ROUTINELY TABOO: WHY GINA FORD IS MY MODERN DAY HERO
The one thing that is supposed to unite us all as new shell shocked parents is the fact that we are shell shocked and exhausted. Sleep, or lack there of, is our mutual ground, our conversation starter, the foundation of our newly sprouted friendship. Well, where does that leave the parents who are getting sleep? Just because they are getting sweet juicy sleep does not mean they should be shrugged off. I can sense your eye-rolling disdain, but just hear me out.
Last week a guy was doing some maintenance work at our house, seeing my daughter we got into conversation about his own, also a one year old. He went straight in with ‘does she sleep?’ for some reason this question always makes me clam up, because my response needs to take into account that the asker may no longer want to talk to me. “Yea, er, we’re really lucky actually she sleeps pretty well’. Honest answer: she sleeps amazing. She sleeps from 7pm–6:30am, in the same room as her big brother who is almost three; who also sleeps all night, and has done since he was 5 months old. Despite my response, luck has nothing to do with it, it’s hard work and consistency and involves coming against a lot of opinions.
I never had any pre conceptions of Gina Ford before I was a parent, in fact I’d never heard of the woman. All I had pre wet wipes and raisins was my unrealistic expectations of attending a friends dinner party, putting my children down in their spare room and tucking into my prawn cocktail like nothing had changed, idiot.
My first introduction to Gina was when my son was 4.5 months old and only sleeping for 30 mins at a time during the day, I knew he was unhappy and never seemed to be getting the full sleep he needed. I turned to social media for advice, two dear friends, who had four children between them, suggested Gina whilst the rest of the parents told me not to worry about it and that my son would work it out later on ‘make the most of it’, ‘more excuses for cuddles’ all very lovely things to suggest, but along with the suggestions to eat all the cake whilst breastfeeding I felt it was more an ‘enabling’ kind of stance, culminating in making a rod for my own back.
I bought The Contented Little Baby Book and Gina became my parenting hero. As did the two legends who suggested I check her out.
They say there’s no manual but…
However, I quickly learnt that parents the world over have a lot to say about Gina. And most of it is not very nice. If you DARE to follow her routines then you are a certain type of parent, in particular, a parent who isn’t adhering to their offspring’s needs as lovingly as those who take the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ approach.
I mean, let’s back up a minute. When my son was born I taught him how to feed, we worked on that smile by smiling at him and showing him how it was done, we taught him to laugh by acting like fools, we showed him how to grip things, how to wave, how to say words and in a few months time we would teach him how to eat food, how to drink from a cup, how to walk…you get the idea. As parents we are teachers. So why when it comes to sleep are they supposed to be left to their own devices and know what to do? It’s crazy to me. I don’t get why parents who wanted to show their children the correct way to sleep were berated for it. And trust me they were.
I once saw a poor woman on a parenting forum get torn apart because she offered advice in response to someone asking for it. She wasn’t forcing her views she said simply ‘this worked for me, maybe give it a try?’ I made the mistake of showing support, voicing that the routine was also working wonders for my son, now 5 months. That was it. I was the world’s worst mother, I cared more for myself than my innocent son who ‘needs your love not a regime’ I’d love to say I had a thick skin and their words didn’t hurt me or fill me with doubt, but I was a first time mum and I definitely needed some love and reassurance after that. I had no regret at standing up for the other Gina mum though, that’s something I definitely didn’t lose sleep over...
Remember: Sleep begets sleep!
I’ve since had my daughter and we’ve been getting that full night’s sleep for months now. She has been following the routine since she was two weeks old (yes weeks), but don’t tell the trolls or I’ll probably be reported for neglect — lack of sleep can make you a bit grumpy.