The confessional

It’s time – time for some truth. Time for some parenting confessions. I’ll be honest, I have said a few white lies in the past, at a coffee group, to a colleague, a friend even…definitely to family now and then. It’s just sometimes I don’t want the lecture or the raised eye brow or the tilt of the head and the half smile. I am sure every parent has a confession or two. This will be our safe place, I’ll share if you do…..

*deep breath*

Confession #1: We are co-sleepers

Look, I try to pretend we aren’t. But we are. I will say things like “Oh he mostly sleeps in his own bed” or “Mostly it’s just a visit in the morning to get him to sleep longer”. Unless if by mostly I actually mean never – it’s a fib. Because mostly he actually never bloody sleeps unless one of us is in there. And we never set out to be co-sleepers. I actually said before having kids I’d never co-sleep. My bed is a sanctuary I said. HA HA SOB. For my hubris, my bed is now not a sanctuary. Co-sleeping is the only way my youngest sleeps for longer than 45 minutes. He will cry out and reach a hand into the darkness and when he touches my shoulder or my husband’s wrist or the side of my face his body relaxes, and he goes back to sleep. If he reaches out and we are not there he screams and then he wakes himself up and then it takes forever to get him to go back to sleep. That is why we co-sleep. In other posts I’ve talked about co-sleeping, but I’ve often told people it’s only occasionally, or I’ve allowed them to believe that our youngest has grown out of it. We recently went on holiday and I didn’t put up the cot. That’s when I realised we are really co-sleepers. I didn’t even bother with pretending that he was going to at any point sleep in the cot. I should be more open about this, but lots of people who don’t co-sleep believe co-sleeping is why he won’t sleep. I co-slept with Eddie until he was almost two and then he moved into his own bed in his own room, just before Ham arrived. Eddie is a great sleeper now, and he even has sleepovers. Co-sleeping (I believe) has worked really well for him, and we are sure it will work out well for Ham too. So because I don’t want to be told not to do it, because I’m comfortable with doing it, I usually tell people he doesn’t sleep with us – but the cat is out of the bag with this post I guess.

Also, people ask weird questions about co-sleeping. Like when I once said I co-slept with Eddie I got asked “but what about y’know…” And I’m like sex? And they were like “yeah y’know”. I was literally six months pregnant when they asked me this question.

Anyway, for now though, Ham still doesn’t sleep through the night but I am OK with that.

Confession #2: I am not OK with my kid not sleeping through the night

I just lied to you. I’m sorry. I so often tell people I am OK with not ever getting sleep. I always say things like “yeah, I’ve accepted that Ham is just not a good sleeper”. I have not. I am really fucking shitty about having two babies that don’t sleep. There I said it. It’s bullshit and it’s not fair and I want a baby that sleeps. Damn, that felt good! I tell people all the time that It’s just the way it is and I’m alright with it. NOPE. The other day I saw one of those pictures on Instagram – you know one of those typography things – some baby book milestone app thing. The baby was sleeping and it had the baby’s name and weight typed over it all pretty and under interests said something like pottery and fascism (I can’t remember) and it also said “Sleeping through the night at eight weeks” and for a brief second (not that brief) I just saw this red mist? Is that weird? I wanted to kind of punch a wall? That’s not weird right? Don’t answer that. I honestly am so fucking annoyed that my kids don’t sleep and that I’ve tried everything and just THIS IS IT. And I’m so fucking annoyed other people get two or three fucking kids who sleep all fucking night from TWO FUCKING MONTHS OLD WHAT THE FUCK. And sometimes I see those posts where people are all Oh I’m so bored my baby has been sleeping for a week and a half and I just want to wake him up! And for a second I just actually put a hex on them. Not a really bad curse. Just, I silently pray that they will pour some cereal into a bowl and then pour the milk but only a tiny bit will come out and the carton will be empty and it will be too much milk to save the cereal but not enough milk to eat it. Or I wish that they will go to the store and their favourite brand of cereal will be temporarily out of stock. Yes, my spells are mostly breakfast related don’t judge me.

