Hands down, motherhood is the most challenging, exhausting, frustratingly beautiful experience you will ever have. I know, because I’m a mom. My 14-month-old son is my pride and joy. He is my biggest accomplishment, my most important life’s work and my greatest heartache all at the same time. Stick with me, and I’ll tell you why.
Oliver is what you would call my “spirited” child. He’s strong-willed, stubborn and set in his ways (I’ve read studies where these traits are linked to future braniacs and geniuses…just sayin…wink). But in all seriousness, Oliver has been a handful from the very beginning. From poor sleep habits and chronic ear infections to allergies and frequent colds, let’s just say it hasn’t been a walk in the park. There have been more days than I’d like to admit where I felt tapped out, at my wits end and completely overwhelmed by being his mom, and it took me a very long time to say it out loud.
Before I go further into the challenges though, I want to point out all of the reasons why I’m proud to be his mom. First of all, he’s lovable, extremely goofy, curious and sweet. Watching him progress from one day to the next makes my heart melt. I love seeing him pick up a new skill, chase birds around the neighborhood with delight and watch everything that I do so intensely. These moments make me feel insanely happy and lucky that he came into my life.
Then there are the other moments that creep in and cloud my perspective- especially on an extra difficult day that I may have had with him. Because some days, he’s just MORE. More clingy, needy, fussy, inconsolable. More time-consuming, irrational, short-tempered and tough to please. This is when I tend to lose my cool, have increased anxiety and less patience.
The mom guilt kicks into high gear on these days too. I start thinking about how I’m not good enough, I can’t handle this and I want to escape. These thoughts creep in and fester, making my parenting job that much more trying.
If you’ve ever felt like me on those really tough mom days, know that you’re not alone. It took me some time, but once I realized that I wasn’t the only woman having what I call “mom-defeating” thoughts, I gave up the guilt. I allowed myself the freedom to have bad days, which didn’t mean I was a bad mom or that Oliver was going to have long-term negative effects.
Being a mom is hard, and sometimes you might want out. Don’t be ashamed of that feeling, because A LOT of moms feel that way from time to time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a colicky newborn, chronically ill baby or extra fussy child, here are some ways that I used to cope.
- Tell someone who won’t judge you. For me, I went straight to my mom and sister. They could relate (being mom’s themselves), and hearing how they had days of struggle just like I had made me feel better that I wasn’t the only mom on the planet feeling that way.
- Get plugged in. I work three days a week and am at home with my son the other four. When I was at home, I felt isolated, bored and restless. I’m pretty sure my Oliver did too! I found a mom’s group online that really helped. On the days we were home together, I made sure to plan outings for Oliver to socialize, and me too!
- Talk to a therapist. As a therapist and Bringing Baby Home Educator, it was even harder for me to reach out for professional support. I thought I had to have it all together, all the time. That’s a lot of pressure! I realized I needed more support than I had, and talking to a therapist provided me the opportunity to be vulnerable, state my true and honest feelings without fear or judgment. It also helped me identify my feelings in order to assess if I was just going through a hard time or clinically depressed (and this is a really important distinction!).
- Read similar stories from other moms. I found a ton of online blogs, articles and stories from real “super moms” who also felt overwhelmed at times. Again, I felt like my feelings were normal and valid.
- Take a break. Getting some much needed time away from your baby is healthy, normal and in no ways means that you’re slacking on being a mom. If you need some time for yourself to regroup, reach out and get help. Call a babysitter or family member to take over, or set up a friend swap (I take your kid, then you take mine!).
- Practice mindfulness techniques. If you’re feeling flooded by your child, it’s time to practice some deep breathing exercises, quick meditations, visualization exercises or mindfulness. These strategies are proven to bring down your heart rate and blood pressure so that you can get back to baseline and tackle the rest of the day.
I love being a mom, and I know you do too. But on days where I feel like I’m at my breaking point, I forget the joys of parenting and focus on what’s wrong. Follow the above tips to get you through the storm and back to a place of peace and joy.