The Supertired vs. Superexpert Parenting Show (aka Bed Time Live)

Bed time live

Last week I went shopping with a friend. We were mid-conversation when a sales assistant thrust her head into my friend’s buggy and cooed “Aww. She’s cute. Does she sleep through the night?” A year ago, I would have thought this a bizarre question, but one thing motherhood has taught me is that people are fascinated by how well babies sleep, even babies they don’t know.

Perhaps this is why sleep is the topic of Channel 4’s newest ‘parenting’ programme ‘Bed Time Live’.

It’s a simple premise. Babies and children don’t sleep through the night. Adults do. Therefore, adults who are constantly being woken by their children become exhausted, desperate and need help.

Channel 4 has created a programme with a guaranteed audience. Surely all sleep deprived parents will force their tired, bleary eyes open long enough to watch a programme which claims it will demonstrate, LIVE, how to solve all their sleep related problems (assuming, of course, they can keep their own children quiet long enough to watch it)?

Unfortunately, it was rubbish.

For one thing, it was boring. It was largely reminiscent of the bits of Supernanny where she stands at the bottom of the stairs explaining the ‘back to bed’ technique to increasingly stressed parents, but without any of the human interest. We didn’t learn anything about these families except that they were tired. The experts were equally mysterious, introduced with lines such as “Maureen has 95 years of helping families with sleep problems and can sort it all out within just 5 minutes just by humming” or words to that effect.

Also, it was just a bit weird. The gimmick is that, rather than going to the families, the experts watch them online and give the support live on TV, using call-centre style headsets. This, combined with the regular night-vision close ups of sleepy children created something like a cross between Supernanny, The Truman Show and the 80s kids game show Knightmare, which should really have been presented by cringe-worthy reality ‘self help’ TV supremo, Dr Christian.

Like all TV shows which masquerade as offering help, this was really an exercise in voyeurism. At times it was like sitting in on someone else’s therapy session, albeit with an unqualified, grinning presenter wading in with unhelpful comments like “You look quite upset, if you don’t mind me saying.” Well, yes, I do mind you saying, and you’d be bloody upset too if you hadn’t slept for 5 years and your only option was to parade your desperation in front of the nation in exchange for minimal support from a faceless ‘expert’ over an impersonal earpiece who’s watching you on a night vision camera which was probably last used to try and catch D-list celebrities fondling under the covers on Celebrity Big Brother!

I finally accepted this programme wasn’t for me when, after many requests for people to call, text and tweet in their questions, they read out only one: “Is it ok to let your baby cry it out?” The answer was clear. “I don’t think it’s ever necessary to let a baby cry.”

I’m not a major advocate of letting your baby cry, but neither do I presume to know what’s best for every parent and baby. We let our baby cry, and it worked. It was hard, but now we all get a full night’s sleep and everyone is happier for it. I have more energy, my husband and I have more quality time together, my body no longer aches from doing contortions in my sleep to avoid accidentally elbowing a wriggling baby in the head – and my son still gets excited when I walk in the room every morning, so I’m pretty sure he still loves me. Hopefully he’ll carry on sleeping well…and I’ll never end up needing the help of ‘Bed Time Live’!

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