So 2016 is here and it’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it? We hate January in our house, my wife especially, who finds the taking down of the Christmas decorations so upsetting that I almost think it’s worth just leaving them up all year.
My work can be very slow in January. In some respects that’s quite nice – I can focus on other interests for a while, and I know it will pick up again. It’s the same every year. But it means my days can become quite isolating, as I work from a home office. On top of that I’m having not only a dry month, but a caffeine-free month – not just for the hell of it, but because I feel the need for a real detox. And it really is a stupid month to attempt to do that!
What has happened this month, though, is the transition to a whole new stage of parenthood for us. The stage where my wife isn’t breast-feeding anymore. Feeding our youngest until the age of 3 years and 2 months (and our eldest until she was 2 and a half) has been an amazing achievement, one that I’m a little in awe of to be honest. That’s six years of her and our lives.
For me, it really feels like the right time, and I think Liz agrees. She’s been day weaned for months, so it was only night feeds. Problem was, there was still 2 or 3 of them a night. And given Liz works full-time that is quite an ask. We adapt to getting woken often, but I think over an extended period of time it can start to build up, and it wears you out.
A few months ago we were going through a tough patch – kids ill, work stress – and I said to Liz that perhaps it was time to stop. My reasoning was that if there was a sliver of hope that weaning would mean better sleep for us all, surely it’s worth a go. It might seem a selfish reason for stopping, but she was nearly 3 years old at the time, and the thing about breast-feeding is that it shouldn’t be continued at any cost. The benefits of it can be outweighed by the cost to the mother if it is so mentally or physically draining. As fathers we can only really help and support, but also try to watch for that balance shifting.
Now that it has happened, she is still waking just as often, but it’s only been a week. Whether sleep will improve because of it I don’t know, but nevertheless things have changed. I read her stories and put her to bed, for the first time really. And Liz gets to read with and to our eldest, which has been rare for about three years. Bedtime has actually become a lovely time, rather than the chore it had become. Breast-feeding wasn’t to blame for that – I wouldn’t have had it any other way, given the choice. But it was something that was inflexible – a kind of anchor around which everything else hung. It was incredibly useful, until it became less useful. Now it’s gone, and it was the right time.
(Having put this in print, wait for next month’s blog where I talk about how bedtime has all gone to pot and I shouldn’t have spoken too soon).
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography