ABC News recently reported on a Los Angeles mother who hired a “sleep trainer” to teach her three-month-old how to sleep at night while she and her husband booked a long weekend away to relax at a spa.
It seems like in modern times we are forever coming up with ways to rename normal things. Cisgender is just the special snowflake dictionary term for male and female. Traditional marriage is what we used to call just marriage. Undocumented workers is what we used to call illegal aliens. And sleep training is what we used to call putting your baby to bed.
To a certain extent this practice falls under “rich folk privilege.” I can guarantee you no one in my old ‘hood has any idea what a “sleep trainer” is. Pay to get your baby to sleep? Shoooooot…some people got too much money.
I don’t think this is something that creeps beyond the boundaries of suburban America. To be fair, people in southern California live a very different kind of life with different kinds of norms. I understand that. However, I think the sleep training thing is indicative of a larger problem. After the dawn of the baby boomers, parenting morphed into pleasing, and then my generation took that to the next evolution.
Parenting Is Now about Making Kids Comfortable
I have friends who don’t believe in the word “no.” They believe it stunts their child’s development (it’s the opposite, by the way). My husband and I might be some of the last people in this country who actually still spank their kids. Time outs, long explanations, overwrought lessons of morality—these are the common tools these days, and they’re all developed to incur the very least amount of discomfort for the child. We’ve become afraid to let our children be uncomfortable.
Whether you have one child or five, motherhood is tough. It is exhausting and often thankless. There is always some know-it-all op-ed writer to tell you when you’re doing it wrong.
Learning the “right” part of motherhood involves trudging through the hard parts. Mothers who farm out the difficult parts to other people rob themselves of valuable experience. Difficult times are an opportunity for mothers to understand more clearly how to problem-solve with their child and to get to know him or her better. It’s not the good times that give you a window into a person’s true character, it is the tough times. That goes for raising children, too.
Yes, it is very hard to be tired all the time. Babies are difficult, but those babies will be grown one day and you can’t just start understanding them once the tough part is over. The bond between mother and child is only deepened when we wade through the muck with them.
Also, if a mother doesn’t teach her own baby how to sleep it’s fruitless. Babies are constantly changing. They get sick, they go through phases where they regress, forget, and test. As soon as one of those phases come along, if the mother hasn’t also learned how “sleep train” (by doing it herself) she’s back to square one. It’s all for naught. The lesson is as valuable for mom as it is for baby.
Perhaps It’s Time to Rethink Some Things
Perhaps this comes down to the fact that American women don’t really raise their children in communities anymore. There was a time when generations lived in the same house. They handed down their knowledge, they helped when mom was tired, and they supported each other. We have become such an individualistic society that we have almost come to condemn that type of lifestyle. Maybe the fact that middle-class women are willing to pay someone to do what women have done on their own for centuries is a sign that we need to get back to embracing the idea of close families and multi-generational cohabitation.
I’m not saying there aren’t great things about our fascination with individualism, but we could probably use a better balance these days.
We love our children. No one else loves our babies like we do. We work hard to make sure they feel as little discomfort as possible, but in the end it comes down to how much discomfort we as a parent are willing to tolerate in order to do what is right for our children. That woman in Los Angeles who hired a sleep trainer was really saying that she couldn’t endure the discomfort of being the person to make her child sad. I suspect that it will be a theme in her life moving forward.
That, my friends, is how you end up with an entire generation of children who think they should be allowed to miss school because the wrong person won an election.