I just feel real sadness that I won’t ever know what it’s like to parent without being severely sleep deprived. I really wish I knew what it was like. I wish I knew what type of mother I would be without bags under my eyes and a dull headache. Would I be calmer? Patient? Would I be a much better mother than I am? Would I be a better wife, a better daughter, sister, and friend? Would I be a better volunteer, a better community member, a better writer? I feel sad. And so I lie. I say I’m not that tired and I say I am fine with the fact that my kids don’t sleep. I am convincing myself so that I can adjust to my reality and eventually, hopefully, make peace with it.

Confession #3: We don’t ever eat as a family and I don’t give a shit

And yes, I’m always going to lie and say we do. I get it, eating as a family is important. Yes. Fine. I concede this is true. But it is also significantly more stressful than not eating as a family for us right now. The baby eats first in a high chair. Our dining room table is covered in 128 loads of washing. My oldest does not eat with any kind of distraction. He would love it if we sat together encouraging conversation. Because then he could talk and not eat. Look, I’ve seen that ad. I’ve seen where they ask the kids who they want to eat with and they’re all MUMMY AND DADA and that’s cute but also I don’t care. Logistically I need to eat my food quickly so I can handle the youngest who just threw an entire pot of yoghurt on the floor while my husband coaches our son saying “just one more spoonful please buddy”. We are working on ways to make dinner time less stressful but right now this segmented regime of splitting up the children and assigning one adult to each one to make sure they both have something in their bellies before bed time – it works and it is the least stressful way to eat. Yet I will always tell people we eat as a family because we do – umm sort of. I mean I eat the bits left over on their plates or the parts Eddie doesn’t want while standing and trying to catch falling food (which I also eat). So we kind of do eat as a family. I mean I get why people who have grown kids are always like EAT AT THE DINNER TABLE blab la bla. I mean they have fond memories that are very removed from the realities of two under three because they’re reflecting on something they did 20 years ago. Also they’re all about conversations at the table as if the table is some designated talk zone and nowhere else in the house is a place where you can talk. We have our conversations before bed. Snuggled up warm. Sleepy tired eyes closing as we recount the day. Free from distraction we talk about who we helped that day. How we can help others tomorrow. What our favourite part of the day is. Who was our best friend today? Who loves us? Who makes us happy? Can there ever be a dolphin that is also a firefighter and do dinosaurs smile and what would happen if you didn’t have a face (what is it with the weird shit kids come up with). It is relaxed and loving and gentle and it doesn’t feel forced. Eventually those conversations will move to the dinner table but the fact is dinner right now for us is just GETTING THE FIRST BORN TO EAT and STOPPING THE SECOND BORN FROM EATING EVERYTHING. So rest assured not only are we talking but the oldest is very rarely not talking. But all of that feels like justifications for something I don’t feel guilty about so instead I just say “mmm yeah eating at the table so important yup definitely….”

So there you go. My confessions. I’d love to hear yours. I know some of these you might think are ridiculous. Maybe you think I’m silly for not just being out with them – and you’re kind of right, which is why I’m putting them out there. We are our own worst judges and even though I don’t feel guilty about any of these…maybe I do? Maybe it still feels like I have a picture in my head of what a good mother is and I’m still trying to be that image. Maybe it’s time to put pencil to paper and redefine her. Draw her so she looks a little bit more like me, so I can be a little kinder to myself.

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38 Comments on “The confessional

  1. Pai doesn’t eat dinner. We make her a plate every single night as if she is going to eat it and we set the table and when we sit down to eat she runs in, looks at her plate and then runs in the opposite direction. Barring when we eat pizza this happens every damn night. And I don’t have the energy to care so every damn night we make a plate and then throw it in the bin 30 minutes later.

    Also 5 nights out of 7 she wakes up in the night and demands something (light/water/music/a pony). When I stumble into her room at 4am I think of that awful woman from our antenatal classes who said “they won’t be waking at night when they’re school aged!” and imagine myself smacking her in the face and then making her get up and give the kid a hug and a lost bear and and and and.

  2. I told people six months ago that I got rid of the dummy. I didn’t. Don’t care! Dummies work! Love this post.

  3. I stopped using cloth nappies straight away because it was too much washing but I still tell my antenatal group I’m using them because I don’t want a lecture about the environment.

    I don’t care about the environment I just want to stop having a million washing loads.

