The green eyed monster

Based on the title alone this post could be about my children and how they fight over every single toy/book/bit of fluff that we own. But actually it’s about me – me being a jealous old bitch.

I try to be as honest as possible here and in the Dear Mamas Podcast. Even when it’s embarrassing, even when it makes me look awful. I think we need radical honesty when it comes to this parenting thing. We need less Instagram perfection and more tired reality. But also, for some unfathomable reason I have been called a parenting expert in a few places and in case it isn’t CLEAR AS FUCKING DAY I am not an expert at anything (and particularly not parenting).

I have a feeling that people who call me an expert have never read this blog.

Anyway, I don’t see this blog as a broadcast – I learn so much from everyone who comments (well, everyone except the dickheads). I feel connected and far less isolated when I read your comments. I don’t know what I’d do without this community we’ve built up around a few silly posts about sleep. It’s not me talking at people (I hope).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about – How the comments that say “my child hasn’t slept through the night yet and they’re 16 months old” make me feel better about EVERYTHING. And how the comments like “my darling Phenergan started sleeping through from two weeks old ” or “My cherub Narcolepsy has six hour day naps” make me want to punch a wall.

Like look at this woman:


My first reaction, if I’m honest is: I bet she’s a bitch. But she probably isn’t. It’s possible that’s just the very tired me talking and she hasn’t actually done anything at all except pretend to sleep for a stock photo. So I need to stop like imagining people on fire just because they talk about how much sleep they’re getting.

Or just because they say things like “We had one sleep regression that lasted two days – it was Hell. But little Quinoa has slept 22 hours for the last six months so I probably shouldn’t complain”.

I try I do – but when your child can’t even have a sleep regression because that would mean they have to fucking regress from sleeping and they’ve never fucking slept ever – it’s really hard to keep perspective and not turn into a green eyed monster.

In all seriousness, I don’t want to be a monster.

It seems particularly unfair that when you need connection the most as a parent there are all these barriers that begin to pop up – I think one of the biggest barriers is jealousy. I sometimes (often if I’m honest) feel incredibly jealous of parents whose children sleep through the night or who have good (longer than 45 minutes) day naps.

I try to remember sleep isn’t everything – but it’s a bit like air I guess – you don’t think about it until you don’t have it. I feel really othered a lot of the time, as I listen to people talk about their child having two or even three (!!!) day naps, or their child waking early but sleeping all night. In my head I begin this spiral of “how come you get good day naps AND you only have one wake up a night” or “Oh please, do not bitch about day naps when your child sleeps 14 hours a night”.

I don’t want to have this kind of thinking. But I do have it.

It doesn’t help me at all doing this (for a start I just look like an absolute weirdo not contributing to the conversation and just like jerking my head around whenever someone says their baby is sleeping through and she/he’s 10 months younger than mine). Feeling envious doesn’t make me feel better, it doesn’t make my child sleep, but I often find myself getting deeper into that jealous spiral. I have to try hard not to.

I find I have to constantly remind myself to have empathy for others, and not to begrudge others for their sleep. It’s hard. Not sleeping makes me a bitch a lot of the time so I need to keep saying – be kind, be kind, be kind. I need to un-bitch myself.

The thing that has helped me the most in doing this is conversations online with other parents of children who loathe sleep. It reminds me there’s not something wrong with us, and there are others who know what this kind of dull terribleness is like. Those conversations make me feel better equipped to keep things in perspective and not let monster-me take over.

I am a huge champion of just accepting your circumstances when it comes to the way our kids are. Some kids don’t sleep, some kids do. Some kids are clingy, some kids aren’t. Some eat well, some don’t. Some are anxious and shy, others are confident and social.

I often think there’s little we can do as parents to change this other than to provide a safe environment for them to be what they’re going to be. It’s kind of just working around the unique individuals our kids are.

But despite repeating that mantra of – we are all different, but we are all in this together – I falter. I feel the weight of often feeling like the only person in the room whose child STILL isn’t sleeping. The person who yawns during a really important conversation. The one who forgets things. The one who is often the least productive person at any given time.

I’m real tired of always looking baked as well.

But I really need to remember I’m not the only one who feels like this. And that jealousy won’t make me bright eyed and busy tailed. It won’t make me productive. It won’t provide me with rest or energy at all.

Connection will though. Connection with others will build me up and make me strong.

