A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Suckin’ Me Dry

I have shared many blog posts lately about the tough times in parenting, breastfeeding and breastfeeding a toddler. The most frequent response I get, even when talking about how weaning is not right for Jack and I just yet, is that I should wean Jack. “It’s just time. You need to wean him.” Besides how obnoxious this type of “advice” is, it’s not really the point when talking about tough times.

Why is it that I need to wean my toddler because I am overwhelmed and stressed out? If this is right for you and your family then by all means do it! But I believe this perspective is directly related to the stigma in our culture surrounding breastfeeding toddlers. It’s not something we see very often, it’s seen as optional, extra, not really necessary; so if things are not perfect for you then breastfeeding that toddler must be the problem and you should knock it off!

If there is something going on with me then shouldn’t I be focusing on me? It’s not my kids that are victimizing me and causing me to feel certain feelings. It’s me. The breastfeeding relationship is a 2-way street, yes. And my feelings are just as important as my son’s, yes. But when considering emotional health it’s not the first place to look. The first place to look is within. What is going on with me?

Jack has adjusted to the birth of his brother pretty well. Those first few weeks were a nightmare, then it got a bit better, then a bit more, and today we feel chaotic and busy and crazy, but we also have a good routine and our family unit is full of love. We have come a long way in this short time. We are in a place I feared we would never get. We are so lucky.


But Jack has continued to struggle with sleep. Since our lives are more hectic than ever and this affects Jack in many ways we decided it was time to get some help. Something that I had been avoiding for a long time. Something that is a bit taboo in the Attachment Parenting community where we are taught that things will even out if left to their natural devices. Well, I have learned, through my breastfeeding relationship with Elxey, that sometimes people need some help. And it’s OK to ask for it. I have thought for a long time that a sleep consultant might be in order for us, but I avoided it for fear that she would reprimand us for our parenting style. “You need to get that kid out of your bed, get him into his own room.” And the ever dreaded “Wean that toddler.”

I was referred to Rebecca Michi. We have been working with her for about a month or 2 now. We have gained a ton of knowledge about how Jack’s natural temperament affects his ability to fall asleep, how the brain makes melatonin, things in our environment that affect the ability of Jack’s brain to make melatonin, tips for day and nighttime routines, tips for gently handling tough behaviors and so much more. We have good days and bad days, but when I sit quietly and look at our lives the good days are building on each other every time they circle around.

One of the unexpected things that Rebecca has provided for me personally is a place to vent. I can say anything to her and she responds with support and no judgment. She also always has some tips or thought-provoking questions. This was her most recent message to me when I expressed to her that I was having a hard time remaining calm with Jack at bedtime.

When do you get some time to yourself? What do you do for yourself? I understand if you don’t get much, you have two young kids after all! I feel that you are not taking care of you. You are on the go from the crack on dawn until late at night and caring for two people who are so dependent on you is exhausting. I want you to be able to fill your cup, when your cup is full you are able to help everyone more. When your cup is empty you are running on empty and having nothing to give. So what do you do to fill your cup? What can you do to fill our cup? Going for a walk without the kids? Going to the gym (ugh!)? Painting class once a week? A quick coffee date with a friend at the weekend? Think of some ways you can fill our cup and give you some much needed time. 

My initial reaction was that it was true, but what am I supposed to do about it? A few seconds later I was literally having a panic attack. This. This was the answer to everything right now. Where am I in all of this? I am barely treading water. I have given up showers, eating, peeing, getting dressed, combing my hair; not to mention reading, sitting quietly, writing for enjoyment, hot baths, listening to music and other things that fill my cup. It seems that we moms are always putting ourselves last. My husband says, “You have to remember that thing about the oxygen masks on airplanes. Put yours on first and then help those around you.”

So where could I find time for me? What would I do with that time? Would I even know myself well enough anymore to be able to plan something? Holy shit, someone was actually asking about me! I started to feel excited. I mean, I like me! How cool would it be to spend time with her?! Less than a day later I am here, by myself, at a local café, writing this blog post. I am writing it for me. I am writing it so that I can process my feelings about this. I am writing this so that I can rediscover who I am, how I got so far away from me and how I can rekindle this romance with myself.

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I was going to put a picture here of me alone, but turns out there aren’t any. Anywhere. 

There is a belief in the extremist AP community (in which I spent most of my early motherhood) that you shouldn’t spend time away from your kids and if you do you should at least hate it. I remember when Jack was very young I couldn’t imagine being away from him. Noe of my friends ever left their kids. I read all sorts of posts about how balance means something new now. “Free time is family time.” I left him for short periods of time a couple of times when I absolutely had to like to meet with HR to quit my job. Besides that I never left him. Ever. I believed that self-care now had to involve him; involve the whole family. I felt I wasn’t truly AP if I ever left him to be alone. That would be selfish. I think I am starting to believe that self-care isn’t truly self-care unless you are alone. Or maybe what I believe even more than that is that self-care looks different for each mother. And only she herself can decide what that is. Which is why Rebecca was asking me how I can fill my cup.

For me, self-care is fully disengaging from my family for a period of time to recharge my batteries, center my thinking and stimulate myself in a very different way than I am stimulated most of the time. I’ve spent 3 years now identifying myself as, “mother, blogger, social worker, advocate, public speaker” that I forgot to identify myself as Abby. Abby Theuring. Abigail Teresa Theuring. Individual. Fucking ME.

What do I like? Green Day. Loud music. Punk Rock. Heavy Metal. Books. Writing. Walking Fast. Magazines. Hot Bubble Baths. The Bachelor. Crocheting. Painting. Laughing With Friends. Photography. Talking Loud. Crossword Puzzles. Shopping. Eating. And so much more that I have let slip away since Jack was born. This is ME!

Turns out this really has nothing to do with breastfeeding.

Oh, what a tangled web this parenting stuff turned out to be.

Abby Theuring, MSW