To moms, struggling to get through those hard days
It’s Friday evening, I put Michael my youngest to bed, and was heading to Starbucks to write a blog post. I’d been thinking about it for a few days and was so excited to share my thoughts about ways to ease the mom mental load. But I am tired. Like that deep mom tired where your eyes sting a little when you blink and you have this mild headache above your eyebrows. When you look at the world, everything looks a little worse than it really is.
The past few weeks haven’t been easy. Michael got a cold, it turned into an ear infection, then the antibiotics gave him tummy troubles. He is no longer sick, but he stopped sleeping through the night. Each time he wakes up, he stands and can’t get back down. He was up between 2:20 and 4:00 last night. And I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night.
So instead of writing a positive post about mental load, I thought it would be worth writing a post about those hard days. We all have them. Parenthood is filled with hard days and moments. They are inevitable.
Sometimes when we are in those hard moments, it’s hard to have perspective. It’s hard to remember that it will get better – it’s hard to believe that I will sleep again and feel rested again. The timeline is unknown and that’s so hard.
This hard day paled in comparison to some of the other hard times in the previous few years, like the weeks and months that Michael had colic and food intolerances and cried for 4 to 6 hours a day. When I truly think about it, I know it was nothing comparing to the emotional rollercoaster of infertility. But this evening, I’m not feeling or living those other times, I’m thinking "this is hard".
So what can we do in these moments?
First, I acknowledge and label my feelings
For my PhD, I was working on how we get research into practice, specifically looking at programs to build children's social and emotional skills. There is so much research to show that if kids know how they are feeling, then they can then name that feeling. Once they can name the feeling, they are better able to respond to those emotions (rather than react to them). That means less behaviour problems, less depression and less anxiety. These kids then also do better in school.
I know this and try hard to get David, my oldest to understand and label how he's feeling. And I see it work over and over. But I don't always flip it around and think - wow, I reacted super emotionally, I probably need to figure out how I'm feeling.
So tonight, I flipped it around. How am I feeling? Tired, obviously tired. But I am also feeling deflated - I had been on a high with work and getting ready to quit my job to start my own consulting company, plus planning the launch of Balancing Bravely and it feels like this issue with Michael's sleep burst my bubble. I am feeling worried and anxious, I have a super busy week coming up where I will be teaching a 5 day workshop, and I’m afraid of how hard it will be if he is still waking up for hours at night. And I feel isolated - I am the only one dealing with Matthew's night wakings.
So I am sitting with that - tired, deflated, worried, and isolated.
Then I say the Serenity prayer
My next move is to say the serenity prayer. I started saying this to myself over 4 years ago when David was up at night. A LOT. I would just repeat it over and over. It was amazing how quickly it could calm me down.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Next I make a plan
The serenity prayer really helps me to think through what I can change and what I can't change. I can't control when Michael wakes up, but I can decide how I respond. I can make a plan and stick to it. Then I focus on having patience, since all change takes time.
I remember that this is just a phase
When David, my first was born and things were hard, so many moms told me "it's just a phase, wait it out". I found that advice infuriating. I'm a doer, I'm not good a patience and waiting. But only 5 years into motherhood, I can see that they were right, so many of the challenging things are a phase - they will not last forever. I have to remind myself that I will sleep again!
And I finish with a little gratitude
And then I know I always need to go back to having gratitude. Yes this day is hard. Yes this phase is hard. But there are so many things I am grateful for. That night I wrote:
I am grateful that I was able to leave my house and go to Starbucks to write for an hour because it gave me a break and reminded me that I am not just a mother, I am a full person all on my own.
I am grateful that I had done so much research on sleep because when I was calm enough to think through it, I was able to come up with a plan to respond to Michael's night wakings.
I am grateful that I had pushed myself to think outside of the box and create Balancing Bravely, because it was giving me inspiration, purpose, and helping me process some of my own reactions to challenging situations.
In the end, I am still tired, a little deflated, worried, and isolated. But I also feel hopeful and much calmer. And for tonight, that is okay, because some days are just like that.