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You're not a bad mom if you want to sleep
Weirdos don't know better.
It took me a minute to get to Laura Hazard Owen’s article in The Cut on how TikTok is a new platform to which new moms are turning for advice on whether/how to sleep train their kids. My youngest baby is now 7 years old so I wondered if I’d still identify with this issue, and/or if I’d get all butthurt the way I did the first time at the notion that it is an act of deeply informative, traumatizing bad motherhood to use some version of cry-it-out or sleep training to get your baby to sleep on a schedule (which we did.)
Instead, I didn’t get mad on behalf of myself but for all the new moms out there susceptible to this crap notion that not only ought you to never leave your baby to cry alone in its crib on purpose, you ought not want to ever leave its side ever.
This is how I feel now, what I would put on a TikTok if I fucked with TikTok (I don’t and I won’t!):
It is cruel to the parent to try to persuade someone who is incredibly vulnerable due to their anxiety over their new role, their sleep-deprived nature and, for those who just had birth, are recovering from physical trauma, that physical sacrifice is a more loving way to care for their baby. People pushing the theory that sleep training is child abuse are like shady cab drivers trying to convince sleep-deprived foreigners fresh off a 12 hour flight who don’t speak the language to get in their sketchy car.
Try this on for size: The people out there, who as Owens accurately describes as “[people] yelling at you,” who behave as if newborns are somehow wise, or are in danger of being heartbroken, or will remember what you do now, or are inherently more lovable than older babies/children, are not better moms than you. They are not better people than you. And they don’t care about your children. Stop trying to think that you are supposed to love your babies as much as they do and allow yourself the possibility that these people are just weirdos.
Owen, who in my opinion handled the topic quite sensitively, touches on another guilt trip that the “sleep training is selfish/trauma” people are constantly harping on: the notion that you can’t miss a moment of your child’s newborn stage, that if you can’t recall exactly where you were at Day 73, Hour 7.5 of their life (only correct answer: with babby strapped to your body) not only are you a bad mom, you’ll be sad forever because you threw away that most precious moment with both hands.
Your child will not grow up faster, you will not miss anything, if you have them sleep on their own, or let someone else take care of them for part of the day or week. Your child is not going to grow up unattached to you because you spent seven hours with them a day instead of 24. It is true that eventually the newborn phase will pass, like every phase, but that’s not a tragedy. You’ll look at your ten year old and marvel how those newborn days were so potent at the time and dragged on so long yet now you can barely remember them but you also remember how hard they were and also it would be weird to wish that your funny smart dorky kid who can make his own breakfast and go play baseball at the park and send you sweet funny emoji text messages was suddenly a newborn again that can’t focus its eyes and shits its pants and has gross skinny little legs and throws up half its food and doesn’t know day from night and has gross newborn baby skin. That wish is weird!
What I like about the newsletter format compared the mom blog is that I presume if you’re reading this, you’re already on board with the witchy philosophy, which is that the mom’s preferences and needs matter. You did not suddenly shed all your former wants and desires the second your kid came home (although it feels like that for while.) I’m not trying to convince people who do think newborns are angels and that motherhood is the only job that counts to see otherwise. If you are one of those people and are reading this email, bless you for being open to other ideas.
But forward this to a new mom or soon to be new mom you think could use this to let them know that just because some expert is a judgmental weirdo doesn’t mean they know anything about how to parent your kid, or are a better, more loving parent than you. Sometimes the weirdos are just weird, and even though you feel very fragile and don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know shit about what you and your kid actually are like or need.
Taking care of newborns the first time is extremely difficult in a way nobody can prepare for until it happens to them. You are not a bad person for wishing a hard stage will pass. This is why we take photos, to remember the cuteness and not to remember the nights we thought we were going to throw up, or die from despair each time we were up again at 3 AM with no promise of returning to sleep. And just because your method for getting yourself and a child through a hard stage is hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it badly. Sleep training is hard. Potty training is hard. Teaching kids to eat is hard. Buckling a kid in a winter coat into a car seat is hard. Holding a kid down for a shot is hard. Getting a kid to sit down and do school work is hard. There are those out there who do think that you should then just skip these things due to the difficulty because difficulty = cruelty, but you don’t have to listen to them! Find other moms you respect who have a sense of humor about it all and they will reassure you that it’s normal for periods to suck and that you will get through it and that your kid ultimately won’t know the difference if you gritted your teeth and ground it out awhile instead of feeling a special high all the time due to the proximity to a precious newborn.
If you care, if you are trying to find information, if you’re trying
your best, you are doing enough and your kid will be fine. Try to avoid baby sites, books and social media that confirm your worst worries about your selfish unnatural ways.
That’s all. Get some sleep. That applies to all of you, even the ones with the big old dumb gross kids that are former babies.
Thanks for reading Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. Feel free to forward this to someone who might find it helpful. If you haven’t yet, I hope you consider becoming a paid subscriber which gets you bonus content and helpful/honest/fun subscriber-only threads.
If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions for the newsletter you can reply to this email or talk to other witches on Twitter (recently talking about how school photos are supposed to be awkward, not perfect.). The newsletter archives live here. Here’s an issue from the archives about the daily timeline of when we love our kids most, a talk with Virginia Sole-Smith on how to raise your kids to not be jerks about other people’s bodies, and another on perimenopause (shout out to anyone else out there who had to change their sweaty pajamas overnight.)