  4. Still co-sleeping probably 5 nights a week and they are in primary school. In my partner’s family (Islanders) there is sometimes talk about the sadness of the stage when your youngest hits their teens and it’s time to stop co-sleeping. I used to be quietly horrified by this, having grown up in a family where children slept in their own beds and rooms, but I’ve been totally converted and now I too dread that moment. Apparently in his country / community, when a child and their parent seem to have a good relationship, people will often say, “Oh you must have slept closely”. It’s quite beautiful. It’s also really normal in lots of cultures, and I actually think more white people co-sleep with their kids nowadays than before, which is nice. It would be interesting to research.

    • Oh Kate that made me cry! Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate it more than you could know!

      • I hope it helps erase any remaining guilt! I think as long as you can carve out a bit of time for intimacy w your partner (however you define that), and you eventually reach a point where you can have a night on your own when you need it if you’re feeling “touched out” or whatever, co-sleeping w your children is pretty special and def not sth to feel bad about. I also remember reading an article about it among working in singapore who said because they were away from their kids all day co-sleeping provided an important way of maintaining closeness. Sweet dreams ?.

  5. I sometimes find mothering my 15 month old really, really boring. I tell everyone I love being a stay at home mum and I do. But not all the time. I kind of want to put him in daycare two days a week, but not to go back to work, I yearn to eat crap food and watch Netflix marathons and loll around for 8 hours doing absolutely nothing. I won’t, but I really, really want to. It’s even worse because he’s an IVF baby and I *should* be so grateful for every moment but I sometimes just clock watch till nap time so I can read a book a wee uninterrupted.

    • My 2 year old was unplanned and especially when I was off work I often wondered if I’d feel less resentful of having no time for myself if he’d been planned – then I’d feel guilty that I wasn’t grateful enough because I know so many people who have had fertility issues and I should count myself lucky getting pregnant easily.

  6. I am always so happy I found your blog. I wish you had been in my coffee group, I didn’t like mine. You say what I think/feel. My son (almost 10 months) was not great at daytime sleeps, still isn’t. I remember women at coffee group being concerned about the routine and how long their babies were sleeping and comments like “I can’t get him/her to stay awake for more than 2 hours if they wake” I was so jealous of them!!!

    Also, I ended up bottle feeding mainly for convenience. I wanted to breastfeed and I tried so hard, but I could never fill my son up and I needed help feeding him and was exhausted. Then I was expressing and using a bottle, and he took a bottle so much better than the breast, but then started to mix feed with formula and in the end just did this as meant I wasn’t pumping all the time or forcing my son on the boob when he just wanted the bottle and would have to finish a feed with it anyway. It has meant others can feed him easily and I was able to rest too.

    Are there days I wish I wasn’t a parent. Yes. I don’t wish to not have my son, but I wish that I got to have a sleep in, that I could do what I want when I want without having to factor in a nappy bag or a baby sitter, that I wasn’t spending ridiculous amounts on childcare rather than saving or going on holiday.

    Ok, confession done.

  7. Ok my confession – my friend got divorced and her ex has her kids for a weekend every second weekend and for a week during school holidays and I know it sounds awful but sometimes I’m jealous! I know she must not get a break during the week but if I had free weekends oh my goodness I would read so many books and I’d go to a movie! Oh I feel awful for saying that out loud haha!

  8. I can only get my 10 month old to sleep by breastfeeding or walking in the pram…. At daycare they use some kind of magik and she naps twice a day by herself in a cot…. I wonder contantly as i circle the block in all weather why I cant have a napping baby – the things I would do with that time if i could stop walking are painful to think about.

  9. Still co-sleeping for part of the night (well from 3am on) at 10 months, and still feeding her to sleep day and night and letting her sleep on me through the day (really bad, I know). I miss being able to sit and read as much of a book as I want, decide when I sleep and how much, andI really miss being able to leave the house in under an hour after I’ve decided to go. I too am so glad I found your blog, otherwise I’d have felt a good deal more lost than I do now.

