Maternal Mental Health Month Day 18

Mom…mom…MOM!!!

It’s hard to remember that you are more than just a mom when this is what you hear all day.  Whether it is the cry of an infant or the scream of a teenager, mom is being called. Many a mom will recount the story of their 6 year old getting up from the couch where they sit beside their other parent to walk into another room and ask their mother (who is usually washing dishes, folding laundry or paying bills) to make them a snack.

It’s no wonder that so many moms, whether new or well into years of parenting, are at a loss when asked what hobbies they have, or how else they describe themselves.  It comes as no surprise that many moms have lost their sense of self and their identity other than that of Mom.  The interesting thing is that most women suffering from Postpartum Depression or other PMADs will very readily tell you “I’m not myself” or “I can’t handle the things I used to”.  Most women classify these statements as being very separate from their sense of identity.  And they are…but also can be pre-cursors.

Whether you suffer(ed) from a PMAD or not, the inability to identify ones self outside of any single role is unhealthy.  Having a PMAD is not who you are as a mom, it is something you experienced, quite outside your control and something you did or will overcome.  It is not who you are as a mom, or a wife, or an individual.

And the same holds true for Mommy.  Being a mother is part of who you are, not only who you are.  Take time to think about your other roles…daughter, sister, wife, aunt, niece, friend, teacher, employee, employer, volunteer, writer, artist, musician, athlete…the list is endless.  But, again, all too often, I hear moms say “I used to paint,” or “I used to be a basketball player”.  They are stuck with what used to be because their self-identity has become so narrow and all encompassing with being a mom.  Occasionally they will include wife as part of their identity though this is often in the context of being the person who takes care  of certain things at home rather than in the context of being a partner to another adult.

Being a whole person is important to your role as a mother.  All these other parts of you that have fallen away from your identity have contributed to who you are as a mom.  Identify them, nourish them, give them attention and time in your life again.  Realize all that makes you up, all that brought you to where you are in life now, all the experiences and roles that made you who you are.  Recognize that you are a person outside of being a mom and that you deserve a full and happy life with many interactions and experiences. Teach your children about the other parts of you and expect them to see you as a person (this may take years).  Work with your partner (or other family and friends) to make sure you are able to give attention to your self-identity outside of being a mom. This does not have to take a lot of time, energy or money.  It has to take thought, valuing yourself and changing how you and others see you.

A well-rounded, multifaceted mom makes for a healthier mom and this can create benefits for everyone in the family.

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 17

Calling all Thrifty Moms…

Having a child can be very expensive.  There are so many unknowns and so many small costs that add up fast.  This can be quite a stress for parents, particularly new ones.  And can be a source of tension in your relationship.  Luckily, IT’S 2017!!!  Which means there are lots of ways to be thrifty and get great clothes, toys and books for your little one without spending a ton of money.  

Besides the go to usual places, Ebay (which isn’t really a great place for a deal that often anymore) and Craigslist (a good place to find a specific item you are looking for, usually in good condition and at a negotiable price), here are a couple other ideas.  (***DISCLAIMER:  I get nothing from any of the following companies in order to list them here.  There are many options out there and these are just a couple I’ve found to be helpful.)

  • Online sites or apps:  There are a ton of consignment based sites/apps out there where you can find great deals and/or make some money as your little one outgrows their clothes.  One such is threadUP (which has kids clothes, shoes, accessories as well as women’s clothes).  threadUP is particularly easy to sell on as they will mail you a large postage paid bag that you fill and drop at the UPS or USPS near you.  You don’t have a say in the price your items sell for and you don’t get back what is not accepted but it’s a good way to get rid of a large amount of things and make money for very little effort.  You can then get a check or use your money to buy other gently used items on the site.  

 

  • Consignment Stores:  These will, of course, vary from state to state and within areas of the state.  In Connecticut there are both independent consignment stores as well as a chain called Once Upon A Child.  All you have to do is google “kids consignment store” and your town/state and most of the time some options will pop up.  Again, similar to the online sites, you generally do not have a say in the price your items are sold at.  The upside is that you usually get your money upfront, before the store sells your goods.  The downside, they are usually picky about what they accept and you only get about 35% of what they think the item will sell for which is a very small amount.  Again, these can be great places to get well maintained clothing, toys, books or baby items for a great price.  If you are someone who likes to try different strollers, baby carriers, or other items, this can be a goldmine.  