And I can’t let jealousy stop me connecting with others. Especially when I know in my heart that a full night’s sleep doesn’t solve all parenting problems. Getting eight hours (or even a solid six) doesn’t mean you don’t have challenges. I know this, it’s just that in the thick of it it’s hard to see sometimes.

I have had exhausted mums rally and cheer for us the first time Ham slept through. He slept through twice more and twice more I felt buoyed by the celebrations. I want to rejoice at rest for anyone and everyone. Whether they’ve had it consistently from an early age, or whether it has taken months or years.

Sleep should always be a thing that is met with joy – regardless of who is getting it. I also think there’s a fair bit of hyperbole that goes on when it comes to sleep milestones – I really do believe Baby Narcolepsy, Baby Phenergan, and Little Quinoa probably aren’t sleeping as well as their parents claim. So that helps when I just don’t have any reserves to remind myself to be nice.

In short – I’m working on it. I’m working on less jealousy and more empathy and more acceptance and more of all those good things that push away the bad shit.

These thoughts are brought to you by another 4am wake up after six million other wake ups and me trying to be a better person despite never fucking sleeping.

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32 Comments on “The green eyed monster

  1. I had twins 43 years ago and my son didn’t sleep through the night until he was two. I was sure I was going to overdose him on Phenergan. We moved to NZ when they were 18 months old. After 6 months we were brave enough to get a babysitter and go out for the evening. When we got back the babysitter said my son had woken up and said ‘Where’s mum?’ She was quite a gruff woman and she said ‘She’s gone out, now go back to sleep’. He was so surprised he did just that and didn’t wake up any night after that.
    I do know how you feel, it’s all very normal, but it doesn’t last for ever. He loves his bed now lolMarilyn

      • I was thinking that. I’m in the UK bit if she’s willing to travel..! 😉

  2. “Little Quinoa”!

    I’ve found myself being more spiteful and snarky (mostly in my head but also not) over the last few months and I think, like you, the years-long tiiiiiredness just does take a toll. All sorts of tolls.

    Here’s to one day sleeping all night. xx

    • That makes me feel better. Funny how shared experiences do that aye? If you’re not alone in thinking something bad it doesn’t feel so bad. At least you’re only being snarky in your head and not on your blog ha!

  3. God I remember this so well. I had a friend and every day we would recount the previous night’s wake ups. It was a very boring secret code we had, “2, 3.30, 5, you?” “11, 3, 5.30” Turns out now our kids are older we don’t have much in common ha.
    Sleeping in the same bed was our only solution but even than wasn’t perfect.
    I remember at an anti-natal coffee group when two women realised their babies were on the same schedule OMG!! 7pm to 7am, nap 9am-11am, nap 1pm to 3pm, 7pm to 7am. I just sat there flabbergasted and yes mentally stabbed them to death. I think it might be partly a boy thing. You are strong, you will survive and it will help you in the future. If I have an early flight now I laugh. 3am wake-up for one day. Amateur hour. Try that for 2 years.

    • Haha I can’t believe that I just published this thing and then when I saw 7am to 7am and 9am to 11am I CAN’T EVEN TYPE THE REST comment I just actually saw red and was like THOSE FUCKING JERKS. I think I cannot be fixed. Only sleep can fix me. Only sleep can stop you mentally stabbing people. I don’t know. I now think this whole post is a contradiction haha. But I love your comment, thank you. And yes, I am looking forward to the day when I wake up early on purpose ha! What a novelty!

    • I have a daughter. She’s almost 18 months old. Last night we went up to bed early because she was tired (8:40). I say ‘we’ because she is still in our room, in our bed (my back’s not currently up to attempting to transfer her in and out of the cot, she sleeps better with us, and thinks being left in the cot alone in the room (or with Mummy lying down) is a sadistic form of torture. She was up for milk at 9:35, 1:15 and 4, and woke up to start the day at 7:47. She also semi-woke and was cuddled back to sleep quickly a few times on top of that. Sometimes she only wakes up the once, but that’s usually when she’s only settled properly around 11-ish, after 2 hours of milk, and is awake for 2-4 hours, most of which is also spent on boob. And sometimes we have nights where it takes 2 hours to settle her for 45 mins. Those nights hurt.

      She doesn’t generally nap during the day any more, unless she’s been up early/has had under 7 hours sleep over the night, is ill, or has had a REALLY busy day… It will be almost always on a parent (trying to move her will wake her up).

      Girls can be pickles about sleep too!