  10. Every night we sit down to dinner with Mr Almost 2 & serve him the “family meal”. He eats bugger all. It goes in the pig bucket. Then he gets weetbix and fruit to fill him so he doesn’t wake at 5am starving. He’s drunk raw milk since 18 months old. He’s only just started letting us brush his teeth, the toothpaste does not contain fluoride but we tell the dental tech otherwise. I sometimes leave him in a poopy nappy in the morning as my priority is our 2 month old and he doesn’t give a shit if his nappy is full of shit. Gee I could go on and on. Most of my lies are to health professionals such as the Plunket nurse, which is interesting as I’m a practice nurse (I wonder how many of my patients lie to me? They don’t need to!). But I can’t be bothered with lectures or judgments about my decisions as a parent.

  11. I do all of these things! Dinner time is a painful necessity, the lack of sleep is turning me grey (I swear it wasn’t this tiring the first time around) and, despite having 2 premmies and being told horror stories about co-sleeping, we’ve done it with both of ours. Older one now sleeps in his own bed all night but the youngest still likes to know that mummy is there – not so fussed about daddy!
    We’ll get there, and when we do something else will replace it to make us feel like we need to tell ‘stories’ (as my eldest) would say!

  12. I don’t even have kids but I love your posts <3 I totally relate to your attitude about everything and suspect I will one day be a very similar type of parent to you. You make me feel better about all the things I already mildly stress about.

  13. We eat takeout 4/7 nights at the moment because I’m too tired to cook. I use an iPad to babysit Miss 8 when I just need a break, in addition to her assigned hour or two screen time before dinner. I never wanted to be a parent, and with a 12 year old and an 8 year old, I just do the best I can with what I’ve got in the way of emotional energy. Some days I get home from work and just go straight to bed, and we picnic on the bed for dinner. I feel better having admitted these things.

  14. Thank you so much for your confessional. I also worry about the effects my sleep deprivation has on my parenting. Would I be more tolerant of the insane toddler demands and not get widly angry at the infant who only naps for 30 minutes if I was allowed to sleep through the night and past 4.30am? I will never know, it’s my lot, but jesus it sh*ts me.

  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Motherhood can get very competitive and stressful; and we don’t need that added pressure on us. Well done for being honest… guess happy mums really make for happy babies! Do what works for YOU as a family…. so what if its not ‘correct’!

    My 2.5 year old is addicted to his dummy (im struggling to get him off it… but it is a godsend and has been since he was a month old!!!), still drinks his milk from a bottle, has not slept in his cot since the past 6 months and I let waaay to much TV. But I need to sometimes!!!

    I absolutely love the honesty in your blog. We mums can relate!!!

    Great stuff.


    • Gosh that’s it in a nutshell – “Motherhood can get very competitive” & “happy mums really make for happy babies”.
      I have four kids and you know what? They’re all different. What worked with one didn’t with the next and so on. There is No. Freaking. Way. that I will be honest about how I raise my kids with anyone but my partner and his mum – someone else always wants to put their 2cents in. An you know what else? Like everyone else who reads this blog (and a ton of others) I make parenting mistakes. I’ve given my kids cereal for dinner when I’ve come home knackered & they’re still thriving. We’ve loudly repeated (on a plane, it was too funny) all the disparaging comments a non-parent said from the row in front about my children but they’re taught to respect those who respect them (and after all, I paid for those airline seats too). I bribe the youngest to make his bed etc with tablet time.
      SO hats off to every other parent out there – you’re doing a great job.

  16. I tell the maternal health nurse and baby pediatrician that my 4 month old takes *some* of his day naps on the couch. It’s a lie – all but one of them are on the couch, as he’ll only relax if I put him down next to me. I know it’s not safe, and will be a problem when he’s rolling, but in the same breath they say how important good long day naps are at his age. So if it’s the only way he’ll do it, then couch it is.

    I think you’re right about the co-sleeping – people judge others for doing it (especially if they don’t have kids themselves) so people don’t like to own up to it. But I think way more people do it than admit it. We don’t do it often, but there have definitely been nights when it is the only way to get him calm enough to go to sleep at night.

    • My kid is almost 8 months and he takes ALL of his day naps on the couch… He can roll, he is fine 🙂

      During the day he likes the noise and knowing that I am near – he sleeps better that way. I just make sure I am near when he starts to stir.

