From the Times’s Motherlode blog:
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University videotaped 39 mothers while they put their infants and toddlers (ages 1 month to 24 months) to bed, and also gathered questionnaire data about how the mothers were feeling at each bedtime and how the babies slept each night.
Physical actions — holding a baby close or nursing him or her to sleep — are, essentially “going through the motions,” the study concludes, and had far less impact on sleep quality than emotional cues. When the mother did those actions while feeling warm and positive, the baby slept well, on average; when the same types of things were done by a mom who was irritable or brusque or distracted, the children were more likely to sleep poorly.
Holy shit. It’s not enough to care for your child. It’s not enough to get the little demon to go to bed. It’s not even enough to love your child despite it all. You have to be in a fricking good mood. Where are they going to find a mother who is, on some level, not “irritated or brusque or distracted”? Tell me. I’d like to find her.
By the way, the article notes that fathers weren’t included in this study because the amount of time we spend putting our children to bed was “statistically insignificant.” Living on my own with JP, I do put him to bed, and we have our little routine, which is usually fun and pleasant—bath, brush teeth, bathroom, in bed, book, song, see ya later—but if I were held to the non-brusque, non-irritated, or undistracted standard, well, I certainly wouldn’t pass muster. And I’ve yet to encounter the mother who would, either.
Of late, I’ve been trying to determine in my head what are some of the common threads that run through the posts on this blog. One of them, it seems clear to me, is an exploration of a motif in the popular culture in which utterly unattainable parenting standards are set, left unmet, and then guilt over said failure is manufactured. I don’t really know where it comes from. Is it a reaction to a two-working-parent society in which children get less time with their parents? An outcropping of our litigious society in which every action has to be contingency-planned, and if something goes wrong, someone has to be held accountable? Or is it just that we don’t have anything better to do with our time than to pick each other apart?