 

  • Consignment Sales: If you are lucky enough to live somewhere (like Hartford County, Connecticut) that has some local Consignment Sales, they can be a real blessing for parents.  If you want to sell at them, you have to do some work (though some have tagging services that do the work for you) to list your items in a database and tag it.  If you just want to buy, get there early and have a list of items you are looking for prioritized from most to least important.  The upside, if you are selling, you have control over the price of your items, you usually get unsold items back and you can make from 60%-75% of the sale price at most sales.  The downside, it can be some work to sell and you are at the mercy of what is available that year (sometimes there are tons of pack n plays, sometimes none).  If you are in the Hartford, CT area, check out http://www.cutekidssale.com or Latimer Lane School Consignment Sale.  Both happen in Spring and Fall each year.  

 

  • Libraries:  Kids can go through books very fast.  And if you are a parent who enjoys reading to your kids, it soon feels like you could recite every book in the house from memory.  Although owning some books is always a good thing, the library can be a wonderful resource for rotating new books through the house every 2-3 weeks.  It is a great chance to find some books from your own childhood that you remember fondly and want to share with your child.  And a great way to engage your child in developing their own interests.  Also, it allows your child to read books that you may not otherwise want to buy as many children’s interests change frequently.  Many libraries also have audiobooks, dvds, and some have games or toys you can borrow as well.  Also, many of them have free museum passes and the ability to download Ebooks from your home using your library card.  Free books, movies and games!  

 

  • Tag Sales:  Free family adventure to hunt for cheap finds!  Spring is the start of Tag Sale Season in New England.  Upside, your kids are cute and will probably get you a deal on toys or other kid items that they want.  Downside, you are often shopping blind and will need to hunt around to find things if you are looking for something specific.  Also, if you check Craigslist or your local papers, you may find specific tag sales listed along with some of the items that will be sold.  This can give you an idea of if it is a sale you want to check out or not.  

 

  • Swaps:  Again, depending on where you live, these may exist or not.  The most common is a Cloth Diaper Swap.  A great place to trade or buy cloth diapers. (especially if you are trying them out for the first time).  If you can’t find any toy or kid clothing swaps in your area…START ONE!  Whether you make it large or small, I’m sure you’ll find other moms desperate for new clothes, toys, books or other items.  You can keep it intimate and familiar by just getting together with a few mom friends or advertise and take the first 15 women who respond.  However you choose to structure your swap, it’s a wonderful way to get to know other moms and  get fresh items for your LO for free!  

 

  • ASK AROUND:  If there is something you want to try out such as a baby carrier, stroller, specific toy or something you only need once such as a fancy pair of shoes for a holiday outfit for your LO, as around.  Send out a group email (people will understand) to moms/families you know, or a FB posting specifying what you are looking for and asking if anyone happens to have it available to loan.  You would be surprised what people keep up in their attic long after their child no longer uses it.  And, if you use something like Craigslist, try listing your own post, specifying what you are looking to buy, the condition you would like it in and the price (approximate) you are willing to pay.  People sometimes don’t even realize they still have something until they see that someone else wants to buy it.  

When all else fails, prioritize what you really need for your little one, shop sales and when grandparents ask what LO “wants” or “needs” for a holiday or birthday…be honest!  If there is something you want for your child or that your child wants, say so.  People ask because they want their money spent on something that will be appreciated, used and loved.  Let it work for both you and them.  

Hope some of these ideas are helpful…Happy bargain hunting!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 16

Never underestimate the impact that laughing can have on your day. 

I hope you’ll take these all with a lightness and allow yourself to shake your head at how true they are, laugh outloud and realize that if these exist, then you are not the only one feeling this way…

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Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 15

Mondays…

And so it all begins again.  Mondays can be a relief for some moms who have very busy weekends with kids going in all directions and trying to get things done at home and catch up with a partner but for others, it can be a very difficult time. For some moms, Monday means having to leave their baby at daycare or with someone else while they return to work.   For other moms, Mondays often mean their partner goes back to work and they are left alone to care for the baby for many hours once again.  Mondays mean 5 days of filling time.  Mondays mean 5 days of talking to someone who doesn’t/can’t talk back yet. Mondays mean trying to “get it all done” and the anxiety, self-criticism and guilt that comes along with this pressure. And for moms already suffering from PMADs, Monday’s can be very difficult to face.  