  17. My kids were weaned on Ella’s Kitchen pouches with very few organic vegetables blended with love, spinach and unicorn piss. That’s my confession. Sorry not sorry.

    Spot on as always, Emily. Thank you for creating a safe space for parents to be honest!

  18. I love this post SO MUCH. My youngest is now 13 and I only stumbled on to your wonderful blog because my sister-in-law has just had a baby and liked some of your posts, so I’m not really the target market I guess! But I’m a mum who co-slept with all 3 of her children to maintain sanity, actually get some bloody sleep occasionally, calm down my anxious little beings, and show unconditional love. I too was ashamed and pretended that this wasn’t a thing, but it totally was. And do I regret it now? NO. I have a great relationship with my kids (now aged 22, 19 and 13) and they’re all good people with a lot of love and empathy for others. You are a fabulous mum and your kids will grow up to be lovely humans. The judging ‘mother police’ can bugger off!

  19. My 19 month year old is so bad at eating that I let him do whatever he wants at dinner time in the hope he’ll be distracted enough to open his mouth willingly. This includes standing at the sink playing with water pouring from the taps, splashing the whole kitchen and wasting gallons of water, or sitting on the sofa touching all the cushions with his mucky fingers. I occasionally wipe the cushions. He has also slept in our bed since he was 6 months old and I don’t mind it one bit. We are trying to get him to sleep in his own room because it seems like that’s the ‘right thing to do’ but actually every night when I arbitrarily decide it’s an ok time for him to come in with us, I couldn’t be happier and finally sleep properly for a few hours. I actually don’t think I ever want him to sleep in a different room from me. If I even mention he’s in our bed at all to my friends they tip their head and give me a sympathetic/judgy look so I shut up about it. I’m convinced it’s good for all of us to co-sleep. Oh – and I have no idea when I last changed our bed sheets! Love this blog and your approach to parenting xx

  20. Just come back from a week of holiday where I co-slept with my 3 year old (we do this every holiday) and I love it. My husband sleeps in the other room and I sleep with her….Sometimes I wish I could do it every night! Also, my 3 year old eats dinner in front of the TV almost every night (we can’t work out family dinners either)….she’s a super fussy, easily distracted eater so I figure just do what works! Love this blog!

  21. Thanks again Emily 🙂 I too feel sad that I’m so sleep deprived all the time. I’ve really worried about it lately. Even just in the last few weeks I’ve just lost the plot quietly to myself in the next room, cussing under my breath, waaaaay more than I ever have before. I guess until recently I’ve told myself it was ok to be so sleep deprived but lately I feel like I’m missing out on actually PLANNING cool activities for my kids and me to do rather than just winging each day as it comes and randomly ending up at things cos I suddenly have to get out of the house..
    I grieve the parent I thought I would be.
    Also I confess that my perfect day is to take the kids from café to café drinking coffee and letting them play with the toys…someone else makes me a drink, I can be amongst the other people of the world and not feel so alone…and my house ends up a smidgeon less trashed by the end of the day!

  22. I love the lying, letting people think everything is alright whereas in fact EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT! But hell, not the way they’ve been told which clearly makes it wrong. Sometimes when I’m feeling confrontational I tell the truth just to find out if people think we choose to be tired and ragged. But we are with you Emily.
    Co-sleeping with a 16 month old? Check.
    Haven’t slept through the night in 16 months? Check. (my wife that is; I have an easy life in comparison)
    Not eating as a family. Sorry, we have mastered this. Tip of the day: One of use feeds and entertains our girl while the other speed eats, we then swap round and the other gets a cold meal but time to enjoy it. What would you sooner: hot meal and indigestion, or cold meal? Life’s tough choices right here. But at least we eat as a family which means our girl will now be president.

  23. My four month old wakes every two hours for food, so we co-sleep but I lie about it to most people. I’m so tired today I’m on my second coffee and I’ve eaten two chocolate digestives so the poor child will probably be wired later from all the caffeine reaching her through boob. I love your blog and deeply miss NZ (from the UK). I’m sad I will always feel stupid and ramble on due to lack of sleep too.

  24. I hide in the bathroom on my cellphone (I’m doing it now! I told the oh I’m going to bed, my 12 week old hasn’t slept since we brought him home and nor have I. I really should be in bed. I’m hiding in the toilet). I just love the quiet (it doesn’t last, two under two here).

