Several weeks ago, I reached what I believe to be my “breaking point” as a mom. It was like an outer-body experience. After many nights of countless wake-ups from my baby and 3.5 year-old, which included the kid only wanting Mommy, and baby still needing Mommy’s breasts for late-night snacks, I was tired and stretched too thin. I snapped. I was in my oldest son’s room, it was 3 a.m., and I refused to recite Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? for the 20th time–he freaked, so I freaked. I just started screaming, tantrum-ing like a lunatic, calling for my husband to relieve me as I stormed out of my son’s room hysterically crying. Bubba was scared and confused, so he started to cry, but my husband jumped into action (like the rock star partner he is), and told me to lay in our bed and let it out while he tended to the kids. So that’s what I did. I cried–sobbed–into my pillow until I was too exhausted to cry.
Moments later, my husband came into our bedroom, with our still shaken kid, and slowly approached me to see if I was calm. I looked up to see my beautiful boy, tears on his tired cheeks, reaching for me to hold him, and I was happy to. See, I wasn’t mad at him, or tired of him, I was just TIRED. It had been about a week of horrible sleep, and both kids needing me for everything. The house was in shambles, and I barely had time for showers most days. I felt like I was drowning, and I needed a break. As my husband and I both snuggled our oldest son in bed, all three of us felt a sense of healing. I made it a point to talk to both of them when I woke up — not apologizing for my feelings, but for the way I reacted. It should never have to get to that point. I vowed to not let it happen again.
I broke that vow. In the last couple of weeks, I have caught myself yelling and getting emotional more than I’d like to admit. It feels like I am always nagging, disciplining, and yelling when it comes to my 3.5 year-old, and I HATE that. He is a strong-willed and spirited little boy, but he’s a good boy. I have noticed his emotional night-wakings (perhaps bad dreams?) and clinginess have incresed in the past few weeks. I can’t help but feel responsible for that. Am I damaging my child? Maybe…maybe not. I do know that I don’t want to look back on these precious years and remember that I was constantly yelling and feeling stressed out.
When I opened up about this with family — explaining that I felt a little ashamed of my behavior that fateful night, their reactions surprised me: “Why are you ashamed?” “You have a right to feel emotional and exhausted — you are caring for two small children, and are getting very little sleep!” I was so relieved to know that my feelings and reactions (while sometimes irrational) are, indeed, normal — and maybe even expected. I decided to learn from my emotional moments, and try to get to the bottom of why I feel so stretched, and what I can do to make things better for myself (and my family).
After some soul searching, I determined that my breakdowns are caused by a combination of sleep deprivation and a longing for more personal time. I know, I gave sleep and “me time” away when I decided to have kids, right? However, without those two very important things, I believe I cannot truly be happy or healthy. Therefore, if I want to be a happy, healthy Mommy that doesn’t resent my kids, I need a little more sleep and personal time.
My husband (who’s amazing…did I already mention that?) and I discussed our options in great depth. One thing was clear: I need more help around the house. I love cleaning and organizing — truly, I do — but by the time my husband and I put the kids to bed and clean up dinner, pick up the house, and do laundry, it’s nearly 10 p.m.! By the time our heads hit the pillow, we are physically and mentally exhausted. When I attempt to catch up on cleaning during the day, I am not spending time with my kids; and let’s face it, naps are unpredictable with two little rascals, and I usually have to use nap-time to eat or pump. So, we recently hired help. So far, it’s been a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders, and I am loving the extra quality time I have with the boys.
Look, this Parenting gig is HARD. I believe Parents and Guardians need the following 3 things to successfully raise kids (and live to tell the tale!):
1. Support – Support comes from various places: a spouse/partner, family, friends, and paid help. As it stands, I have the support I need from my spouse/family and a wonderful new housekeeper, but I realize I need to rely on my friends — and “Mom Community” — for help too. A good friend of mine, who is also a SAHM to two boys, is actually starting a nonprofit called Moms Village, here in Orange County, CA! She is in the process of promoting the facility and accepting donations to make it a reality, but basically, it is a facility that is designed to help Moms feel like themselves again. This wonderland will have amenities that include a gym, office area with free WiFi, beauty services, and on-site child care! Click HERE to read more about how you can help make Moms Village a reality.
2. Breaks – Everyone needs breaks. For those of us who stay home with the kids, it’s especially important we get a break or two each day (not including bed-time). Think about it: SAH caretakers work (yes, it’s WORK!) about 12 hour days, and sometimes the little ones don’t nap. So, that’s 12 hours without a break. Anyone who goes to a job for 8 hours is legally entitled to a lunch and several small breaks — not to mention bathroom breaks AND the break during the commute. Work environments are structured this way, so employees can be most productive and happy, right? What about the rest of us? Everyone is entitled to a break, so TAKE one! Utilize the support system mentioned above, and get some rest!
3. Quality time – Time spent actually playing with the kids–enjoying the moments. A little reminder of why we wanted to be a Parents in the first place! This could be one-on-one time, the entire family together, or just you and the kids. I, personally, need to spend less time focusing on and stressing about the damn house being clean, and more time on the floor playing with my kids.
In conclusion, it’s okay to freak out. We are human beings. We are constantly under pressure and scrutiny when it comes to how we raise our kids, and we don’t have the built-in support system we used to have in the old days. Freak out, but seek help. Get support, take breaks, and spend quality time with your kids. Find a solution to the stress, so you and your kids can get back to what matters, and so you can be the best YOU possible. <3