Tag Archives: Baby Sleep

Maybe the Secret to Happiness is Getting Organized

The first few months of E’s life were quiet and slow. We nursed and napped and often that seemed like it. Time moved like taffy, languid and sweet. People often asked if I watched television. The answer was no. My life was an ongoing meditation. Somehow the stillness was enough.

With each month, the momentum picked up a little here, a little there. Sometimes the stillness was too much. I contemplated returning to work as a teacher, but I could not do it, I was not ready. Being a stay-at-home mom was more than enough.

And, it still is, but my use of time is changing. Forget the labels, SAHM vs WAHM, it is similar enough. Suddenly I am free again, the magic of early bedtimes and well-managed naps. For 2015, I have a schedule. Different chores for different days, focused time use for each block E wakes and sleeps, with spreadsheets to go with it because that is how my brain works.

Writing remains my passion, but I also have a different need, a need to get out, meet people, and contribute more immediately to our household income. It is in my bones. I am doing it for me. Like so many in our culture, I don’t know how not to work for financial gain. For better, or for worse, it is hard to say.

This year, I am embarking on a new adventure and joining the family business after more than a decade avoiding it. I should have known, really, that one day real estate would officially call my name. My first real job post-college, after all, was real estate consulting. I grew up walking the floor plans of the homes my aunt built, the homes my whole family seemed to sell. When my husband took the plunge, I should have known I would be next.

For now, I am assisting my husband with business management, but maybe one day I will also get my license to sell on my own. I did not expect this decision to excite me so much, but it is pretty much the most flexible job I could have with no set number of hours. There is still time in my day to write and be present for my family. It is a win.

Here is a screenshot of Google Keep on my phone, such a great way to consolidate all those to-do lists.
Here is a screenshot of Google Keep on my phone, such a great way to consolidate all those to-do lists.

In order to make it happen, however, we have had to focus on our systems and routines at home. I am a to-do list queen, so imagine my excitement to discover Google Keep, a place to keep all of our to-do lists synched in one place accessible by both computer and phone. I have already completely geeked out and made a list for everything: shopping, separate home and work to-do lists for both me and my husband, social tasks I don’t want to forget to accomplish…

Years ago I read the Happiness Project and it changed my life. Not because it was particularly profound but because it emphasized setting goals and getting organized in the pursuit of living the life you want. That is how getting organized to accomplish my goals makes me feel.

Happy.

Not the smug or obnoxious kind, but just the fulfilled, purposeful, want-to-share kind. As you get organized for the year ahead, I would love to hear your organizational secrets too.

What I did not expect about “better” sleep…

Our much happier sleeper this morning!
Our much happier sleeper this morning!

For the last couple months, I have craved a more consistent sleep routine with E. Co-sleeping served us well for nearly half a year, but she got to the point where I could no longer escape from bed after putting her down in the evening. This caused her bedtime to creep back later and later as she would reawaken when I would try to get out of bed without her. I dreaded nighttime because it meant hours of repeated attempts and usually ended with me so tired I would just give up and go to sleep with her, leaving zero adult time in the evenings and taking away valuable sleep from her routine.

I knew as soon as we had our new place, I would have to start new systems, but I really dreaded the crib and crying it out. Friends had shared both the horrors of dealing with screaming (and vomiting) babies for several hours on end as well as the amazing leaps in sleep duration. It would be our last resort. Instead, I read up on the Montessori bed, and as I already shared, it was magic for naps, but not for bedtime.

Then a friend recommended The No Cry Sleep Solution. While I am still waiting for our copy to arrive, I was able to glean enough from descriptions on the internet to get the point that repeated action is the key. For the past couple days, I have kept our day and sleep routine exactly the same. We wake-up, eat breakfast, nap, have lunch, take a long walk (getting outside is also supposed to help), nap, go through our dinner rituals, get cleaned up, and start the bedtime steps as soon as she shows the slightest sign of being tired, (even if that means 7PM!). We use the same vocabulary, pull out her comforting blankets and toys, and then lie her down to nurse over and over with the same words until she goes to sleep.

