I really despise baby trainers. I'm also perpetually irked by telly doctors booby-trapping new mothers with their breastfeeding 'advice'. Baby trainers do the same sort of booby-trapping too, but they are far more sinister than that. Yes, in the year 2014 you will still be expected almost, to train your baby as though it were named Fido. Training babies is a bad idea. Training babies breaks their trust in you, causes them stress and can make them depressed. Sure you might get yourself an extra forty winks, but at what cost? Unlike your partner, if you abandon your child and find yourself closing the door to your baby at 7pm on the dot and turning up the television to drown out the frantic cries for mummy or daddy because Fido has to 'learn' your baby is stuck with you. Think for a moment though, how it would feel, if the tactics meted out by the baby trainers were geared towards you and your significant other?
Thank goodness mainstream 'gurus' didn't decide that couples therapy would give them more bang for their buck. We'd be a nation of very unhappy parents.
Certainly in the UK it could be a fair assumption to make that mainstream society and British culture is incompatible with children. We're just not child friendly. Sure you get some crayons and a picture of a clown to colour in when you hit a bistro in the middle of the day but that's about it. Kids get a raw deal in the UK but babies have it ten times worse. There's a plethora of self styled baby care experts promoting books under the guise of giving you more of that precious commodity - sleep. Children of all ages, remember, are inherently out to control, manipulate and rule with an iron rattle - or are they? I wonder what would happen, if we applied popular sleep training techniques and modeled the behavior expected of a baby, to our significant other?
Example 1: Your OH wakes you up in the night. He's crying! You want to comfort him but if you do, he'll end up ruling the roost and you can't have that. First you listen at the door to see if it's a 'real' cry. Five minutes pass, then ten. It IS a real cry! But if you comfort him, you'll be setting a precedent for future hijinks. Tricky. He has now reached a wailing crescendo. You go into the bedroom and you check that he has not soiled himself. You don't say a word as you inspect his bottom. Then you retreat from the bedroom and snuggle back up on the couch safe in the knowledge that he is OK. Your OH is still whimpering but after half an hour or so, he gives up and goes back to sleep. You know he can't be hungry because he ate majority of the spag bol you made for tea. He's had a drink before bed. You decide he just wants a cuddle. And cuddles aren't real needs according to one of the baby trainers and besides, if you give in with the love and hugs now, he'll expect affection the next time he wakes up, and then what? No, he has to learn that he can't get it all his own way. Life just isn't like that!
Example 2: You've never left your baby before, and maternity leave is up. Suddenly you wake up in a state of high anxiety, crying and in dire need of some reassurance. Your OH wakes up, silently; he gives you the once over. He can see you are not ill, he can see that your nightwear hasn't got poo or wee on it, the bed is clean and dry. He huffs and puffs and shakes his head but still, he ignores you. You plead with him, 'hug me, hold me, acknowledge me!' but your OH looks right through you. You become hysterical! Your arms wave about, you grab at his arms, you are so distressed that you vomit! Surely now he'll see the level of your distress and comfort you? No such luck. He wordlessly removes the vomit stained sheets and leaves the dribble on your nightshirt. He says nothing! Once things are contained, he puts the light out. You crawl into the bed knees to chest in the fetal position and cry yourself to sleep.
Example 3: You thrust a leg outwards and smack your OH in the kneecap, waking him up in the process.
'Ouch' he says loudly. He starts to cry. 'Stop moaning, it didn't hurt.' You tell him. 'Go back to sleep, or there will be trouble in the morning.'
Example 4: Next night, you wake your OH in the night for a snuggle / comfort, just because. 'Bugger off,' he says. 'It's night time, we don't cuddle at night,'
Next night you wake up again, you can't sleep. You nervously tap him on the shoulder, 'Darling....'
'Stop your whining and go to sleep.' He retorts.
'Do you have a clean bum?' he barks as an afterthought. You nod submissively. 'Then what are you moaning about woman? Go to sleep. ARGH.'
In the day he is adoring, attentive, loving and supportive but at night, he is dismissive, distant, unsupportive and now you're becoming a little bit conditioned into not asking for love because you'll either be ridiculed, chastised verbally or plain old ignored. There's another word for this kind of behavior when it is directed at adults. It's called abuse.
As adults we are taught that our emotions are important. We must share how we feel for good mental health right? If we need to, we can go and talk to a professional about how we feel. We place value on being able to communicate effectively with our spouses. Communication, finding support and being valued underpins our emotional thermostat. So why, if it is so unacceptable for a grown adult, who can regulate (kind of) our own emotions is it acceptable for a grown adult to care for a baby or a child in this way? When did hugs become a chore, when did giving love, reassurance and support only become acceptable between the hours of 7am and 7pm?
Newsflash! Sleep is developmental. It cannot be taught. Some babies sleep great, like my second daughter. Some babies need rocking, boobs, co-sleeping and reassurance throughout the night, like my first daughter. Complete opposites, both given a baby -spa like experience before bedding down in cosy comfort. Treated the exact same, developmentally different individual miniature human beings not dogs or circus animals.
Waking in the night is normal. Crying is normal. Feeding throughout the night is normal.
If baby trainers wrote books about relationships we'd all be screwed.