Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Grass is Always Greener: Sleep, naps & saying goodbye to mommy guilt

In parenting we have a tendency to look at our situation and think "oh, if only...".  Moms with babies and school age children sometimes fall into this as we look at how we parent our younger children differently.  We can have almost a nostalgic recollection of what family life was like with just the one.   I am as guilty as the rest of assuming my baby & the rest of us were suffering from her status as last born...until Easter break came and we were able to bend our schedule to hers.  What a mistake!

Sleep is precious to me.  Really precious.  You know how sometime the classroom or Sunday school teachers will have the kids talk about or write about their mothers each May? Well, my kids often describe me as such: "She is a really good cook and she likes to read and she mostly likes to sleep". Depending on which child it is s/he may add in something about hugs or snuggles, but the "likes to sleep" is pretty much always there.  It is not that I sleep late or take naps - I WISH! But in our house we keep strict bedtimes - not because all the experts say it is important (they do), but rather because I need them to go to bed so that I can go to bed. I think my eldest needs more sleep than he actually does because the thought of me going to sleep at night when there is a child awake just seems wrong.  Somewhere between 6 & 6:30 am I generally have a little one peak into my room to see if I am up yet.

Sleep experts are huge on schedules and having the older kids in school forces us to comply, and in my mind, poor little Anna has been "suffering" greatly.  You see I have to wake her up from her naps frequently.  Naps are when children catch up on any deficits in sleep.

It breaks my heart.  Children at this age need about 12 hours of sleep so if she is down at 8 and up at 6 she really must get at least a 2 hour nap. And she does.  But there seems to be something so wrong with waking her up she she is zonked out in bed. Then about 1/2 the time she falls back asleep in the carseat for the short ride to school.

So during the break I decided I would put her down after lunch and let her just SLEEP.

Finding a solution to a problem that doesn't exist can sometime create a problem

When your daughter goes to bed a little later for nap, and plays hard all day with her older brothers and sister, she is going to sleep later in the afternoon.  A longer & later afternoon nap means a later bedtime, which does not equate with sleeping-in, it just means the afternoon nap is going to be a long one. So now, rather than her sleeping-in a bit in the am, she is popping up with the sun ready for breakfast.  Rather than being ready for bed at 8:00 pm., we are fighting with her as we yawn closer to 9:00 pm.  And strangely she is awake somewhere in the 6:00 hour still.

So back to the noon or 1:00 nap time.  No more letting her sleep the day away. And no more beating myself up for waking her up at 3:00 to get the school kids.  We were doing just fine minus the mommy-guilt.

Good thing I don't have to wait until the kids go back to school next week in order to swap her back to an early nap! After all, mamma needs her sleep too!

How much sleep should your kiddos get?  
Remember that as a parent you know your child best and there is great variability, 

Adults 7-8 hours
Teens 8-9 hours
School-aged Children 10+ hours
Preschool Children 11-12 hours
Newborns 16-18 hours
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Naptime doesn't last forever.  This was originally published when Anna was two... now it is time for an update... Click here for more on naps and knowing when to give them up
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