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By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Patience vs nighttime parenting

Uploaded: Jan 30, 2020
When our kids were babies, I expected to be sleep deprived. As our kids grew up and learned to sleep for longer stretches of time, I expected to get more and more sleep. However, there are always bumps in the road. A kid (or multiple kids and myself) is sick. Daylight savings. A thunderstorm. Holidays. Relatives visit. Vacations.

Recently two of our kids were sick and needed help at night. Sometimes it’s crystal clear when you need to parent at night (when a kid throws up). Other times it is more of a parental choice. Will I sleep next to your bed so you feel safe during a thunderstorm? Will I rub your back and help you fall asleep when you are sleeping in a new bed? Will I comfort you when you wake up from a scary dream? Will I help you fall back asleep when you get up 3 hours earlier than expected? Will I comfort you when I have no clue why you woke up?

When you choose to parent at night, it is a challenging balance. If I stay up or wake up multiple times at night, I’ll be sleep deprived and I’ll probably have less patience with our kids during the day. To find a balance I sometimes sleep next to a sick kid rather than stay awake as they drift off to sleep. Sometimes I turn the TV on at 5am so we can both rest on the couch. But most of the time this means just giving everyone a break. Just acknowledging that I’m low on sleep and lowering my expectations can help all of us stay calm until we have a chance to catch up on sleep again.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by MPer, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Feb 1, 2020 at 10:13 pm

This post make no sense at all. How can you choose to parent at night or not. If you are a parent you are a parent 24/7, so be default you are always parenting at night.Unless of course you have a SigO or nanny to take the night shift with sick kids.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 1, 2020 at 11:38 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

MPer - Thanks for commenting. If you watch This Is Us, you’ve seen lots of nighttime parenting recently. Jack is transitioning his kids from their cribs to beds. Rather than just bringing each kid back to bed when they wake up, we see him take time to parent them...he gets down to their level, looks them in the eye, listens to their concerns and then tries to solve the problem.

Your comment reminded me of the book All Joy and No Fun. Jennifer Senior talks about the word “parent” being used as a noun vs a verb. One may be a parent 24/7, but you can choose when you are actively parenting and when you are not.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 2, 2020 at 9:18 am

This reminds me of many times it took two of us parents to look after our sick kids overnight. We were awoken one night to the sound of a child being violently sick in his bed, he was still mainly asleep, but he had it in his hair, all over his night clothes, his bedding, the floor and even part of the wall. It took one of us to clean up the child by running the bath and carrying the sick child to give him a complete bath at 2 am while the other stripped the bed and put everything into the washer including the night clothes and teddy bear. Then came the hunt for somewhere clean for him to sleep, surrounded by towels and a basin in case of more, an old comforter to wrap him in. Then the scrubbing of the carpet and wall and bed frame with chlorox. I think it was a couple of hours before we got back into bed. At 7 am said sick child was up and jumping around demanding breakfast, none the worst for it.

We did have another issue with the same child a few years later when he didn't quite make it to the toilet before both ends let forth. Another messy situation that had to be dealt with by two of us although child was old enough to look after cleaning himself up and was able to get back into his bed surrounded by old towels and a basin. The chlorox and washer were busy again that night but I think it was less than an hour before we were able to get back to bed. This time the child remained unwell for the rest of the day.

Sometimes it takes two to look after one preschool child in the middle of the night and there is no choice in it. I don't care what name you want to give it, but being a parent in the middle of the night is par for the course.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 2, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Parent - Thank you for commenting and sharing your nighttime parenting stories!

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