is, I’ll admit equally flawed. It’s using the same analogy (which is not a good one), it doesn’t refer to any scientific evidence regarding the matter, but I hope it serves to show that any analogy, any conversation, can be used to illustrate whatever point I deem to be true. I can write a made-up article that ‘proves’ my point perfectly as well.
Oh, and I couldn’t resist.
My Husband Won’t Let Me Sleep
I read a conversation on Facebook that grabbed me so hard, I just had to post it.
Sophie: Oh my god. I feel so much better after a good night’s sleep.
Jess: Why? Haven’t you been sleeping? You know, at your age, you should be getting between 17 and 14 hours of sleep a day.
Sophie: I know, right? I am a terrible sleeper though. I used to keep waking up and I couldn’t get back to sleep.
Kate: So what did you do?
Sophie: Well, at first, every time it happened, which was about 3-4 times a night, my husband would give me a cuddle, give me some warm milk and stroke my hair until I fell asleep. That could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Kate: God, your husband is an angel. That’s so romantic! He must love you so much. *sigh*
Sophie: Of course he does. Why wouldn’t he? He’s my husband?
Kate: Yes, but to do that for you every night, three or four times a night, he must love you more than any other husband loves their wife. He must be the best, most perfect husband in the whole world. *sigh*
Sophie: Erm, ok…I guess. But I know he loves me anyway because he tells me every day and we do really fun things together and he looks after me and cooks my meals and plays games with me and cuddles me all the time.
Kate: Yes but to cuddle you all night as well…wow. I wish I could find a husband like that. You know, one who NEVER LET ME GO!
Jess: Sorry to interrupt your fantasy Kate, but your husband must also have been totally knackered.
Sophie: He was. It was pretty rough but he was just so worried about me. He thought I was distressed.
Jess: Were you distressed?
Sophie: No! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t get any damn sleep. I was tired and grumpy and I had a lot of growing and shit to do and I just wanted to get the sleep I needed. With all the grief my teeth are giving me lately, I need a good night’s sleep when I can get one.
Jess: So what’s the secret? Did your husband stay up all night stroking you and holding you and giving you warm milk so that you would sleep? Did he look deeply into your eyes and try, by the power of telepathy to make sure you knew just how much he loved you?
Sophie: Well we thought about it – he worried that I would be upset if I woke up and he wasn’t there to stroke my hair and feed me milk and give me a cuddle and look deeply into my eyes to try, by the power of telepathy, to make sure I knew just how much he loved me. He really likes doing it, you see, even if it means none of us get any sleep. The thing is, I’d rather he didn’t have to do it; I’d rather we could all get some sleep.
Kate: Wow – so you’re actually telling him not to give you cuddles or warm milk or stroke your hair or look deeply into you eyes to try, by the power of telepathy, to make sure you know how much he loves you? What are you? Crazy?
Sophie: No. I just want to get a good night’s sleep.
Jess: So, go on then, what did you do.I’m desperate to know the secret because I’m not sleeping that great either.
Sophie: Well, we came up with this plan where I would wake up and he would give me some time to try and get back to sleep on my own. Not heaps of time…not enough so that I would get frustrated enough so that I was NEVER going to sleep but you know, maybe three minutes or so.
Sophie: Well, after three minutes, if I still wasn’t asleep, he’d tell me he loved me that I was just learning to put myself to sleep and he would give me a kiss and then he’d leave me for five minutes. Repeat, increase time, repeat.
Kate: That’s barbaric. What on earth were you thinking? How could he be so cold and abusive and neglectful? How could he be so detached and so lazy? Husbands are supposed to do everything and anything you demand of them at any time. How did you cope? Didn’t your brain clog up with cortisol to the point where you were flung into a deep, deep depression and then six years later, didn’t you think, “Oh my god! I’m so damaged. I’m such a shit human being and it’s all my husband’s fault.” It hurts my heart to think of you left like that; it makes me feel physically and violently sick to think of you left like that.
*at this point Katie is wailing and sobbing and holding her heart. She is deeply distressed at the terribly story that Sophie is telling.
Sophie: Bitch please. After eleven minutes and three kisses later I was fast asleep.
Kate: But I bet the next night you needed him to help you out though with the milk and the cuddles and the stroking and the looking-deeply-into-your-eyes-thing?
Sophie: No, actually I was asleep after 7 minutes and two kisses. So that was nice.
Jess: You guys must have felt so much better.
Sophie: Oh god – I felt so much better. Him? Not so much. He was all needy and bereft and felt rejected by me. I’d been so reliant on him for this one little thing for so long that it had got to the point where he needed it more than I did. I think he actually missed someone needing him so desperately.
Jess: How is he now?
Sophie: Oh, he’s ok. We still have heaps of fun and he is a good husband but he’s a little full-on and over-protective. Sometimes I just want a little bit of space…you know?
Jess: Yes, I totally know. That’s totally natural – you guys should have a little independence from each other. It keeps your relationship strong and healthy.
Sophie: I totally agree and now that we are both sleeping through the night – I didn’t even wake up once last night – we are thriving. Plus, you know what? I’m even napping better during the day! It’s a miracle. It’s changed both our lives!
Kate: Well, I think you’re both mad. I mean really. If you love someone you’re supposed to live in each other pocket’s and never tire of each other and do everything and anything that persons needs whenever they demand it. That’s all there is to it. Simple. Anything less than that is an abusive, damaging relationship from which neither of you will ever recover. It should be illegal.
I’ll leave you with your thoughts.