Parenthood comes with big emotions.
Wait, did you think I was going to talk about my kids’ emotions? Nope. My kids have plenty of big emotions. But they’re young and experiencing things for the first time, so that’s to be expected. Me on the other hand? I’m supposed to be mature and calm, right?
I thought I was pretty calm and mature…until I had kids.
So, let’s start again…
Parenting comes with big emotions. I found this out on the first day that I met my oldest son. This was after they had to cut him out of my shaking body while tears streamed down my face. Yes, I had an unexpected emergency c-section due to problems with his heart rate. This was not part of the plan – it was scary and out of control. I was so glad that he was here and healthy, especially after the worry of watching his heart rate drop over and over during contractions.
But I was also a mess.
Leaking everywhere, trying to figure out breastfeeding, no privacy physically or mentally, adapting to my husband being a father, trying to figure out what on earth it meant to be a mother and responsible for another helpless life.
I could have used a timeout, breathing room, a counselor, fresh air, chocolate, or a glass of wine. But I had none of those things and I soon became extremely frustrated.
Frustrated about so many things – that I couldn’t always stop my son from crying, that my body was so weak as the stitches healed, that I could barely walk up stairs, that my son would spit up at least 10 times after every feeding, that I couldn’t just run to the store when I needed something.
It’s no one’s fault that these things happened, that having a baby, such a beautiful life event, also brings so much pain and struggle.
With an adult, I could try to talk it out or change the situation, but with a baby or small child that wasn’t an option. Where could these emotions go? I couldn’t just flip a switch and turn them off, so they just kept building.
Parenthood also brought a lot of fear.
Before becoming a parent I was afraid of things like someone breaking into my house or losing all my money or sleeping through my alarm or doing poorly at my job. After I became a parent, I worried about my kids getting sick and dying. I worried about my kids growing up to hate themselves or those around them. I worried about future drug addiction, future car accidents, future bullies, and future failures.
I also struggled with the fear that I wasn’t a good parent.
Every parent I know worries that they are messing up their kids. They worry that they are being too strict or too lenient, not giving them enough attention or too much. We love our children and want to help them learn and feel loved, but life gets busy and we feel like we are blowing it.
And of course, we can’t forget about the emotion of guilt.
Guilt is a constant presence as a parent. When you are living your life so close to someone who is so dependent on you, the opportunities to second guess yourself are endless. Even if no one else around you is making you feel guilty (which is unlikely), you have plenty to beat yourself up about.
I’m sure you might be thinking, okay, okay, I get it, we deal with many huge emotions as parents.
But, what can we do about it?
Anything? Are we just complaining or sympathizing here?
I don’t claim to have all the answers. Each person and family is unique, but I think two things can help.
- Knowing that you are normal.
- Making some time for self-care.
Did you know that stay-at-home moms have a high level of depression? What you are going through is most likely shared by many moms.
But it’s not just stay-at-home moms. All moms have so much on their plates. It can feel impossible to cut something out or to add something good in. But I think it’s necessary to give these emotions outlets.
Side note: if any feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety persist or are too much for you, please seek out a professional for help!
What could small acts of self-care look like?
For me, this means making time to blowdry my hair even if that means my kids get to watch a show. It means going to the gym a few times a week even though it costs money and I’m not spending the time with my kids. It means sometimes making a choice to use naptime to read a book & have a snack instead of to clean the top of my dresser.
It means texting with friends, sometimes even when my kids are right next to me playing because those texts may be my only adult communication all day.
It means having a part-time job that I love even though it takes time away from my family. It means creating things to give to people I love to show them that I care.
For you it could mean any number of things – saying Yes to going outside, writing, dancing, a girl’s night out, going for a run by yourself, ordering takeout, reading a book.
Or maybe it’s saying No to things, not always having the house as clean as you would like, turning down another volunteer role, choosing not to throw that Pinterest-perfect party like your friend did.
Whether it’s saying yes to something or no to something else, I’m giving you permission to find some space for yourself daily or weekly.
I know it’s easier said than done. You don’t want to let your family down or hear that snide comment from a family member that your house is a mess.
But this is about you. About you being a more whole and happy person.
About your kids seeing a mom who takes time for herself, giving them permission for the same thing. About showing younger moms that they have permission for this too. About not losing yourself in caring for others.
You are important and you have value just as you, not only in all of your roles. And you are not alone.
So, take a moment today, give yourself a few minutes of space instead of vacuuming the floor again. Let yourself feel what brings you life. Then put at least one of those things on your calendar or do it right now.
I promise that you won’t be sorry and you are worth it.