Sleep & Self-Blame

This morning I received a phone call from a lovely, weepy, sleep-deprived mother. She contacted me at 3:00 AM via email and asked if we could please speak at a decent acceptable hour. With a middle of the night email such as this one, I know that the sender has clearly hit a sleep-deprivation wall. The next day I called her. She filled me in on all the sleep issues her daughter was having. As she spoke to me, her story unfolded.

This mother told me that she is a Harvard Graduate, was a partner at a law firm pre-child, she has read at least five sleep books, spoken in depth to her child's pediatrician and still, she cannot figure out how to solve her problem. She continued to tell me about all the mistakes she knows she has made as a parent, she knows she should not have done "this or that", she knows she created all the problems and she blames herself for all she has done wrong.

At this point in our conversation I have an impulse to reach my hand deep down into the dark ditch she has thrown herself into and tell her one thing, she is not alone. This phone call pulls  at my heart. It is the "I'm not good enough" confession call. The story of "I'm not good enough" is a collective wound we all know so well as parents. The issue is that we actually believe this small voice whispering this un-true story.

  • I made so many mistakes
  • I should not have done 
  • I should have done 
  • I know I created the problem
  • It's my fault
  • I could have
  • I didn't
  • I wish I had

Not a day goes by without me hearing stories riddled with these phrases from tired parents.  The stories are a string of un-truths we tell, to convince ourselves we are not good enough. This self-blaming storytelling keeps us on a wheel, stuck and spinning into nowhere. It is easy when we feel out of control, in a tough parenting situation, to fall into the trap of thinking you are not a good enough parent. However, this is just not true.

We are all just doing the best we can. We bring our own history and our own ideas to our parenting. We have ideas of how we want things to be and to go, and when life does not go exactly as we had planned or imagined it to be, we feel afraid. It is ok to feel afraid. What becomes the tricky part of fear is self-blame. If you find yourself feeling alone and stuck and in a place of blame, it is a good idea to pause. Reach out to a friend, reach out to a professional. Begin to create a support system for yourself. Be brave enough to ask for what you need. Be brave enough to say I don't know. Is this not the message we tell our children daily? So if it is a good enough message to tell our children, it seems to be a good enough message to tell ourselves.