Structure is key.  And I don’t mean a rigid schedule, though that is the only thing that works for some women, it often can add unnecessary stress and pressure of it’s own.  I mean blocking out your day and week.  Making the periods of time you are trying to manage smaller and making your plan for getting things done bigger.  Rather than trying to clean, cook, do laundry, entertain and engage your LO and take care of some things for yourself all in one day, change your expectations and how you manage your time.  Realize that having a child will often break up your day by mere fact that the child has certain needs.  She needs to eat, nap and then there is the time in between.

Time after wake up. Breakfast. Time after breakfast. Nap (maybe). Time after nap/breakfast (if no morning nap). Lunch. Time after lunch. Nap. Time after Nap. Dinner.  Time after dinner.  Bed.

If your child takes two naps.  No more than one of those nap times should be spent doing work/chores/etc.  The other one is personal time.  Nap, rest, watch tv, talk on the phone, catch up on emails or other social media.  If your child only takes one nap then designate 1/3-1/2 of the time for yourself.  (I know it gets tricky if baby wakes up early but you need to set time for yourself anyway.)  Pick one bigger chore each day.  Maybe you cook a couple meals and put one away for another day.  Or maybe you’ve cooked two or three days in a row so you have leftovers and don’t need to cook that day.  Another day, your chore could be laundry.  Steal a moment here and there to change over laundry in the morning so you have a couple loads to fold during nap time.  Fold laundry while catching up on a tv show or movie you’ve been wanting to watch.

Now, these are general guidelines.  But, if you get in the habit of structuring things this way and you get into a rhythm then an occasional hiccup when baby wakes up early or doesn’t nap at all will be easier to take in stride.  If your life feels more manageable in general then the out of control moments do not seem as overwhelming or all encompassing to us.

And remember…take a breath, give yourself a break and remind yourself that you are already doing quite a bit.  

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 14

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother: (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1a :  a female parent She’s the mother of three small children. 

Maternal:  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1:  of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother :  motherly maternal love, maternal instincts

2a :  related through a mother his maternal aunt

2b :  inherited or derived from the female parent maternal genes

Often Maternal is thought of as applying to a woman who is walking around with an infant strapped to her, in her arms or in a carriage.  But there is nothing in the definition to insinuate that you are no longer a mom once your kids can walk and talk and feed themselves.

On this Mother’s Day, remember that having a baby is just the first in many life transitions related to bringing children into your family.  Mothers of older children encounter many transitions and situations that cause stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness and self-doubt.  Caring about maternal mental health is caring about the whole family.  Healthy moms cultivate health homes and environments for their families.  So, even if you see a seasoned mom who seems to have it all together…ask how she’s doing.  Encourage her to care for herself and offer to help so she can.  This is not about how capable someone is but about balance.  Just because she can “do it all” does not mean she should or has to do it alone.  Strength also means being able to accept concern and help in order to focus on self-care so you can be your best mom self.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the new and seasoned moms!

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 13

Apps for moms...

I’m a huge proponent of putting down the phone, tablet, remote control and engaging in your life. Whether that be picking up a magazine or book, turning on music or looking at those around you and engaging in an activity or project.  There is nothing like a baby crawling into your lap and grabbing your face in her little hands to get your attention, to remind you to put away your device.

However, there are some really handy apps out there that moms or families can use to make their lives easier. ***Disclaimer:  I am not receiving anything from any of the app manufacturers for listing them here.  Listing of the following apps is neither an endorsement of the app nor confirmation that I have used or tested it.***  There are many many apps out there and these are just some (free ones) I think could be helpful.

MENTAL HEALTH APPS:

  • Moody- Daily Mood Tracker:  This app is easy and user friendly for even the most sleep deprived and thought blocked mom out there.  It can be particularly helpful if you are wondering if you have a PMAD or are diagnosed with a PMAD and are seeing a therapist.  You simply track your mood or you can also track other symptoms, make notes and use additional features of the app.

