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I expected my son to sleep through the night when he was 8 weeks old, like all the books said he should. Then months.
Then I went into disaster recovery mode. How could I be the mom with the bad sleeper? I did everything right. I tried every tip and trick from rearranging his schedule to sticker charts and incentives. I took him to see two therapists and even spoke with my own therapist about what I could do. A few things helped, but at 4 years old he remains a challenging sleeper.
In the early days, I feared my secret would become public. I was doing everything I knew to do. My close friends knew but I worried what everyone else would think when they found out that I, the mommy blogger, had a kid who didn't sleep through the night.
And honestly, I still worry about this. I have to armor myself when it comes up in conversation with other parents. I see their faces. I know they think I’m doing something wrong. I know they judge me and my ability.
And it's fine. I can't ask them not to.
If they think I'm a bad mom, it's okay. I believed that lie for a long time, too.
So to you, Mom, with the baby or toddler or preschooler who doesn't sleep well, I know how you feel. You think you are awful because your kid isn't like everyone else's or isn't like your first. I know you have been so tired and frustrated that you've cried in moments of weakness, all by yourself. I know you’ve read all the books and taken everyone's advice. I know you can't sleep because you are worrying constantly about what you could be doing differently.
I'm not going to offer you advice about schedules and feedings and sound machines. Some things can help. There are trained specialists who have worked with other kids and parents. But you may find that, like my child, your child still struggles. It's okay. Only you know what's best for your family. That mom at the park doesn't have to live in your house. Your sister isn't there getting up at 3 a.m. And don't get me started about your mother-in-law. She literally has no clue.
Just because your baby doesn't sleep through the night doesn't make you a bad mom. Could you do more? Should you be doing more? Could you do something differently?
Yes. No. Possibly. Maybe. I don't know.
None of that matters because that's not the metric for being a good mom.
Are you trying your best? Is your child's welfare the most important thing? Are you focused on meeting their emotional and physical needs?
Then you pass the test. You are a good mom.
Potty training by 2 doesn't make you a good mom. Teaching your preschooler to read doesn't make you a good mom. Cloth diapering, organic baby food, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties don't make you a good mom. Those are all great things, of course, but lots of awful parents do those things.
But you – you are giving so much. You are not a bad mom. You are a freaking warrior. Carry this burden with as much pride as you can because you are learning some very hard lessons about devotion, sacrifice, and love.
And you are not alone.
This post was originally published in June 2017.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.