Smug mom’s downfall

I was a smug Mum. Not a terrifying smug Mum, but one of those well-rested, annoying, smug Mums. And oh, how I have suffered for it.

Let me set the scene. My eldest son, Josef, is practically narcoleptic. From the day we brought him home from the hospital, he fell easily into a pattern of sleeping a 12-hour night, accompanied by 3-hour naps in the morning and afternoon.

It’s all in the routine,’ I would think to myself at mothers’ group, while my friends moaned and witched about the incredible midnight antics of their offspring. I even (oh, the shame) voiced this out loud a couple of times, possibly accompanied by that slow headshake evil Smug Mums have made their own.

The most embarrassing part is that I really believed it. I was convinced that there was something intangibly motherly in the way I slung my usually comatose child from TV to bed at exactly 7pm every night which effectively established ‘containing boundaries’.

It gets worse. Not only did I get a good night’s sleep every night, but Joe’s unbelievable napping prowess meant I could easily get a half-day’s work done without needing to hire a child minder. Which, of course, made me a doubly smug Deadline Queen.

‘How do you do it?’ asked other mothers, disbelieving.

‘Oh, it’s just luck and a little time management…’ I would demur modestly.

Looking back, I make myself sick.

Smug mom’s punishment

As any seasoned mother will know, such smug behaviour inevitably invokes Murphy’s 1st Law of Motherhood: Thou shalt not wave thy good luck in the face of another mother.

Hence the sleeping habits of my second son, Benjamin.

At 18 months Benjamin had not slept a night through in his life. He woke up at 2-3 hour intervals, and never had a daytime nap of more than 15 minutes.

Needless to say, my smug spirit was as broken as our nights. We tried everything – from black out curtains and ‘controlled-crying’ campaigns, (Ben can throw up on demand. Repeatedly.), dousing him in drugs handed over deferentially by concerned paediatricians, we let him sleep in our bed, his bed, on the couch… nothing worked.

Understandably, there was a smugness backlash to endure.

‘But what happened to your fabulous routine?’ snickered one teatime mother, well within her rights I suppose.

‘You have made a rod for your own back,’ continued another, picking up the theme in a singsong tone. ‘You really must get this appalling sleeping pattern under control. It can’t go on, you’ll lose your mind.’ Giggles among the rattling plates of milk tart.

‘It’s as you always used to say, Sam, if you are going to have a battle of wills with your child, you sure as hell have to win it,’ deadpans a third, sending them all into howling fits of laughter.

The sad truth is that Benjamin, like his father, just doesn’t like to sleep a hell of a lot. And Josef, like his mother, does. And that’s the one thing all these articles and book and parenting clinics don’t seem to make allowances for … personality differences.

So maybe I am not a particularly good or a particularly bad mother. This is a slightly cheering thought. I am going to hold it in my mind, while I rest my head on my desk for a little.

Read more by Sam Wilson.

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