  4. Is it luck? I don’t know. My dude sleeps through. It’s great. I won’t lie. Only thing is I am paralysed with a fear that if we do ANYTHING different it might stop happening, and I.. I can’t.. I won’t go back. So, I’m a new kind of crazy now. The kind of crazy that watches the clock, and gently microwaves his PJ pants to just the perfect temperature, and sings that song EXACTLY how Anika Moa does because any slight alteration in pitch or tone and I’m sure he’ll never ever ever sleep again. So, I guess I’m saying that while I’m rested, I’ve lost my marbles.

    • Hahaha! I love it. We’re all weirdos here – you’ll fit in fine! At least there’s a new Anika Moa album out!

  5. Haha, I feel so much better now. I have a ‘Mummy nemesis’ whose baby has slept like a friggin ton of bricks (day and night) pretty much from birth. I feel justified in my rage in this instance though because she seems to fully understand her good fortune but still doesn’t have the good sense to shut the F up about it! So yes, you are definitely not alone – and I know that it is totally irrational to have a mummy nemesis – but severe sleep deprivation does crazy things with your sense of perspective!

    • I hear you. I really feel there are some people who need to shut the fuck up about how much their kid sleeps. There’s almost never a time where it’s appropriate to talk about how much sleep you’re getting.

  6. I hear you! I’ve had two non-sleepers, one slept through finally (kinda) at 18 months, the youngest has slept through twice and is now back to 4 wake ups and she’s 22 months old. I don’t dare have another child, that one will be waking me up for boob when they’re 20!
    I’ve been so tired I trapped my daughters hand in the door thinking she was standing to my left and I couldn’t work out why the door wouldn’t shut. When she stated to yell I was like er, how did you get there? Nuts. Thankfully her hand is clearly made of steel, and the magic boobs fixed her irritation about being squished. Keep up the fight! And mentally stab Quinoa’s parents for me too please!

  7. All I can say is my 3.5 year old has slept through once…..and that was over a year ago.

    Solidarity in sleeplessness definitely helps!

  8. I remember being at the hospital where my son was born and a nurse saying ‘a big boy like that will be sleeping through by 5 weeks!’ And then months and months of looking gleefully forward to the night he finally did it. And then every single person I knew having their baby sleep through. And now after 17 months I know EXACTLY what you mean. When people talk number of wakeups I’m thinking I’d f**king LOVE to be able to count them. Or sleep ‘regressions’ instead of your child sleeping worse and worse every night until you wonder if there isn’t something hideously wrong with them but when you go to the doctors they say ‘well if you don’t let him scream himself to sleep every night he’ll NEVER learn to sleep! But we won’t do any tests on him because that would be too traumatic. Anyway was I heading to a point? Not sure, I’m too bloody tired.

    • Alice! I could have written your comment I swear! I had the exact same thing. And even my GP said I was just being soft and I need to leave him to scream. Everything you’ve said I am with you! I don’t even count wake-ups. There’s so many they just blur into nothing!

  9. It’s 4 AM in the U.S. right now and I needed to read this. I’ve only read a few of your other blog posts about sleep but I needed them, too… It really does help to know I’m not alone in this struggle. Lack of sleep is so HARD. People talk about it before you have kids and you think you get it… but it’s not explainable — it’s something that is just lived. (And hopefully survived?) and so other parents who haven’t had to live it don’t get it either. There’s a difference between a few crappy nights here and there and the opposite (a few okay nights here and there… Okay meaning maybe sleeping a whole two hours in a row.)… So, thank you for sharing your experience. Because you “get it” and sometimes I just need to know others get it… And I also love to hear about parents who went through this, survived, and now their children do sleep!! It gives me hope. (But I can do without hearing about those parents who had superhuman sleepers from the beginning.)

  10. Oh I know about the envy! The sleep jealousy and even the temperament jealousy at times, and especially the singles vs multiples jealousy. We went for “number 2” when the first started sleeping better (not through, just better enough) and ended up getting 2 and 3 for our arrogance! They are all adorable and lovely and precious but every time we have to sell something at a loss to replace it with something that actually works for our configuration (the car, the pushchair, the double bunk…) it stings. And all the things I still can’t do with the three of them by myself that friends with two kids can. And how hard it is on the kids themselves. Ugh. So jealous. I do truly believe everyone is working as hard as they can, but at the same time I hiss to myself and/or my partner “they’ve got it so easy they don’t even know they’re alive”.

