Fresh off being lost in leisure and convenient weather, here I am desperately begging myself for some downtime essentials. I said on another forum that your first vacation with child is more of an experiment than a vacation. The whole experience is really not about you but the kids. Finding balance between bonding with them and having fun amidst the overwhelm is a legit struggle. I made last minute mental negotiations for the same reason, to be there.
I need a break.
From what? Is the most logical question. Except I am not too sure either. Also noted, I can barely articulate my emotions right now. All I know is whatever I am going through needs to stop or at least let me come up for air. The memories I captured are my saving grace, it seems I had a good time, just not enough downtime.
My typical day looks like this –
- Massive bouts of anxiousness, filled with dread, exhaustion, fatigue, breathlessness and palpitations at every chance my mind is on overdrive.
- Mother’s intuition intertwined with worry on loop about baby’s well being and if my efforts are enough.
- Flashes of positive vibes and a low functioning productive endeavour.
- Race against time, frustrations and a state of complete helplessness.
- Extreme piled up thoughts on why I am having these worst case scenarios in my head.
- Irrational blame thoughts about these extreme thoughts.
- Late night thoughts on how to “get over it” or just wait it out until the feeling goes to bed.
Because you know for sure the overwhelm comes back the next day.
Yet in all of this I still remain a mother, a parent, a primary caregiver to an ambitious toddler who obviously cannot look after himself. Somebody who amidst his newly exercised independence, depends 100% on my child centered energy to bring a whole new perspective to his days. Every single minute. Even if my days whirl crazily into crisis mode. A child who (by own making really) cannot put himself to sleep so my schedule is really dependent on his.
My schedule right now is all over the place. By evening when I’m ticking off the day’s tasks which do not exceed three completed tasks, I constantly ask myself how it got to this. My productivity systems are holding onto dear life for reprieve yet I can hardly get free time.
Motherhood changes you forever. It’s cliche but you can only understand it when you live through it. Nothing can prepare you for this transition. Priorities shift, understandably. You feel lonely and isolated on the daily. Motherhood is also freeing, unlocking potential you never thought you had in you. Consequently you establish you are not living up to expectations of yourself. I place immense pressure on myself, naturally. Now couple that with the persistent mom guilt, endless anxiety and the result is unprintable.
So how do you overcome all this and still get on with your full-time job of being a parent since it never stops? I will not say I have these coping mechanisms all figured out, I am learning on the job.
1. Allow yourself to feel the overwhelm.
Be aware of your emotional and mental state. Cry it out. Sob away. Let it all out. Complete the cycle. Do not let pent-up emotions lead to resentment.
2. Balance life early enough to raise healthy kids.
Take a second to pause from all the effort put into figuring out our own family structures. Schedule some me time during nap time or when everyone else is sleeping. Learn how to be selfish for creative fulfillment. For a higher purpose and a step towards personal development. Do what makes you creatively or generally passionate and productive. A blog, a podcast, painting, designing, morning run, meditation, song writing.
3. Seek or accept assistance from a close member.
Being a primary caregiver, it’s almost by default that you’d want to solve your problems by yourself. You feel you might go crazy if you don’t fulfill your purpose as a parent, no matter the crisis. Talk to your partner for assistance if he doesn’t offer. Reach out to a friend, a next of kin or a nanny to take charge of the situation while you take that embarrassingly short amount of child-free time to draw breath. Sneak in those power naps, wake up refreshed. You may have to live on borrowed zen.
4. Face your fear and triggers.
Healing only begins once you come face to face with your triggers. I tend to place all the hurt and blame on myself to avoid addressing the real issue. Sometimes it’s out of fear that I may lose out on something or someone in the process of facing my truth. But in the end I am the only one affected while my triggers roam scot free looking for other targets. In order to eliminate them, I have to face them head on by acknowledgment or desensitization (through continuously doing the trigger that it ceases being a trigger.) Be it a sensitive hurtful comment, a scheduled visit, an incomplete task, grief, stress at home/work, traumatic event, clutter within our space, anything. This will not be a walk in the park since these triggers pop up in sequence.
5. Avoid disengaging from the world, the kids.
You have to put in work to continuously be present and bond with your family. You’ll always find some hidden energy once you tap into your well that’s running so low. My child smiles and I automatically forget all my troubles in that moment. I receive that warm hug and forget he just poured all the food I placed on his feeding table. I have learned to always operate from a place of love because kids respond to kindness than aggression.
6. Scour for support whether offline or online.
Let me tell you creating friendships in this age is very consuming. Everyone is going through something and just doesn’t want to be bothered. Or too busy to start intentional conversations with a stranger. Whatever you’re feeling trust me somebody else is going through the same, if not worse. There’s comfort in numbers. But make good use of the comfort to learn new things from different people on how to deal with your overwhelm. Mom tribes or forums are a good place to start. Be proactive in your search for connection. Admittedly, the older he grew the less my desire to stay in those groups but there’s no harm in trying. I have learned a lot from mom tribes.
7. Trust your Intuition and be firm with your No.
Having courage for your convictions holds you accountable and responsible for your wants and desires. As I scour for support I am also seeking to understand where I could be wrong and learn from my mistakes. Motherhood makes you super protective of your child, your space and yourself. But it’s also a humbling experience when you get to learn your mistakes and what you can do to lessen the crisis and save the day.
8. Let go of the guilt and failures.
There are situations where you will not save the day. And that’s okay too. Gather only lessons. However difficult that is, considering we are too hard on ourselves and want to control the situation. Always remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.
9. Have flexible expectations and give child room to make mistakes too.
One lesson I plan to implement as soon as Yesterday is to allow my son to be as expressive as possible. To create a safe space for his thoughts and emotions so as to clear pockets of silence that may be generated out of fear. Him discovering his own boundaries will help develop a positive and fulfilling life experience.
10. Talk to a professional.
I wish I had much to say about therapy but I may in future. I can only hope a second set of eyes (and ears) will serve us well.