Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Single-Parenting Depair

This time away from Timm has been so hard. For several reasons, but mostly because Bella has chosen this time to be particularly difficult, presenting some brand-new challenges. There is a marked increase in tantrums, tears, and defiance, which I know comes with the territory of 3. (So far- I do NOT like 3.) But perhaps most challenging are the new sleep issues. Sleep issues are the worst because it occurs at the only time you can hope to count on for some peace and quiet and alone recuperation time. We've been pretty lucky with her as she's always been a fairly reliable sleeper. There was a time, just a few weeks ago, that every single night when I put her down, that was it. I never heard from her again. Just the way I like it. Now it's a total crap shoot every night. She's not napping anymore except maybe 1 or 2 times a week. I continue with our same nurturing and non-rushed bedtime routine, if just a little earlier since she's not napping. She's fine until the very end when she loses it over something ridiculous, I try to calm her down to no avail, and finally tell her I'm leaving. I'm trying to be more consistent because I always used to say 'I'm not coming back in here.' only to return some time later to see what she wanted or to calm her down. No more. I go in one time after I put her down, then when I say I'm not coming back, I mean it. Otherwise she would pander relentlessly for drinks, tickles, more stories, laying down with her, etc. Tonight she chose that moment to start bawling that she was hungry, even though she'd just finished her dinner less than 45 minutes before. I tried to explain that she already had dinner and she couldn't have anything else until morning. I tried to talk to her, it was fruitless, so I left for the last time. I heard her crying and screaming for about 10 minutes, during which time I called timm for support and distraction. Then quiet. I assumed she fell asleep. About 45 minutes later she's at it again. I listen at her door and she's pathetically whimpering 'please, please...'. So I am racked with guilt and a dilemma I don't know how to solve. Stick to my guns and let her learn to fall asleep on her own again? Go in there, risking starting it all over again when she begs me to stay and satisfy her demands and I leave again? So I chose to stick to my guns. The problem is, I'm not accustomed to these sleep issues and the question of whether to let her cry it out. I have no yet become immune to her crying and pathetic whimpers. Conversely, I internalize it so that I feel it too, so I am wracked with guilt and uncertainty. I don't even know if I'm doing the right thing. I just want to be consistent and do what is best for her in the long run. That would be much easier to do if I was assured that what I was doing was the right thing. So here I am alone, these 2 weeks trying to weather and understand these challenging new turns in her personality and habits. I hate it. Parenting is hard enough without having to try and figure it out yourself, or having no one to commiserate with and lean on. I call Timm with all my frustrations and ask for advice, but it's not like having someone here, on your side, to help you figure it out. Will motherhood always be this way? Guilt? Fear that I'm damaging her in some way? Uncertainty that I'm even doing right by her? Frustrated, irritated and challenged by her more often than I enjoy her? I'm tormented, and these last weeks with her have often left me in tears and desperation. I don't know what to do with this girl. I don't know what's going on with her, I don't know how to help her or to remain sane through it. I want to say it's just a stage, or a phase, but is it? Do I just ride it out, knowing it will pass in time and that it is perfectly normal? Or am I ignoring some need she has and until it is met this could continue interminably? Motherhood is fraught with questions and uncertainty. How am I going to do this again? How does anyone ever do it again?

11 comments:

marc said...

Sleep issues are the worst. I don't know if you ever saw the obviously very old episode of "Mad About You" where the couple is waiting outside the door while their baby is screaming. They go through all those very authentic emotions of wondering if they're doing the right thing. The only not-so-authentic thing: the baby fall asleep within 30 minutes and then everything's fine.

michelle said...

All I can say is, count your many blessings that these problems are only surfacing now, when she's 3! Because I had to deal with all of this from early infancy with all of my kids... I guess it probably doesn't help to hear it, but Bella really is a champ.

"Will motherhood always be this way? Guilt? Fear that I'm damaging her in some way? Uncertainty that I'm even doing right by her? Frustrated, irritated and challenged by her more often than I enjoy her?" Most of the time, my answers to these questions is: YES. Or, who knows? Motherhood is indeed fraught with questions and uncertainty -- for me the single most frustrating thing about this job.

Hannah said...

Stick to your guns!!! Three was all about testing limits and learning cause and effect for Mya. As hard as it was, consistency was key. If I said I wasn't going to come in again- I had to stick to my word. If I said I was going to take her prized blanket if she got out again, I had to do it. Consistency is SO HARD for me! So I had to learn what I was willing to do- both in the giving in to her and sticking to my own "rules".

Motherhood/parenthood is the great unknown. There are few constants and adaptability is key for me. So far in a lot of ways it has been easier with Kaylee. Everything isn't new territory and I have learned that some waves you just have to ride out. You will find your stride, I know you will.

Jill said...

I would definitely stick to your guns if I were you. The crying and whimpering are designed specifically to grate on your nerves and trigger feelings of guilt and sympathy. A 3 year old is a wily foe! Teaching her that you mean business will definitely benefit her now and in the long run, as will giving her the ability to go to sleep! You can do it!!

Jenny S said...

Don't give in. Stick to your guns. She will alway's know you mean what you say.

Jenny S said...

Don't give in. Stick to your guns. She will alway's know you mean what you say.

rmt said...

Aagh...single parenting. Something I know well, and would never recommend to anyone else! It is so hard. Daniel has brought me to tears so many times--I remember several times during a particularly rough patch when I just had to go in my room, shut the door, and cry to Heavenly Father.
One thing that helps me is to remember that with kids, everything passes eventually. It's just a stage, and she WILL move on. It's just a matter of getting through.
And yes, though it is hard, stay consistent! You will thank yourself later. And remember that kids don't have the same concept of time that we do, so the time she spends screaming in her room probably seems much longer to you than it does to her.
Hang in there. You are a wonderful mother!

charlotte said...

Sorry you're having such a hard time :( I have zero parenting advice to offer, but sticking to your guns sounds like the best route to me.

Diana said...

Sorry wish I was near so I could come over and just hang out with you and night.

mom said...

Wouldn't it be better to quit your job?????!!!!! (to quote Aunt Patti)

Sorry I can't be closer. Maybe I could train her to be my assitant merchandiser at 1:30am.....

Sounds like you got a lot of good advice!

Claudissima said...

i love super nanny..and I am always surprised of how fast I forgot what she said, or don't remember everything the way it is supposed to be...but I just saw the last episode again, and YOU HAVE TO GIVE THE WARNING ONCE before taking action...I seem to be giving too many of them and not following through...or empty threats as they say....so hang on...and things will brighten up!

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