This time of year, when the clocks ‘spring forward’, always makes me reflect on my black-out obsessed days. I write that as if my black-out obsessed days are over, which I am not entirely convinced is true. I suppose the next few months – when the sun rises early and sets late – will be telling.
A few weeks after our first baby was born, in January 2013, struggling to try to create order among chaos, I purchased a well-known baby instruction manual. In that baby instruction manual was a passage about the importance of blacking out baby’s nursery. The manual explained that the way you’d know that you had achieved the right level of black-out ("Total Black-out", I call it), was that if you held your hand in front of your face in the blacked-out room, you wouldn’t be able to see it. That passage, together with the early wakings of Spring/Summer 2013, set in motion a long-standing, obsessive quest to achieve Total Black-out. My quest has never succeeded. Every time I’ve stood, full of hope, in a darkened room with my hand in front of my face, thinking we have nailed it, my eyes have adapted to the dark and I’ve been able to see, quite clearly, my hand in front of my face.
My husband and I have lived in 3 different properties since our first child was born. In each property, he has (under duress) assembled a bespoke black-out solution for the kids’ rooms. In our first home we made do with a Gro Anywhere Blind which we put up each night and for every single nap. It was effective, but time-consuming. For our second home, my husband used the Gro Anywhere Blind concept to inspire his own black-out solution. He fixed Velcro to the window frames and then, at every sleep time, we would stick a perfectly-sized piece of black-out material to it. Again, effective, but not particularly attractive and, on reflection, really quite weird. For our current home, I think we have got as close to Total Black-out as is possible, whilst also retaining practicality and pleasing aesthetics. We have a combo of roller black-out blinds with solid shutters on top. I remember the day my husband called me in to see his handy work. As we stood there, in the dark, I could undeniably see my hand in front of my face, but I knew better than to say anything other than “Thank you, this is brilliant!” And what I have is a good level of black-out and an intact marriage, so I am grateful for these things. I am comforted by the fact that visiting friends have admired this set-up and have even asked how they may replicate our set up in their own homes. This gives me hope that I am not alone in my black-out obsessed madness.
In the spirit of reflection and growth, here are my black-out low points of the past 5 years:-
See third paragraph, above.
On our first holiday, when Emi was 4 months old, I set up her cot in the windowless bathroom, as this was the only way to achieve a satisfactory level of black-out.
We once took a roll of black bin liners with us when we went to visit friends for lunch, so that we could stick these up all over their beautiful (but enormous) sash windows for lunchtime nap time.
On several occasions I’ve tried to engage my husband in real conversations about how Peppa and George could possibly sleep with their curtains wide open. And don’t even get me started on Topsy and Tim and their enormous nightlight.
I once lost my shit at a nursery mum who lifted the SnoozeShade off newborn Seb’s buggy so that she could "have a little look at him", while I was busy dropping Emi off inside.
Last May, when we went on holiday to Crete, I sent a socially unacceptable number of emails to the hotel ahead of our arrival, to try to establish how black-out their rooms’ black-out blinds really were. Though I was very tempted, I did stop short of asking them whether they could see their hand in front of their face when the blinds were pulled.
And here are my conclusions after 5 years of battling to achieve total black-out.
Sleep deprivation makes parents do crazy things.
Total blackout cannot be achieved. Light will always find its way in somehow. If you keep it out of the window, it will get in from under the door. Total blackout is a myth.
SnoozeShades aren’t effective when someone lifts them off to "have a little look" at your baby.
Sometimes a child – like any other human – will wake up early or refuse to settle for sleep, regardless of what level of black-out you achieve.
There is a big gap in the market for baby and small child safe eye masks.
Welcome, British Summertime, and good luck, fellow parents.