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The bedtime battle plan that will make you all sleep easier

For kids, sleep represents a big separation from their caretakers—but you can help them overcome that discomfort.

The bedtime battle plan that will make you all sleep easier

At the age of 4, my daughter looked at me and said, “Mama, we have a problem–I don’t like to sleep.” Shocked, I managed to stifle my horror and mutter, “Well that’s unfortunate because I do.” In fact, I never appreciated sleep until I had children and got so little of it.


As my daughter and I faced off across the bedtime divide we couldn’t have been at more opposite ends of the spectrum. She wanted to hold onto me and I wanted her to let me go. It was only when I realized we could both get what we wanted that I was able to find my way through. First, I had to surrender to the idea that she was going to be the one to change.

I realized it was me that needed to lead us through the sleep impasse—but couldn’t do so without first understanding what was going on for her.

What alarms a child most of all is separation from their caretakers. The reason separation is so hard is because attachment is their greatest need. Children weren’t meant to take care of themselves and seek to be strongly tethered to adults who assume responsibility for them. As immature beings, children are highly dependent upon their caretakers to meet their hunger for contact and closeness, safety and nourishment. When they are apart from us, their alarm system can be highly activated leading to clinging, protest and crying in distress. The alarm can appear more subtly like needing to go to the bathroom, get a glass of water, more food or have help in fluffing their pillow up!

The biggest separation a child faces in the day is bedtime–not school or even when we are at work. We think because we are all in the same house they feel connected but sleep represents a long separation–up to 10 hours of unconsciousness where they can feel very far away from us. When you drop them off at preschool or daycare there is at least an adult to greet and take care of them. When they go to bed there is no one waiting saying, “Hello, welcome to your sleepy dream time! I will make sure the monsters don’t bother you tonight.” What children face when we put them to bed is the biggest disconnect of their entire day. It seems like such a cruel irony that when children need us the most, we typically have little energy left.

The idea of being generous and giving, things that come so easy on a full parenting gas tank, can reduce us to tears.

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When I started to listen to what my daughter’s behavior was telling me, I realized she was scared and lonely. It was actually a compliment to our relationship that she depended on me to keep her safe and wanted to be close. When I asked her why she didn’t like to sleep she told me, “Because the monsters come out of my eyes.” She then pointed to the ceiling and said, “That dream catcher is broken.” She was telling me she needed more from me and to take the lead in helping her rest. I told her that monsters weren’t her problem nor broken dream catchers, I was there to care for her throughout the night. Before you start to panic, I didn’t give up sleep, but I did certainly made it appear to her that I did.

I started by finding the generosity in me that she needed and accepted some things would need to wait–like housework or emails. I found my tears about the ‘me-time’ I craved and surrendered to the sacrifices that come with being a parent. I worked hard at not rushing her, having warmth and delight as I put her to bed, sending her a genuine message that I loved being with her. When the desperation would sneak in on me again I would remind myself that I could sleep all I wanted when she eventually left home or when I was dead.

Instead of expecting her to say goodnight and “see you in the morning,” I moved to make our separations shorter. I told her I would check on her in five minutes and that she could listen for my footsteps in the kitchen or for the sound of my voice. I always returned as I had promised full of more kisses while reminding her of the plans for the following day. I would tie invisible strings between our beds and tell her she just had to tug on them if she needed me. I told her I visited her in the night and watched her sleep. I once kissed her cheek with lipstick when she was sleeping but she told me in the morning, “I don’t like it when you make my face all messy!”

I even experimented with putting things under her pillow to find in the morning like treasure. She enjoyed the picture books most of all, running to read them together in our cuddle time. However, she was not happy with me when I left a pair of her favorite princess underwear under her pillow to wear. I tried many things–some worked and some did not, but the message slowly got through.

I worked hard to build a bridge from bedtime to the morning, conveying I was holding onto her so that she could let go of me.

Instead of saying goodnight I tried to point her face into the next hello. I aimed to sooth her alarm system that had become activated by separation. I created pit stops for her to anticipate, breaking the 10 hours of separate space into bite size pieces she could manage. We both started to sleep better as a result.

As I took the lead in navigating us through the bedtime separation my daughter grew more confident that this was my job and not her duty. While singing her to sleep one night she looked at me and said, “Mama, no offense, but I can’t sleep when you are singing to me. Can you go now?” I stifled my laughter and said, “I’m sorry honey, have I been keeping you awake all this time?”

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As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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