I am much less harried as a mother of two than I expected. I am an old hat at changing diapers. I can feed a baby while checking my email and eating breakfast. I know that some time outside does everyone — myself included –a world of good. But that doesn’t make me immune to the occasional day where I count down the minutes until Scott is home, sometimes even starting before he sets foot out the door. And the minute he steps back in?
“Here you go,” I say thrusting a baby at him and trying not to trip over the toddler already wrapped around his legs, “I just need five minutes”.
Five minutes is a magical time period in this house. When C, a notoriously bad sleeper, kept me up many a night, I eventually read Pamela Druckerman’s book on parenting the French way, “Bringing Up Bébé.” In it, she claims the solution to all of your nighttime sleep problems is “The Pause.” Once a child is a few weeks old, the French, apparently unbeknownst to themselves, will passively observe their baby when it starts to cry. If they discover an urgent issue, they step in, but typically they wait to see if the child settles themselves. They find typically the child does and soon learns to sleep through the night.
While I have serious doubts and reservations as to whether this would work on every child, my already too independent baby actually does much better if you leave her to fuss for a few minutes, and often will fall asleep better on her own than in my arms. It’s been hard to re-wire my brain after having a child who was so dependent on me for sleep, so I often find myself placing her in the crib and saying “Just five minutes.” Now she doesn’t reach a good deep sleep in those five minutes, so often I have to remind myself “just 5 more” if I see her eyes flutter open or her voice whinge, but on a good day, she settles relatively peacefully as I watch, admittedly a little heartbroken, from my chair.
The “just five minutes” also works well on her still-sleep-fighting big sister. Naps are a struggle and with the news that C’s teeth are already shifting because of her soother use and her all-too-dainty jaw, they won’t be getting any better as we try to rid the soother cold turkey. After trying to see if she’ll sleep after a naptime routine of two books and a song, I usually wait 30-45 minutes before I start to “parent” her to sleep. If I am feeling sentimental, especially on a day when Madeline rejects my attempts to rock her to sleep, I’ll snuggle in with C until she falls asleep. But most days, I go in, straighten her blankets and say “eyes closed, mouth closed for just 5 minutes and then naptime will be over. Just five minutes.” If she buys into it, when I go back in five minutes later, she will be asleep.
Five minutes can also work well when not sleeping. A dishwasher can be unloaded in 5 minutes. A salad can be made in 5 minutes. A room tidied in 5 minutes (not well, but quickly). But most importantly, sanity can be restored — or at least improved — in just five minutes.