 

  • Moods- Tracking for Better Mental Health:  Again, this app is just what it sounds like.  It can be used to simply track mood or can be used to add in other details and notes.  It also has a section that talks about challenging thoughts and asks questions to help you problem solve or note triggers or traps.

 

  • My Wonderful Days (Lite):  This is a journal app. Plain and simple.  You write, you add pictures, you add little sticker emojis and you pick the mood of the day (smiley face to frowny face scale).  This can be used to journal for yourself, as a way to journal about your child(ren)’s growth and special events, or both.  The lite version only allows 10 entries per month but this may be enough to record everything you want.  You can also email entries to yourself or export them.

 

SLEEP/MEDITATION: (All of these apps have the possibility of being helpful. If you have been diagnosed with Postpartum or other types of Psychosis, Schizophrenia, hallucinations or other such symptoms, guided imagery and guided meditation can trigger symptoms.  Please check with your therapist, Psychiatrist or PCP before using these apps if you are unsure.)

  • Calm:  This app is for sleep and meditation.  It has a guided breathing section, a meditation section and a sleep section.  There are limits to what you get for free and you can get more sleep stories or guided meditations for a fee.

 

  • Breathe:  This app encourages daily breathing and mindfulness.  You can set reminders for yourself to breathe and messages you want the app to send you when the reminders occur.

 

  • Sleep Well:  This app uses hypnotic sessions to guide you into sleep.  You can use the “Awaken at End” feature if this is for a nap or short meditation or disable this feature if using it to sleep at night.

***AGAIN, PLEASE CONSULT A THERAPIST AND/OR DOCTOR IF YOU ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY SLEEPING PRIOR TO USING THESE APPS.***

 

MOM APPS: There are tons of baby tracking, breastfeeding, etc apps for moms.  If you are looking for the right one for you, test them out.  There is only one way to know if an app will fit your needs and lifestyle, and that’s to try it yourself.  Here are a couple apps not in those categories.  

  • Baby White Noise Generator:  There are many “white noise” apps out there so, once again, try them out and see what works for you.  They are particularly helpful for small infants and can come in very handy in the car or in a grocery store when baby starts screaming.  Even if it doesn’t lull them to sleep, it usually causes a distraction and soothing enough to calm them.  This particular one is easy to use, has enough choices of sounds and you can set the length of time it plays.  White noise apps usually have multiple sounds they play including heartbeat, waves, fan, lullaby and others.  The ones for babies may have other features like a nightlight or sounds particular to little ones.

 

  • The Wonder Weeks:  Some of you may have heard of a book by this name.  It helps you learn about the developmental “leaps” your baby is going through and gives you a heads up on moodiness, etc.  Well, there’s a handy app version too.  It’s not as complete as the book but it has the basics.  ***Don’t get caught up trying to predict or explain your baby’s moods.  You can add anticipatory stress if you start looking ahead and dreading the “moody” periods.  ***It is more useful to pull this app out when you are at a loss for explanation of your child’s change in behavior/mood because there might be some insight in this app.

 

  • Kids Media:  This app is very handy at home or on the go.  It includes Movies, TV shows, Websites, Apps and Books.  They are reviewed by moms and rated in various areas.  Also, there are synopsis, notes about any “scary” parts, notes about educational value and notes about what topics a family could use this media to discuss.  You can search by type of media, age, or enter your child(ren)’s info for “Picks for My Kids”.  This app can be particularly helpful if you are out and thinking of picking up a movie or book at the library or if your child’s friend asks if they can watch a certain tv program.

 

HOME/ORGANIZATION: 

  • Week Calendar:  there are many calendar apps out there. This one seems easy to use, allows color coding of custom colors that you can label and save, and the ability to share events easily with others so they can add them to their calendars.

 

  • Wunderlist: Make lists, lots of them.  Organize them in folders.  Sync them with your partner who also has the app.  Both of you can add to the grocery list and both of you can check things off.  Both of you can organize what needs to be packed for vacation and both of you can check things off as you pack. You can assign particular items/tasks to a certain person, share lists or have ones that are private to you.

