I had a wonderful conversation with Erica Ehm, the owner of this publication, after that post came out. We talked about how parents probably needed to be validated in their struggles and to know that even us "experts" have rough days, and in my case, actual conditions like postpartum depression.
It was interesting to hear Erica talk about her experience as a new mom. She explained that she felt most devastated by how frustrating it was not knowing how to soothe her baby. She said she could entertain and motivate a huge room of people but she sometimes couldn't get her own baby to stop crying. Erica explained that this loss of control and those negative thoughts were the motivation to start this publication--she wanted to help herself and all the other parents she thought needed help too. Thank you for doing that, Erica!
Here are some concrete things that I have done, and recommend to others, to help get through the harder days of parenting. I won't say these will make things "easier" but I will say they will make you more able to do what is necessary when raising little ones.
I know this is very hard to do—trust me, I know. In order to take care of others and be able to do that rationally, we have to be as rested as we can. All the crap that happens with raising little ones is more tolerable when we are not on the edge of reason. The HOW of doing this is all about scheduling and getting people to babysit/ father/ grandparent the kids so you can have some time to recharge.
Taking care of yourself also involves letting things go and not overloading your to-do lists. Remember the quote from Voltaire, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Wherever you can get help with cleaning or yard maintenance, please do that. I have found that neighbourhood kids are happy to make a bit of money lending a hand.
My mom used this term to describe when we become Negative Nellys. When we are focused on everything that is going wrong and feels hard, we can actually make ourselves feel worse. I wrote a piece about how to make this shift, and be aware of what our focus is on. Click <here> to read that article about frustration tolerance.
There isn't space to put all that information here so I will direct you to the book, "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Laura Markham, PhD and also my short eBook called "Connect With Your Heart, Connect With Your Child." I have a section in there specifically dealing with tantrums and tears. Another previous post of mine called "Thriving With A Toddler" might also help with this.
Joining a group can help reduce the isolation that can happen while raising little ones. It is also be helpful to get answers to questions, hear other's perspective, and grow friendships. Most community centres, public health nurses, and early-years practitioners know where to find these groups. Ask other moms or use the internet to find one you like.
It is important that when mothers hand their children over to dads, grandparents or babysitters, that the other caregiver be given a chance to spend time with the child(ren) without the mother and her critical eye hovering nearby. It is true that the helper will treat the child differently than the mother, but those helpers need a chance to build a relationship with that child and learn from their mistakes.
For example, if a mom notices that the dad put the diaper on wrong and shouts, "Look what you did! That's wrong" it is likely that dad will not want to change another diaper again. A more kind and rational approach will keep the dad motivated, "Oh hey, I see the diaper is leaking... do you mind fixing that?"
When I was really struggling, I started with journaling and when I felt braver to talk openly, I had conversations with my sister and my husband. I also stayed in touch with psychotherapist colleagues who were keeping an eye on me.
It is so critically important to seek help. Maybe someone has concrete ideas of how to make your life less stressful.
I turned to Katherine Stone, creator of www.postpartumprogress.com for PPD/ PPP suggestions as this is her area of expertise. She said, "If you have practiced self-care and done all you can and you still feel like you are unable to function day to day as you would like, it's worth reaching out to your healthcare provider to discuss the potential of postpartum depression or anxiety. These are real illnesses that are temporary and treatable with professional help."
I recommend reading through Katherine's website and joining her Facebook page. The suggestions she provides are quite helpful.
Partners, I know you work hard and sometimes come home to a worn out person saying, "You take the kids... I need a BREAK." I know you are probably exhausted and need a break too.
This is what your partner is probably trying to say: "I am envious that you got to put nice clothes on, have a quiet commute to work, and do things to spark your brain. I had to deal with kids, whom I love dearly, but sucked my energy out and pushed my buttons... all of them... at the same time. Please help me so I can hear my own thoughts, not have to put another's needs before mine, and spend time feeling good about myself too."
Communication is critical to stay strong (enough) and together during the period of raising young children. Please know that some women will pretend they are handling things better than they really are to not show weakness.
Assume your partner wants some time alone and to talk about how she is feeling. Please do not invalidate what she says with, "Oh, I'm sure it's not that bad." Empathetic listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give a mom with little ones. The other important gift is anything you can do to give her alone time, moments of silence/ to have a nice long shower, or to make the to-do list get shorter. Any anticipation of these needs without asking is amazing! Flowers are nice, but an emptied dishwasher is even nicer.
Hang in there new moms, when people say, "It gets better," they really mean it. My children are now four and six and my energy level has significantly gone up, and my sadness has significantly gone down. Two mothers from Winnipeg made this YouTube video to share hope and encouragement for other moms. I encourage you to take ten minutes to watch it. You are not alone.
You are welcome to read my Facebook page, where I post lots of free parenting tips and support.