If you have a child that doesn’t sleep, there are certain things you will be 'tired' of hearing. If you know someone who has a nocturnal child, take it from me – a mum who hasn’t slept in over two years – there are a few things you should really avoid saying. Even if you are trying to be kind or sympathetic, the chances are that it won't help. If you want to offer comfort to a tired parent, do it in the form of cake (or any other treat you know they like). Little you can say will make the situation better, but cake will undoubtedly help! The sugar is needed to make it through the day and the very idea of preparing healthy snacks is plain exhausting. Just to help you out, from my own experience of staring daggers at friends and family, here are a few things to avoid saying.
'You look tired'
Firstly, thanks. We are surviving on three hours sleep a night and have absolutely no time to spend on ourselves any more. We're surprised we only look tired and not dead! We know we are not looking our best, so please don't point it out.
'It’s just a phase'
Is it? What is this based on? How have you arrived at this conclusion? How long will this 'phase' last? You don't actually have any idea, do you? They are just words. Words said out of kindness and/or concern, but still nothing but words. They are of little comfort to us when our tired minds can't think past tomorrow.
'How did they sleep last night?'
Just steer clear of this question at all costs! If we've had a bad night, we will want to rip your head from your shoulders. If we had a good night, just uttering the words: 'It was OK' can be enough to tempt fate and destroy any progress we had made.
'This won’t last forever'
Genius words of wisdom. Things are tough now. It is hard to look past the current struggle when we are exhausted, fighting to try and keep our head above the water. Thinking a few years (or even just a few months) down the line isn’t our top priority. Also, parenting struggles don't go away, they just change. So, we know that once we have got over this hurdle, we will then be faced with something new and possibly even more challenging!
'Have you tried...?'
If you have something innovative that we genuinely may not have thought of, then please do share. But don't insult our intelligence by suggesting something as basic as a bedtime routine or dark room!
'Mine slept through at...'
However you end this sentence, it won’t end well for you. If it ends by you saying ‘three months’, we will probably be ready to put a voodoo curse upon you! That's brilliant for you. Ours didn't. Let's leave it at that. Even if it’s the other extreme like: ‘mine didn't sleep through until five’, just lie! We are a lot happier being naïve and in the dark. Knowing there are a possible three years more of torture in store for us, may just push us over the edge.
'They must sleep more in the day?' or 'At least they nap'
They may do. But if they don’t, we don't need reminding of this. Even if our children do nap (mine doesn't), allowing us to try and do the same, it still doesn't make up for a full night of sleep.
'They just want to see you'
This may be true and, as lovely as that is, watching our children grow up is a really precious time and it can be difficult to enjoy when sleep-deprived. In my case, extra newborn cuddles through the night were great in the weeks after the birth, but now I have an extremely active toddler to contend with all day; I really, really need to recuperate at night.
'Sleep when the baby sleeps'
**Falls off chair laughing** These are usually the ‘wise’ words of a nonparent! Although most of us have come to terms with the fact that we will no longer have an immaculately kept house, there are a few key essentials that do need to be done like cleaning clothes, making food and occasionally showering. In any brief moments during the day when a child is sleeping, there is a parent not far away, darting about trying to catch up on chores.
'It will get easier' or 'You will get through this'
Thanks, I feel better now – NOT! Now where is the cake?!
'Have you tried "cry it out"?'
A comment that is definitely best to steer clear of. Maybe we've tried it, maybe it's not for us, but the last thing you want to do is add pressure to someone struggling. It's not for everyone and that’s fine.
'You are making a rod for your own back by...'
You might be right, you might not, but right now we just need sleep and absolutely anything that means we all get some rest, we will go ahead and do. We will deal with all the 'rods' collected in our back once we're a little less exhausted! A fragile parent does not need any further guilt piled on them; we have already formed our own extensive list of things we feel guilty about.
If you are struggling with sleep, you have my sympathy. Be kind to yourself: don’t worry that the house isn't perfect. If you want to eat cake at 10am, do it. If you need to go to bed at 8am, then go for it. That to-do list you have can more than likely wait. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first every now and again. Embrace every good night you do have and know that you are not alone.