 

I hope you’ll have fun exploring some new apps and hope they are helpful! 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 12

And the weekend arrives…

Most people very much look forward to their weekend (or days off if you work weekends) but for many moms, it feels like another two days of work.  Moms suffering from PMADs may look forward to having their partner around on the weekends but may also feel more pressure to seem their best as someone else is around.  They may feel the pressure to spend time with their partner, seem their happiest and most energetic, and fulfill their children’s every need.  Even for moms not suffering from PMADs, there can be a lot of pressure on the weekends…be productive, make family time, do projects, run errands, a chance for personal time with your partner around but also the pressure to have time with your partner.  Too many expectations and not enough time…unless…you get creative…

Something for them, something for us/you, something productive.  

This is my mantra (and not just for weekends but let’s start there).  Most of the time it happens each day but sometimes it’s about the weekend as a whole.  The idea is to find a way to have something for them (the kids), something for us/you (the parent/parents), something productive (errand, project, etc).

Some simple examples:

Saturday is a birthday party for a friend’s child (that’s something for them…the kids get to play with other kids).  Maybe you can fit in an errand before or after the party.  Or one adult can take the kids to the party while the other does chores.  This will leave time for a family activity (even just playing a game in the yard) or an adult activity (like a trip to a vineyard).  

If a day is completely monopolized by one area…perhaps the kids have sports games and a party to attend which takes the majority of the day, then resign yourself to that day being kid-focused.  That means that the next day can be more heavily chores/projects or adult activity.  This might be a time to get a sitter for a date day/night.  

Other ways to make the most of your weekend…

  • spend the morning/day doing chores, projects and errands in exchange for having friends over in the late afternoon/evening for dinner and playing time for the kids.
  • borrow one of your child’s friends to take on errands.  They will keep each other entertained, feel like they are getting a “playdate” and the trip will hopefully go smoother.  Then take this friend to your house to play while you unpack your shopping and clean up a bit around the house. 
  • trade days or part days with a family friends.  You take their kids in the morning, they take yours in the afternoon.  Or you take their kids on Saturday and they take yours on Sunday.  If the kids are occupied playing, you can actually have an adult conversation or get some things done around the house. 

The options are endless if you get creative and think about how to make your productive time, fun time too.  You can still look forward to the weekends!  

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 11

Family projects…change…

With the seasons changing and spring upon us across the states, often parents become motivated to complete projects around the house.  This may mean Spring cleaning or might mean putting in a garden, building a treehouse or other outdoor projects that couldn’t be tackled in the colder months.

But now there’s baby.  And things happen more slowly, with more interruptions.  This can cause a lot of stress for parents.  Sometimes the mom ends up isolated inside with the baby while her partner is outside working on things.  Or mom ends up feeling like a glorified babysitter, chasing the kids around outside instead of getting to participate. What was once something she and her partner did together, as a team, is now something she watches from the sidelines.  And situations like this can lead to resentment.  

Family projects can still happen; you just have to change the process.  It may take a little longer or need more preparation but in the end, it will get done and you will both be included.  Take a half hour after the kids go to bed to discuss the project, materials needed and break down the steps.  Rather than shopping and doing in one day, maybe have your partner pick up materials after work one evening and then work on the project on the weekend.  Utilize a stroller in the yard so baby can watch from a safe, secured place and have a snack or play with toys.  Try to plan parts of the project that need you both for baby’s naptime.  Enlist help from other kids who are more mobile and recognize that having their help will slow down the project but will make it a family affair.  

The most stressful times are when adjusting your expectations can be the quickest route to relieve the stress.  Realizing that things get done differently with kids in tow.  Remind yourself that this is not a bad thing.  Kids have a way of making us slow down and appreciate things we would have formerly rushed through.  It’s usually our own resistance to change that is causing us stress, not the baby.  If you are feeling frustrated by a situation, step back, rethink how you are doing things and come up with another plan that works for everyone.  Don’t let your ideas of how things should happen interfere with them actually happening.  

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 10

Support for the supporters…

Any postpartum mom knows that support is helpful.  Any postpartum mom who has suffered from depression, anxiety, bipolar, ocd, ptsd or psychosis knows support is life saving.  But how do you support a mom in need?  (Or anyone for that matter…this month just happens to be maternal mental health month but dads/partners can get PMADs too and need support if they do).   Where do you turn if your wife, girlfriend, mom, sister, daughter, relative or friend are suffering? How do you help?

