Toddler not Sleeping -Working Mums

This week I’ve meet several mums whose baby or toddler didn’t sleep for several years prompting the words, “the Sanity Nanny, I wish I’d known you 5, 10, 20 years ago”!  “My son or daughter was so exhausting and we tried everything”! Many new and working mums, perhaps like you, are trying hard to juggle your family life, cope with a toddler not sleeping and hold down a job too, in order to give your children the ‘best’ possible life. If your child wakes up night after night and you’ve had not only months of sleepless nights and this continues beyond 6 months of age, what is it that keeps you from collapsing from exhaustion?

I know I wouldn’t want to do it for longer than six months, nor would I want my child and family to miss out either. Yet by doing all this extra work, even if it’s only a few hours part time work, you run the risk of damaging your relationship with your child or partner, as well as them taking on your worry and stress, creating emotional issues in later life.

On Monday, I spoke to a nurse who went back to work when her baby was 9 months old and had to complete a 10 hour shift, she amazingly coped with sleepless nights until her son reached three. By which stage she had become a single mother, working part-time with two children. She was carrying out a very responsible job and in reality, she was ‘not fit for work’ and was caring for others when she really needed some rest and TLC herself. She probably would have been as effective as a drunken driver, that’s what sleep deprivation does to parents.

Baby brother and toddler

Baby and toddler reading

Annie went on to describe how when she reached the ward, she literally wanted to keel over and faint, so she could get some sleep. The sleep deprivation was so great and her guilt so high, that on those two night shifts per week, she even tore herself away from ward, flew down 9 flights of stairs to run across the car park and up another 4 flights, to peek in the window and check her son was OK. Then she raced back down and up the other side, to arrive back at her ward again, having had no break. The sleepless nights went on until her son reached the age of three. When little Tom woke, she would cradle him passionately and savour every moment holding him, selflessly ignoring her own needs.

How could no-one in the medical profession realise how bad she was feeling and how difficult home life was without sleep, or did she not want anyone to know, fearing she would lose face with her colleagues? This anxiety I would have spotted and been able to show her see things differently, help settle her nerves and more importantly, get her baby son back to sleep. If only we’d known each other then. Ironically she only lives one street away.

Yesterday I met another mother of two children aged 9 + 6, who had had a corporate career and has her own nanny. She told me how her daughter had sleep fine for 18 months, then suddenly stopped. She however continued her high flying job in IT and managed to cope with the sleep deprivation all over again. It was only after another year or more of sleepless night her daughter’s sleep habits returned back to normal.

She now continues to work, yet not so intensely now and happily manages how to balance this, with running a household and looking after two horses too.

Two very different scenarios and two different outcomes, both intelligent women that sadly struggled on in the face of adversity, when a solution could have been reached within a week or two. Annie the nurse still works part time and survived her ‘ordeal’. Her boys are a credit to her, both are polite and well behaved and although life has been a dreadful challenge at times. She has come though things alone and is now doing good for other single mums, setting up a new community for them on-line, more about this is coming soon.

If you are a working parent and your family life is being disrupted through lack of sleep, it is not worth the procrastination. After all, you would not hesitate to go the dentist if your tooth hurt for over a week or had a pain that didn’t stop for more than a week or two, would you? You must recognize as a working mum when to help yourself before your kids, then everything will work out just fine.