Letting Papa Do Bedtime

August 2nd, 2013 by Dionna | 9 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, Consistent and Loving Care, Ensure Safe Sleep, natural parenting, Strive for Balance

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bedtime?

sound of music poster

I am a violinist. Pre-kids I was a much more active violinist, but I have not made any effort to find opportunities to play in an ensemble since we had Kieran. In early June I was flipping through an area publication and saw an ad for a local production of Sound of Music, my favorite musical-to-movie (and one of Kieran’s favorites, too).

On a whim, I Googled the production company and emailed the music director to ask if they were still looking for musicians. The conductor emailed me and said yes, indeed they were, and we chatted about my rusty skills and the show’s schedule.

I was reluctant to commit. Eight rehearsals, seven shows, all on the other side of town and stretching well past bedtime.

Here’s where I share that my 20 month old nurses to sleep every night, and has since the day she was born. And Kieran vastly prefers to have me parent him to sleep; in fact, it has only been in the past year that Tom has started taking turns helping Kieran fall asleep on occasion.

So I asked you.

With the exception of one or two people, all of my friends and readers overwhelmingly encouraged me to go for it.

You can stop after a couple of rehearsals if you hate it,” you said.
You sound so excited, it’s healthy to do things for yourself,” you said.
Your kids will see you reaching for a dream,” you said.

And so I said yes: hesitantly, timidly, but also with a tinge of thrilled anticipation.

The first night of rehearsal, I left Tom with a long list:

Things to try if Ailia is sad and does not fall asleep:

Call Grandma on Skype
Warm bath
Ride in Ergo
Dance and sway to low music
Read books
Flashlight play in darkened room (or glow bracelets)
Walk outside to chase lightening bugs
Bean or other sensory bins
Make a fort

That first night was a disaster. I ran out of rehearsal around 9:40pm, checked my phone, and was greeted with frustrated texts from Papa detailing the struggle. I broke speed limits and got home at 10:05.

She’d fallen asleep at 10:02.

The second night was somewhat better. She wasn’t quite as upset, but she did not fall asleep. When I walked into the house, her face lit up and she ran over for a hug, simultaneously diving for my chest. She was asleep within seconds.

Letting Papa Do Bedtime

The Sound of Co-Parenting

Throughout the 15 days of rehearsals and shows, Tom tried different things with varying success: coming out to the park with me (we were at an outdoor amphitheater) and letting the kids play (one night Ailia fell asleep on his lap in a swing); having Grandma come over to help entertain (Ailia loved falling asleep on Grandma’s chest, but she’s still not sure why Grandma’s milk doesn’t work); staying home and hanging out; and of course they watched the play. Three times. (Kieran saw it four times.)

And I think part of what helped Ailia relax was the fact that I had let go. I reassured her – and Kieran, who is still very mama-centered – that they would have a great bedtime with Papa. My confidence enables Ailia to feel comfortable both when I leave the house (she now demands hugs and kisses when it’s time for “mama work,” and then she toddles off for new adventures with papa), as well as while I’m gone.

And Tom had to change his way of thinking, too. His bedtime texts went from the “This is a complete disaster, how am I going to make it through this without your boobs?!” to “We’re cool, no rush!

He’s so confident as a solo bedtime parent now that he’s encouraged me to go out to Starbucks a couple of evenings post-musical to get some work done. I don’t hear a peep via text anymore.

So what’s the point of all of this rambling? Mainly, I wanted to share: it was an incredible experience! Thank you for helping to give me that much-needed push. But I also needed the reminder – and maybe some of you do too – that it is a good thing to trust your partners (or other alternative caregivers) to take on some of your “normal” mama responsibilities.

At our house, mama is in charge of bedtime. And nail clipping. And nursing after booboos. And making most of our meals and snacks.

But just because I normally do certain things does not mean Tom cannot do them. As Tom wrote last year, he is dad enough!

In fact, I wish I’d given him more room to share nighttime parenting (and a few other parenting tasks) much earlier, so that it would be normal for Kieran to see both parents as confident and capable of many responsibilities. (Also, nighttime parenting has historically been a struggle for me, so turning some of it over to Tom would have been kinder on my mental health.)

Ah, hindsight.

What about you – are there areas where you have been reluctant to let a partner or other caregiver share responsibilities?


Sound of Music poster photo credit: e r j k p r u n c z y k

Sound of Music Cast Credit: Leawood Stage Co.

Edited from a piece originally published in the August 2013 Natural Parents Network — Code Name: Mama — Hobo Mama Joint Newsletter. Sign up at this link for exclusive giveaways and coupon codes, original content, and more!

9 Responses to:
"Letting Papa Do Bedtime"

  1. I always feel so much better reading your posts. I have to admit that my now, three year old daughter still uses me to go to sleep. She tries to go to sleep on her own sometimes when she’s really tired, but seems to always need just a little breastmilk to get her down. At three, I’ve been feeling like a terrible mom that she can’t get to sleep on her own. I don’t mind the co-sleeping at night (I rather love it to be honest), but it would be nice if she could go to sleep on her own for naps!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      You’re not terrible! It’s what has worked, and it was easy. But if it’s not working now, then simply implement small changes. Changing to meet both of your needs makes you a *good* mama :)

  2. I am so glad that you took the leap and that it worked out for you! We had such a similar experience when I started going to knitting, and Micah took over doing bedtime one night a week. It really improved his confidence as a parent, and helped me to feel like I could trust him to take over part of the parenting and not need to be present for everything.

  3. Momma Jorje   mommajorje

    I am a horrible control freak. I handle a LOT and then it becomes expected by everyone else, too. Its a very hard cycle to break. They did alright when I stayed in the hospital overnight with Spencer for his heart repair.

  4. Sarah

    Thank you for this post!! I have turned down so many offers/activities because of bedtime. Holly — I could have written what you wrote word for word! My daughter is also 3, and while I love co-sleeping, I do wish she could fall asleep (and stay asleep!) without me. It can be so very frustrating. I went out with a friend once a few months ago and returned at 10 pm to her crying inconsolably while my husband tried to put her to bed. He was frustrated, she was frustrated. I haven’t done it again. :/

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Yep – that has totally happened at our house.
      For the record, I still pat my 5.5yo’s back to sleep, he doesn’t want to go on his own. But it has gotten so much easier. And parenting your little one to sleep can be very sweet and bonding :)

  5. Angela   EarthMamasWorld

    Thank you for posting this. I am also the bedtime parent . I admit that I took charge of many of the aspects of parenting early on….hindsight ;)

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