Can I be honest?
For the first six months of 2011, my favorite part of the day was the roughly two hours that my daughter spent napping. It was a bit of solace. No screaming. No tantrums. I wasn't yelling, "Lizzy, do NOT lick the cat!" or saying, "It HURTS when you bite me!" I could read. Work out. Feel a bit like something other than a mom.
I feel kind of vulnerable typing that because I know that there are probably many moms who would LOVE to stay at home with their kiddos, and they very well might be giving me a very serious side eye right now at how ungrateful I seem to be doing just that. Please don't misunderstand--I love Lizzy to pieces. I am blessed to be able to stay at home with her. But, that doesn't mean that it's always easy or fun. The last six months have been a blur of tantrums, clinginess (but not in a nice snuggly way--in a 'I want you to hold me, but walk around the room all day and never sit down while I wriggle down and then want to be picked back up' way), and Justin working all kinds of wacky hours that meant I was on my own with Lizzy most days and nights.
While Justin was on the never-ending work trip, I started to notice that if I laid Lizzy down for a nap while she was awake, she never actually went to sleep. Sometimes, she'd play quietly in her crib, sometimes I'd be going in to rub her belly to try and help her calm down and go to sleep every ten to fifteen minutes for the entire two hour duration that she was supposed to be napping. In either case, she didn't sleep...which meant that by about 2:30pm she was even more of a cranky, tantrumy mess.
Few (if any) of the moms that I know practice the full-bore Babywise approach to cry it out, but most subscribe to a more moderate approach including more soothing, but still laying the baby down for naps and bedtime while awake. Justin and I both saw wisdom in the idea of a gentler approach to kids soothing themselves to sleep (once they have demonstrated that they HAVE the ability to self-soothe), and so we basically followed that approach as well, and it worked wonderfully for us until Lizzy was about 14 months old.
And then, one day in an Act of Desperation, I rocked Lizzy to sleep for her nap. I sat down in the rocker with a book, she snuggled up to me, and actually went to sleep...which in turn made the rest of the day much more bearable than the non-napping tantrum messes. It was easier on both of us and saved our sanity, so I continued to do it while Justin was out of town.
For awhile, I felt guilty about it. I was NOT following the rules. I was NOT letting her soothe herself to sleep. I was NOT teaching her good habits. But I also felt conflicted, because that time spent with her in the rocker, snuggling and humming while I read a book had become one of my favorite parts of the day.
I sing her songs, while she looks up at me with such love...much in a way that I heard other moms talk about that quiet one-on-one time while breastfeeding. I never once experienced it then, but I'm experiencing it now, rocking Lizzy to sleep for her naps. And that time? It's the ONLY time during the day that I get snuggles from my sweet on-the-go baby girl. For us, it's so much better doing it this way, and like many a kind friend has pointed out, they don't know anyone who needed to be rocked to sleep in college.
I've become a reluctant rocker. Though, I don't even think reluctant is the right word...because there's no reluctance left. I love it.
This approach? Certainly won't work for everyone. But aren't you glad that each one of us parents are the experts on our own kiddos? That for the most part, we know what they need--when to go by the book and when to buck the rules?!