We had a great meetup here in Seattle last night. There were around 15 women who came, with or without kids, to have dinner at the Seredipity Cafe. (Which was excellent, we thought. Mmmm, mac and cheese with truffle oil…)
We talked about a bunch of things, ranging from food allergies to couples' therapy to baby signing to food and politics. But one thing we talked a lot about was sleep.
I've been saying for years that I think sleep is our generation's thing. Our big problem, and the thing that seems to hurt us most and make us feel most inadequate. Past generations had different things–my grandmother was upset that my dad wasn't potty-trained by the time he was a year old, for example. But sleep is ours.
I think there are several reasons for that. Probably the single biggest one is that we don't put our kids to sleep on their stomachs. Our parents put us down on a full belly and we'd fall and stay asleep easily. Since we know we can't do that because of the SIDS risk, we lack the one surefire trick past generations used to use. (I also think this is why we don't get much sympathy from older generations about the sleep thing, because they just didn't experience the same number of problems we did.)
Another factor is that past generations were more likely to have an adult at home during the day, which meant there wasn't that same crazy pressure to get everything Perfect before maternity leave ended. Past generations were also more likely to live closer to home, and have family support. Lots of us now don't have any kind of safety net, and are doing it all alone or close to alone. That makes the sleep thing more high-stakes.
And yet another factor is that we have so many more "experts" now. In the past, there was basically Dr. Spock and maybe one or two others. So if what he wrote didn't work for your kid, you just confronted the Dark Night of the Soul of being a parenting failure, made peace with it, and moved on.
Now, if you absolutely can't conform to what an expert says, you feel like a failure, but you move on to another expert, and the cycle begins afresh. How many times have you heard "Weissbluth made me feel like a failure and Pantley was totally useless but the Sleep Lady Shuffle saved me!" or "Dr. Sears can suck it but Ferber changed my life!"? So much drama, trying to follow someone else's Method. If you'd just been allowed to trust yourself, and given a list of possible things to try, you'd have gotten there in the same amount of time, but feeling empowered by your ability to figure your own kid out. (this is also why there's such passion about CIO vs. not–if everyone just was allowed to figure it out for their own kid without feeling like it indicated anything about them or the kid, it wouldn't be such a huge symbol of everything that we all had to get defensive about.)
Any thoughts? Lamentations? Words of hope for those in the trenches? Other hypotheses?