I had heard recommendations of repetition in the past, but I had always felt like my attempts were enough. I would give up after a half hour or so, and allow her to come hang out with the grownups until she seemed tired enough to start the process again. Last night, I did not give up. For two hours, I repeated the steps, over and over, putting her little squirmy body back into her bed until finally, at 10PM she was asleep in her own space and I was able to go downstairs and sit in front of the fireplace with my husband.

I realize it is still a little early to declare sweet victory, but for us, it felt like it. She slept three whole hours in her own bed AT NIGHT. This earned her an entire extra hour of sleep and did not require me to stay in bed with her like usual. From what I have read, if I continue this unrelenting repetition, the amount of time spent getting her to sleep should decrease, and I can already tell from the consistency of her naps over the last week we have made some real progress in getting her to sleep in her own space.

What I did not expect, however, is how difficult it would be for us. Both my husband and I debated carrying her into our room when it was time for us to go to sleep last night. We could not wrap our minds around the idea of not sleeping with her after so many months of falling asleep with her between us. Still, we resisted the urge in hopes it would buy her more sleep than usual. For an entire hour, I lay awake in bed, unable to drift away without the warmth of her little body next to me.

When she awoke screaming around 1AM, we both jumped out of bed, relieved and eager to have our little beast back with us. I guess we will eventually have to work on encouraging her to stay sleeping in her own bed when she awakens, but for now, it is exciting to think I may have my evenings back to myself, even if I find myself missing her next to me when it is time to go to sleep.

Parenting is funny. We want so much for ourselves and our children, but often we are the ones dependent on old habits. I would never take back co-sleeping and the special bond it has created or the extra sleep it bought us in those first crazy months, but I also recognize it is time to do a little letting go for her good and mine. I just have to remind myself the benefits are worth the twinges of pain.

Month Nine: Patience, Hope & A Montessori Bed

E's new room and her new Montessori bed.
E’s new room and her new Montessori bed.

Maybe every month seems crazy and I just forget, but month nine seemed extra challenging. Two very sharp top teeth appeared. Two high fevers. One cold. Fourteen nights of very little sleep. Yes, I counted.

Silver lining, month nine ended with a new house. In fact, I type right now as E sleeps in her new Montessori bed, my out-of-the-box approach at getting her to sleep on her own. She refuses to be set down in a crib. Who can blame her, I don’t like to sleep by myself, either.

But, I can’t spend all my time asleep with her, so I did my homework and came across the Montessori bed. It works like this, a mattress on the floor with baby-safe bedding in a baby-safe (as much as that is possible) room. According to Montessori teachings, it gives babies the space to develop on their own terms. Honestly, though, that isn’t what sold me. If anything, I was a little skeptical a baby would sleep with so much freedom.

The Montessori bed at work. Don't worry, the big pillow is for me, I move it out of the way.
The Montessori bed at work. Don’t worry, the big pillow is for me, I move it out of the way.

However, it was worth a shot because it was the only method for her to have her own space and for me to still be able to lie down next to her when needed. I nurse or sing to her with a little back rub, and she (usually) goes to sleep. So far, it works for a couple hours at a time and I no longer have to fear her tumbling out of our bed if she awakens without me.

As she gets bigger and I get antsier for time to myself, I completely get why parents choose to let babies cry it out. Still, I am hopeful for a gentler approach. Next stop, should there be one, is back to the crib and (a little) crying. My fingers are crossed we are headed in a good direction with this set-up. I also have to remind myself to treasure these moments of closeness as they last.

Patience, patience, patience.

Month nine has been a hard month, but a good month too. Our little adventure back home with the big family included many joyous moments. There are definitely things to be missed about communal living, just as there are things to be celebrated about our own space. Life is always filled with trade-offs. I am grateful for both experiences.

Here's that freedom stuff I was questioning...
Here’s that freedom stuff I was questioning…

As we begin month ten, I am hopeful we will find a good rhythm on our own, E will sleep more independently, and I will make a serious dent in the book I am writing. Oddly, I feel like I will be able to write more living on our own because her naps are less interrupted and I have more space to bring in daytime caregivers. Then again, maybe being the mom of a baby makes it hard to write in any setting, but I am hopeful.

Hopes, hopes, hopes.