Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your entire extended family just doesn’t get that your kid’s sleep schedule is non-negotiable? How do you make them understand that you’re not being overly strict? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My 18-month-old is on a very predictable, not-really-negotiable sleep schedule. This consists of one afternoon nap and a 7:30 p.m. bedtime. It’s been going well for us for about six months, and she’s happy, healthy, and thriving. She sleeps from 1-3:30 p.m. every day (give or take a few minutes) and sleeps for about 12 straight hours at night (!!!). The problem (and I know how dumb that sounds given the fact that many parents would KILL to have a kid sleep like this) is that our family members are total as*holes about it. They bust my balls anytime I decline an invite for an afternoon get-together or bailout of a family picnic early to put my kid to bed. The thing is, she needs her sleep and her routine or she’s a total bear and then both of our days are ruined. How do I convince my family that I’m not being a psycho mom about her sleep schedule?
“If you want her to miss her nap, then you get to be her caretaker during Meltdown City.” There, does that cover it?
First of all, congratulations on knowing your child and responding to her needs so well. Routines are not easy to create or uphold, but — in most cases — they’re necessary for the sanity and survival of the whole family. Never, ever apologize for sticking to what you and your kids need.
Sleep is how our little ones do most of their growing and developing. It’s restorative, necessary, and keeps them alert, focused, and happy. It’s kind of stunning to me that anyone would disparage a tiny toddler’s need for sleep! What do they think she should be doing? Should she be pruning the lawn at dusk instead? Feeding the chickens at dawn? Running afternoon errands? Sheesh. We spend so much time, collectively as parents and caretakers, desperate for babies and toddlers to sleep well — why on earth would anyone sh*t on a mom who has her sh*t together about sleep schedules?
Feel free to paraphrase or directly quote the previous paragraph the next time Aunt Miriam or Pop-Pop Jim dismisses your child’s needs. As the mom to a four-year-old and an infant myself, I am a firm believer that if anyone in my kids’ lives wants to spend meaningful time with them, they can do it on our schedule and our time. At least when they’re little.
As for having to bail out early on family gatherings, well, personally I can’t think of a better reason. Sometimes it sucks to have to leave fun festivities before the sun goes down, and sometimes it’s the biggest blessing ever. If someone doesn’t like it, well, like I said — they can take over toddler duties for you. Or they can have a nice, fresh slice of Shut The Hell Up with a splash of No One Asked You.
Keep up the good work. Your kid, your decisions.
Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
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