Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Balancing "high needs"

Last week, for the October Carnival of Natural Parenting, I wrote about how I've been having trouble finding balance. It's been hard for be to find a good balance in my life between being an attentive and connected parent, keeping my home clean and tidy enough for it to still feel peaceful, and having time for myself to stay sane.

SO sleepy.
Daniel seems to be what Dr. Sears calls a "high needs" baby. He cries a lot. He doesn't like to take naps, and he also doesn't like to be tired. He has trouble being around people. If we're in a very large group, he'll sleep through the social time and then when we get home, he'll cry about it. He'll cry about it for a long time. If it's a smaller group, he'll sometimes just go ahead and cry through most of the gathering (like Music Together class), and then cry when we get home, too. He just seems to get over-stimulated very easily. Nap times often involve a lot of crying, and for the past few nights, bedtime does, too. (As I am writing this, Jaymz is trying to get Daniel to go to bed a little earlier than usual. I am listening to him cry hysterically over the baby monitor. It's been about 45 minutes of this...so far.) I think Daniel's tendency to fight going to sleep has a lot to do with his personality and his ability to easily become over-stimulated.

Another thing that's hard is that a lot of my friends who have young children have decided to use one of the many types of "cry it out" (CIO) sleep training. I know the research that says excessive crying is harmful to infants doesn't definitively implicate the CIO method. However, utilizing CIO goes against my natural instincts as a mother, and I don't think it's the right choice for our family. (No judgment on families who use these techniques.) It's hard for me to be among a group of other mothers, wanting to talk about what's going on with our family, and knowing that the advice I'll get from them doesn't align with how I approach parenting. (My local attachment parenting group recently dissolved, so that monthly resource isn't available to me anymore.) PhD in Parenting wrote a post called cry it out: 10 reasons why it is not for us, and those are ten of the reasons it's not for us, either.

I get frustrated when I'm in a group of other mommas and they all seem like shiny happy people with their happy, calm babies. I want that for Daniel. I want him to feel happy and not feel like he needs to cry so much. I want it for me, too. I could really use a day when he doesn't get hysterical over something like being put down for a few minutes so I can go to the bathroom or take a shower. I also get frustrated with those mommas because I feel like they must be lying. It can't be all sunshine and rainbows for them, right? Lately, I'm finding I have little tolerance for this act from other people because it's hard for us. We're having a hard time.

"No, Momma! I don't wanna nap!"
Often when my kid is coping with a social situation by sleeping through it, someone will say, "Oh, he's such a good baby!" I wrote a guest post over at Hobo Mama last week about how this bothers me. Yes, he's a great baby. He's a human being. He's loved. He's wonderful. But he's not easy, not usually. I feel like these days, I have to choose. I can go out and spend time with other people (though my baby will scream for who knows how long when we get home). Or, I can stay home with him, completely letting go of any expectations that I'll get anything done (including showering or a load of laundry), spending my day on the couch nursing and cuddling Daniel so he'll have a more emotionally stable day.

I know that as Daniel gets older, the things that are challenging for us now will reveal themselves as delightful aspects of his personality. He's a wonderful person already and I'm glad I get to know him as he grows up. I can tell he doesn't much like being a baby a lot of the time. This is not his favorite phase in his life, and I can understand why. I empathize with a lot of his behaviors and the ways he has trouble with things because he's a little like me.

I've apologized to Jaymz a few times lately for whatever impact my genes have had on Daniel's current state of discontent with life. (Although, I'm well aware that his genes have had just as much of an impact—good and bad.) I will not apologize anymore, because Daniel will know that he's like me. He'll know he's like me and I don't want him to think, "Momma doesn't like those qualities in herself, so she must not like them in me." Those things aren't even true. I'm glad I'm a sensitive person. I also know it's made my life hard in some ways, and I just want Daniel's life to be easy. I want him to have an easy go of it, because I don't feel like I got that. It's hard for me to watch him struggle right now.

So for now, as we navigate this difficult period, I'm identifying with the ebb and flow concept of balance: things will get done eventually, but everything will never be done at the same time. Sometimes the laundry will be done and sometimes the kitchen will be clean enough. Some days I will go out and spend time with my friends and help Daniel through his processing time afterward. But sometimes, we're going to stay home on the couch or in bed all day, so that Daniel can get more sleep, and Momma can have a day without hearing so much screaming.

I'm not necessarily asking for any advice on this one, but please feel free to leave words of encouragement or commiseration. If you feel compelled to leave suggestions about sleep, please be respectful of our decision not to use CIO methods of sleep training. My kid cries enough already.


  1. That sounds hard for all of you! This too shall pass.

  2. Thanks, Becky. You're very right!

  3. I agree with you on CIO. It's not for me either. There have been a few times I did let Bennett cry while I was laying beside him, until he calmed himself.

    I'm glad you wrote about this. There is something magical about being wholly authentic, and help and support can come from all sorts of places.

    And as Becky said, this WILL pass, and you will be in a phase where you are getting to fully communicate with Daniel about his needs and enjoy every second.

  4. Just a thought...when my son was an infant I had to cut out ALL dairy from my diet. It was a miracle how quickly he quit crying so much...it's my first time reading your blog, so I don't know if you even use dairy, but I wanted to throw it out there. Hate to see babies in pain!

  5. Just a thought...when my son was an infant I had to cut out ALL dairy from my diet. It was a miracle how quickly he quit crying so much...it's my first time reading your blog, so I don't know if you even use dairy, but I wanted to throw it out there. Hate to see babies in pain!

  6. Roysmom: I appreciate for the thought! I'm experimenting with some dietary changes right now, so that's definitely something I'll check out. Thank you.

  7. I can definitely understand! We are having a rough go of it here too. Especially today it seems!

    Bubby had colic when he was itty bitty and we now know it was aggravated by things in my diet. I hope you have luck with your dietary changes. It made a huge difference when we cut things out of my diet.

    I hope things calm down for you soon and you can find some support from friends. I am ever so thankful for my AP mom's group.

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