Trying to establish a sleep schedule for my kids was time consuming, emotionally draining, and a true test of my will and patience. Nothing tested my parenting prowess like trying to get my children to sleep at regular intervals for extended period of times. So once I accomplished that monumental task, I was willing to move heaven and earth to make sure that schedule remained intact. So, yes, I will cancel plans over my kid's sleep schedule. And no, I'm not even remotely sorry.
I thought more people would understand how difficult it is to get a child to bed and, as a result, be respectful of my kids' sleep schedules. That's not always the case, though, and more often than not I had to justify a late arrival or the decision to skip out on an event because I value my children's sleep. After all, they're solid sleepers because of the schedule I have been able to maintain. I have busted my you-know-what to make sure that my kids get the rest they need, so I can get the rest I need, too.
I remember being a new mom, completely clueless and lost. I had no idea how I was going to quiet my exhausted, crying baby, let alone enjoy even a few hours of uninterrupted sleep myself. I picked up a bunch of books on the subject and did as much research as I could, but it all left me overwhelmed and a drift in a sea of unsolicited and often contradicting advice. So, little by little, my partner and I figured out what to do on our own and after learning more about our baby girl. We formulated our own sleep system, based on the unique needs of our child, and set a schedule that seemed to work for everyone involved.
Once our baby girl was on a sleep schedule she slept through the night fairly easily, and as a result she wasn't super fussy during the day. Yes, my social life suffered, especially since my world revolved around her sleep schedule, but you know what didn't suffer? My sleep schedule. And that was worth its weight in girls' nights and family gatherings. If I could count on a sleeping baby and a few solid hours of sleep myself, I was more than happy to cancel plans, miss events, and appear "lame" to my child-free friends. Sleep was a priority.
It took years of practice and sacrifice to help both of my kids sleep when they needed to sleep. So despite the criticism and potential hurt feelings, I am proud to say that making my kids' sleep schedule a priority paid off.
Sleep remained a priority when my son was born, five years later, and I learned (the hard way) that no two babies are alike. My son needed an entirely different sleep schedule, due to his gastrointestinal issues and severe acid reflux. I had to find a new way to help my son sleep through the night and when he was at his most uncomfortable, once again relying on my willingness to forego extracurricular activities for the sake of my children's sleep. And, for a while, letting him sleep whenever he could sleep was the only "schedule" that worked. So making plans and sticking to them? Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.
Things didn't get easier once my partner and I were able to find some solutions for his reflux, based on our son's pediatrician's recommendations. Because our baby boy was so used to sleeping at any time, establishing a sleep schedule was like starting from scratch. So instead of canceling plans because my son was finally able to sleep, I was canceling plans to try and get my son to sleep on schedule. And again, friends and family members who weren't aware of just how difficult the entire process was would grow annoyed or frustrated. But my priorities shifted when I became a mom, so attending someone's birthday party, a concert, or an extended family gathering mattered little when compared to my son's sleep.
And since it all paid off, I can't say that I feel any regret about how I chose to prioritize my kids' sleep schedules above anything and everything else. My son is in first grade, sleeps through the night without a problem, and gets enough sleep to function during the day. That didn't happen over night, my friends. It took years of practice and sacrifice to help both of my kids sleep when they needed to sleep. So despite the criticism and potential hurt feelings, I am proud to say that making my kids' sleep schedule a priority paid off.
After all, it's not personal. It's parenting.