  11. My first was a good sleeper early on so I was probably one of those mum’s the others in my coffee group imagined stabbing… Although it was all just a trick designed to lull her parents into a false sense of security coz she started waking up at night at the age of 2 and still does half the time at 6. My second wasn’t really into sleeping from the get go so at least she’s consistent. I just LOVE how often people ask ‘is she a good baby? Does she sleep well?’… ummm is there such a thing as a bad baby?!

  12. There was a lady in my mother’s group who set a four hourly alarm to wake up her baby to feed. I saw it go off in front of my eyes!
    My little one only sleeps by being bounced on a fitness ball while draped over my shoulder. I discovered my fitness tracker records each bounce as a step. So a good night I would wake up to less than a thousand steps. Yesterday I hit 10,000 by 10 am. On the plus side, abs of steel baby!

  13. My first boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months old. A year later we thought it was time to get rid of the diaper and guess what – he woke me up several times every fucking night for half a year to go to the bathroom. When that was over, baby number 2 arrived. At first he slept not too bad (boob every 3 hours, a few short wake-ups in between, much better than number 1 at that age…) and I was becoming a smug bitch, thinking I did everything better this time. Haha, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Right now he wakes up every fucking hour and won’t stop screaming unless I pick him up and walk around with him. I never thought I’d be excited about getting a full hour of sleep and it’s so unbelievably hard to imagine that it will get better again at some point. Whenever I meet parents who won’t shut up about how their babies are sleeping for hours and hours, I just want to strangle them. Especially when they start giving me advice in that condescending manner that suggests that my children are not sleeping because I’m doing something wrong. I know it’s mean to fantasize about stuff like their children suddenly stop sleeping, but I have to admit that it makes me feel better. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, but I’m too tired to worry about that…

    • Nope I wish the same to my friend who likes to tell about her clever little angel who “puts herself to sleep at sunset.” And the other one who “taught” her son to self settling since he was 3 weeks old”

  14. No sleep ever is the worst thing in the whole world. My second was ghastly until at 9 months I got the most amazing sleep consultant in the whole world, to whom I owe my sanity. She was super gentle with her methods and it was such a relief as I too was being told I wasn’t allowed to complain because I didn’t let her scream by herself for up to an hour. I didn’t really realise how bad it was until I had to document all wake ups for the sleep consultant for 2 weeks and the act of writing down every wake up was soul destroying. She also wasn’t a day sleeper and would only sleep in the bike trailer so I was biking about 40km a day on 5 hours broken sleep a night. I wanted to stab everyone who said “Sleep when the baby sleeps”.

    There IS a light at the end of a tunnel. She’s now almost 15 months and shares a room with her big sister and they go to bed together and and wake ups and down to a few a night.

    My husband wants more kids. I just cannot imagine ever going through that again, ever. Fuck. That.

  15. My son wasn’t a great sleeper as a baby but it was manageable, except that he didn’t sleep AT ALL whenever he had a cold/ was teething/ went through a growth spurt/ just decided that he didn’t feel like sleeping. And you know how often those things happen. I would feel so hopeless when we’d get into a good-enough sleep routine for a few days and something would come along to mess it up. So many nights with both of us crying in the dark.

    I do remember complaining to a really good friend about it, and she mentioning that her daughter slept more when she was sick, so for fourteen or fifteen hours a night rather than the usual twelve. I literally had to walk away because in my sleep-deprived state I almost involuntarily punched her.

  16. It’s funny because I’ve been on both sides of this predicament…I know with absolutely certainty that my cousin wanted to stab me to death when I told her that, by some fluke, both of my kids were currently (at that time anyway) sleeping through the night.

    But in my defence, I didn’t really want to say anything (she asked) because I knew it would end. And it has.

    Though my toddler mostly sleeps through, he takes HOURS to fall asleep at night. I’m often forced to go in and help him to sleep before I hit the sack myself. As for naptime? He needs a nap….but never falls asleep unless I help him (sooo I put my increasingly long and lanky 2.5 year old on my lap and stroke his hair/forehead/face until he passes out).

    My 8-month old daughter stopped sleeping through awhile ago…she’s up 3-5 times a night (sometimes more, sometimes less). And ALL naps take place on top of me….otherwise she won’t stay asleep.

    Which basically means I spend the majority of my days/nights helping and keeping kids asleep. When I’m not doing that? I’m feeding them (my special needs toddler still doesn’t feed himself. Sigh).