    We co sleep. With no 2 it’s been since day 1. I too loudly proclaimed I wouldn’t. I too secretly love it (and also hate it. Why oh why won’t no 2 sleep).

    I just put no 2 to sleep on his tummy to see if that might make him sleep. Now I’m so fucking paranoid he’ll stop breathing that I’m going to go in and hover. But so desperate that even though I’m super stressed about it I won’t turn him over. And I won’t sleep for stressing so it doesn’t matter if he does sleep.

    I’m so sleep deprived I can’t make decisions. I’ve been researching first beds for about six months. Without doing anything.

    I refer to my beautiful second son as no 2. A lot. So bad.

    I love your blog.

  25. Gaaaawwwwwddddd!! 7 year old and co-sleeps 7 nights out of 7. Only started in her own bed two weeks ago, and by midnight, she’s in mine. I love (and hate) it. I am a cranky bear when I’m tired which is most of the time. We love to eat by the sound of the TV, and sometimes, on Fridays, we have chocolate for dinner. When we sit at the table, I encourage eating while reading a book, because I love to do both, and sometimes, the quiet is wonderful. I love her so much, but I also love the one week a month that she’s at her dad’s. I’m trying to teach her about love and kindness and forgiveness, and it seems like half of the time, I’m succeeding – the rest is details.

    I love your blog, and I think you’re doing an awesome job! You love your children, and every day you try to be present for them. You’re a really good mum.

  26. Thank you for making me feel normal and less guilty. I am a sleep deprived, Citalopram drinking, co sleeping, non family dinner eating and grumpy Mum of two under three year old Sleep Nazis. I also need to start having relations with my poor husband soon as I have no sex drive whatsoever. The struggle is real!

  27. My confession. My 10 month old sleeps alone in her cot, in her own room. My 10 year old sleeps with me in our king size bed and my husband sleeps in her room in a double bed, with the video baby monitor. I can’t sleep with even the slightest bit of light in the room so it was driving me crazy.
    I prefer my daughter as a bed mate, she doesn’t snore.

  28. Thank you for your blog and other writing, reading so much of the same stuff that I think to myself makes me feel a little bit heard. My main confession is that sometimes, even often, I am mean. To my partner and my kids. Particularly when I have been up from 515 (having been woken and/or up at least twice before) because my articulate and strong willed almost 4 year old refuses to go back to sleep (no matter the sleeping arrangement) and between me shouting at him and him shouting for his father (who is growling at one of the 19 month olds who needs to go back to sleep too) we are all up for the day. And so I am mean. And so sensitive to any perceived inconsiderateness from anyone else. I am not a nice person to be around and it is hard to see how I ever will be again!

  29. Not only does my 19-month-old still use a pacifier at bedtime, but somewhere between 12-4 a.m. she wakes up most nights, and then we give her a bottle and she goes back to sleep. We don’t leave her to cry it out. We don’t brush her teeth. We do not do anything, actually, do encourage her to actually sleep. It is just so much easier to stumble in, hold a bottle for 5 minutes and stumble back out. I am sure we “should” do all sorts of things to work on this situation. But — at 4 a.m. we are both simply too tired to do anything. I do not say this to people. I tell them we are “working on it.” That it is “getting better.” Really it’s getting better in the sense that we are learning to fall back asleep quicker. That’s better, isn’t it?

  30. (To clarify, I mean we don’t brush her teeth after giving her the middle-of-the-night bottle. We do brush her teeth at sensible times of day. And by sensible I mean times at which I am more willing to be awake.)

    • Haha I still give my three year old a bottle. Whatever works mama! (And his teeth are fine even though we don’t brush his teeth after the bottle!) I just tell people he doesn’t have a bottle anymore haha cat’s out of the bag now I guess ???

  31. Most nights I end up sleeping on the couch with our son because co sleeping in our bed is just not comfortable, and now every time I see a mattress commercial on tv I tell the actors to F off. Your blog is amazing, thank you so much! As a mom of two with my oldest being medically complex, I want to send you a hug, high five and a big bat of wine. Xoxoxo