Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Antidote to American Parenting Competition

A few days ago ten-month-old Amelia stopped sleeping so well. She fussed. She woke at 4 am after lulling us into the complacency of 6-7 am wake-ups. She moved about in her crib. Cried and fussed and arched her back in disgust when facing sleep.

All very normal, I know. Babies get off their rhythms. And sure enough, she's starting to remember how to sleep again. This morning it's 8.30, and she's down for an early morning nap. It all works out, but slowly, and leaving very tired parents in the wake.

This short episode brought back the panic of the early months, as well as the years-long frustration of our older daughter's sleep patterns. When the baby was little, and her sleep at weeks 10,11 and 12 seemed to be getting worse, I emailed Ann Douglas, a parenting writer I've only met online, but whom I feel lucky enough to call a friend.

"What do I do?" I typed. "How do I make my baby sleep. Can you help?

Ann's response: An advance copy of Sleep Solutions is in the mail to you. But, she warned, there's no magic bullet.

How frustrating, I thought, in new mother angst. Just when you need some magic, it seems there's none forthcoming. But also, how correct. How nurturing and loving and supportive an answer. The best, really, that there is. Better than how-to guides that pose one answer, one regime, and you're left failing if it doesn't work. Ann Douglas is the author of the series of parenting books known as the The Mother of ALL Solutions series. She's very well known in Canada. In the United States, she's just beginning to be the parenting author of choice for those of us who are very tired of the What to Expect When You're Expecting books that provoke more fear than support. (And on that topic, check out the's TV critic Heather Havrilesky's recent LA Times Op-Ed, "Expect the Worst While You're Expecting".)

Last night, I pulled Ann's book from my bedside to leaf through it. I gleaned some ideas to help Amelia get her sleep groove back. "Sleep Solution #8" on page 110 was clearly written just for me: "Remain as Calm and Relaxed as Possible About the Sleep Issue." That's just the thing, Ann is concerned about us as parents, and about us, just plain. Stay calm, she reassures. It's all going to be okay. The book is filled with stories and advice from mothers, too, so it feels like going to the playground and getting mom wisdom just when you need it, as well as the friendship of other mothers. When so many parents feel judged as good or bad depending on whether their children sleep well, Ann Douglas offers an entirely different sensibility, totally outside the screed of American parenting competition.

So: Ann Douglas's Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler, for those who need it. The antidote to the fear-mongering parenting guides that are bestsellers in our country, from a friend up north.

(ps: Sleep Solutions is in the midst of a MotherTalk blog tour, though Everyday Mom is not an official stop. You can check another, with author Q and A at Mothershock.)


Paige said...

This sounds like a great book. I'd also highly recommend "Good Night, Sleep Tight" by Kim West. This, too, is not one of those fearmongering books. Most importantly, after following its advice, I noticed a difference in my daughter's sleep habits within a day or so.

mad muthas said...

phew - a book that doesn't claim to be from an 'expert' offering a dogmatic, one-size fits all solution that your probably didn't need in the first place! in the uk parenting books are dominated by three women: gina ford, tracey hogg and annabel karmel. some women won't cook anything if it's not in karmel's book. how tragic is that? we've surrendered our decision-making as parents to experts and have rejected instinct in favour of research.
we compiled a book called 'trade secrets:parenting', a collection of tips from parents on what had worked for them, in the interests of democritising parenting know-how once again. our latest book, 'the madness of modern families' is actually a humour title that looks at the extremes we are going to be compete as parents - as if our children are projects, rather than individuals.