    So I get the urge to stab people who are surprised I don’t have more time to get stuff done (you know, like clean the house, feed myself, go out…), OR who are somehow effortlessly keeping their shit together and going out and about themselves, with baby (or children) in tow.

  17. SLEEP.
    I think about it a lot. The entire time.
    I daydream of sleeping.
    I fantasize about lying in my bed (alone) closing my tired eyes and only opening them 36 hours later.
    I watch infomercials about the Bamboo pillows and start drooling.
    I browse trough magazines with King size beds and start to hallucinate.
    Touching 1000 Thread count Egyptian cotton sheets are my vice.

    Much love
    Your fellow zombie killed by her two Sleep Nazi children.

  18. Emily, when I first read your post on sleep regression, I felt like I could kiss the ground in gratitude that someone else felt it just as appropriate to talk about Satan and baby sleep in the same breath. And this one on jealousy is absolutely spot on for me too. I can’t tell you the number of times I wished that someone would just have their mouth stapled shut for talking about their babies sleeping through the night. My nearly-one year old wakes up 6 million times at night too and I am a perpetually jealous and tired and high strung bitch !

  19. My boy has never been a fan of sleeping and I have friends whose babies did 7 till 7 from two weeks and who have to wake their baby up if they are not up by nine and I truly believe that they do not have a clue what it is like to have a non-sleeper. On days when I have had some sleep and I am more patient and energetic and fun, I wish I could be like that every day. One day when D had been up from 5 after several get-ups in the night, a friend with a sleeper said “I don’t know how you do it” and I felt like it was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. Just that acknowledgement that it is so hard on very little sleep and some parents never experience that made me feel like I was doing ok. When things are hard I try to tell myself that to change D’s sleep would be to change D and I don’t want to because I love him just the way he is. But I still sometimes want to punch people in the face!

  20. I’m with ya at the moment. My 17 month old averages probably 5-10 wake-ups a night. And, yells! Oh the outrage, why is there not a boob in my mouth! Who said you could take it out? She has also started rolling around the bed in a semi-hazed stupor, so I spend half the night literally turning her (all 12 kilos) from upside down, sideways (mmm, how I love a foot in my mouth at 3am), and as of last night falling back asleep half off the side, with my hand on her ankle so she doesn’t fall out of the bed. I think she might have slept through once at about 1, but my husband thinks I probably just fed her in my sleep and don’t remember. Oh, and with all the breastmilk that usually means a nappy that leaks through our bed, so I have to change her nappy and clothes while she shrieks the house down, then sleep on top of a towel to soak up the pee. You know it’s bad when they only wake 4 times and you consider that a great night! You think you are going to die, and then you get used to it. Yes, but greatful. Beautiful cherub. Etc etc.

  21. It’s like reading through a window into my mind. I feel like I post a lot of slightly manic comments here based on updates on how E is STILL NOT FUCKING SLEEPING. I feel terrible for feeling relieved when I met other parents with the same wild-eyed desperation. I wouldn’t wish this vortex of sleep deprivation and watching 3 minutes of Netflix of an evening on anyone, but when I whirl in to someone in this hellhole it is an amazing reminder that we have not failed. Our children are just buggers (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Adore her, blessed, love of my heart etc etc, just typing this having rocked her for the last 2 hours and still no sleep). So I do sometimes a little bit hate all parents outside of the vortex. Ones who can leave their kids with a babysitter and have “date night” and don’t use an embarrassing amount of dry shampoo. I’ll work on it too.

  22. I can totally relate on the jealousy thing. I’ve had to cut way back on Facebook use because other people’s highlights reels were making me feel worse about the things my kids don’t achieve. My older daughter has been diagnosed with Autism, but is high-functioning. She mostly appears to be neurotypical, so people expect her to be “normal”; but she has trouble with some things, and seeing other people’s perfect kids fed through on my phone and tablet was just too much for me. It made me feel incredibly alone, especially when my daughter is not coping as well.

    The end of year awards night is a special kind of torture as my daughter’s behaviour goes downhill as she gets tired, and I know that she will never be up in front of the school receiving an award, no matter how hard she works or how far she comes.

    I’ve been lucky with the sleep thing, but not so lucky in other areas. Accepting the hcildren in our lives as they are is important, for their self-esteem and our peace of mind, but it is so fucking hard when other mums just focus on the wonderful things their kids do. Little Johnny and Jane are always so fucking perfect … taking a break from seeing that all the time has been so beneficial for me.