Maternal Mental Health Month Day 9

Flexibility is necessary!

Ever been in a grocery store and passed a mom with a screaming baby or young child in their carriage?  Ever been that mom?

It can be hard enough to get grocery shopping done without trying to do it over the noise of a screaming child combined with the embarrassment that that child is yours.  Part of struggling during postpartum is the constant pressure that moms place on themselves to “get it all done.”  During pregnancy, you are told “routine, routine, routine…sleep train…feed every 2 hours…”  Everything seems like it has to be so scheduled and rigid and…STRESSFUL!  Grocery shopping is just one example of how moms try to fit their everyday necessary chores into a rigid or structured schedule.

While schedule and structure is positive for your child and your health, sometimes stepping out of the schedule is the exact thing to get it back.  Remember, your baby is a person…living, breathing, thinking (little thoughts) person.  With her own personality and not much ability to communicate.  And remember, you too are a person, with a lot on her plate!  Flexibility is necessary.

So, what to do when you’re trapped in your own schedule?  Whenever a mom tells me a store about grocery shopping or being too anxious to grocery shop with her child…I ask, “why?”  Did you have to grocery shop that day, that hour, that minute?  Could it have waited?  Could someone else have done the grocery shopping?  Could taking your baby out of the carriage for 5 minutes, checking her diaper, making sure she was not too hot and giving her some attention have calmed her enough to finish your shopping?

If you are able to stop yourself from the feeling of urgency, from being consumed by the embarrassment of your child making noise, from needing to stay on a schedule, your trip may go faster and smoother than you think.  It is a slippery slope when we convince ourselves that something must get done.  Of course there are things that occasionally must get done.  But, even when we feel like “there’s no food in the house”, there’s something to eat in the house.  If not, then shopping is a must.  But, if you are stressed out and fighting a tired, hungry, sick…child to get specific ingredients for a specific meal, maybe rethink your options.

I’m a firm believer that it is okay and appropriate to pick up a child having a tantrum in a store or restaurant and take them out rather than let them control the situation, get attention and disturb others.  However, sometimes the same holds true for adults.  Rather then trying to control the situation by forcing yourself to sustain the stress related to your baby being upset, rethink the situation, and pick another option.  An upset baby and a stressed, tired mom is not a good combination.  It’s okay to change your plans both for yourself and your relationship with your child.

If you have to finish the trip, take a couple minutes to soothe yourself and your baby.  Pull the cart over, take her out, check her and talk to her.  If you can carry her for a bit and shop, do so.  If not, reassure her, and put her back.  Then, tell yourself, it’s okay, babies are part of this world too and we deserve to get groceries just like everyone else.  Finish your shopping, taking her out when you can, talking to her as you walk, and go home.

If you are able to leave and go another day, time or have someone else do it.  Then that’s a good option too.

Whichever decision you make, know you did it!  You assessed the situation, adjusted as much as you were able and did not force yourself into rigidity resulting in stress and anxiety for you and your baby.

About Carpe Diem Counseling LLC

I am a licensed clinical social worker whose practice specializes in working with women (and their families) during the pregnancy and postpartum time period. Please contact me if you believe you or someone in your life is experiencing a Perinatal or Postpartum mental health issue. I also work with any adults experiencing a life change and struggling with the challenges and adjustments they are encountering. Addressing our struggles in life happens one day at a time. There is no wrong time to get help.
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