1- Just be there.  Moms suffering from PMADs feel alone most of the time.  Alone inside their own heads and emotions.  They believe they are the only ones feeling this way and the only ones unable to handle things.  They are isolated and tired.  They need you to just be there.  Be another adult so they are not alone with no one to talk to who can talk back.

2- Think of something you can do and do it.  When a mom is suffering from PMADs it can be very difficult to think and make decisions.  They may have used much of their energy and mental strength to just get up out of bed.  Being unable to think clearly is a side effect of sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety and other symptoms of PMADs.  A mom also may feel ashamed of needing help or of her current limitations.  So, rather then asking “what can I do?”  just think of something and offer it or do it.  If you are there already, wash dishes, pick up toys or fold laundry.  If you are not there, bring over food or coffee and spend some time visiting.  Tell her that what you are doing is nothing compared with what she does everyday and that you enjoy visiting with her.  Then ask if you can hold the baby while she does something for herself (even if it’s just to use the bathroom, take a shower, change clothes or step outside by herself for a couple minutes).  If she can’t think of what to do, make a suggestion.  Help her think about herself.

3- Encourage her to get fresh air.  Offer to go for a walk together.  Or encourage her to step outside by herself, even just to get the mail or walk in the backyard.  Fresh air and sunshine (when you can get it) can do wonders for mood, and thought process.  

4- Reassure her. Tell her that she isn’t going to feel this way forever.  Tell her there is help (and encourage her to get it) and tell her that she is doing a good job.  Point out how her baby is thriving and happy.  It is difficult for moms suffering from PMADs to notice or appreciate the good they are doing for their baby.  

5- Educate yourself.  There are many wonderful resources available for partners, dads and supporters of moms with PMADs.  Websites such as postpartum.net have entire areas of their work dedicated to helping those who support women suffering from PMADs.  There are podcasts you can listen to and books you can read.  Even a non-factual book such as Down Came the Rain by: Brooke Sheilds can be enlightening to family and friends of someone suffering.  And remember…not everything you learn is applicable to the mom you are supporting.  Not all moms experience PMADs the same but education can help you feel more equipped to support her.  

These suggestions are just some starting points.  There are many ways to support a mom whether she is experiencing a PMAD or not.  If a mom seems to be carrying a conversation well enough, ask her “how can I help?” and hope she will let you.  

 

 

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

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.

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 8

Tips for moms…

New mom, old mom, seasoned mom, adoptive mom, foster mom, step-mom…no one knows it all. We all need a tip once in a while. Particularly if you are sleep deprived, suffering from Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, PTSD or OCD. Often, tips are something you would have thought of on your own… IF you could find a quiet moment to think…IF you could organize your thoughts…and IF you didn’t have so many other important things to think about. The ones below are just ideas I like to throw out there. Some can be particularly helpful for new moms.

TIPS:

1-  If you don’t immediately see a diaper table in a public bathroom, try the handicapped stall. Often they are hidden in this larger stall because of the wall space needed for the table. Also, glance at the sink. Sometimes they are built into the sink instead of being separate. Worst case senario, the handicapped stall has more floor space if you have to use the stall (If you have to yse the floor, lodge a complaint with the store/restaurant/building manager. And make sure to add that both the women’s AND men’s rooms ought to have changing tables.)

2-  Take a couple minutes to make a “diaper bag checklist” include diapers/pullups, wipes, food/snacks, utensils, toys/activity books/reading books, change of clothes (keep in mind the season), hat, cup/bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, 1st aid items, burp cloth, pacifier (if you use one), anything else your child may particularly need.  Once a week check it for the basics, every 3 months inventory it. Change out the clothes for size/season appropriateness and chane out games/activity books, reading books so the kids don’t get bored.

3- Speaking of activity/coloring books and diaper bag toys…the dollar store (not getting anything for this promotion) is ideal for getting things that you won’t worry about ruining, losing, breaking, etc.

4- If your baby is seeming more clingy and less able to be engaged with toys. She may be bored. Call a mom friend or two and arrange a “toy swap”. This can refresh your stock at no cost. Make sure not to trade anything valuable or that you wouldn’t be prepared to lose. Kids are kids and things get lost and broken.

As kids get older, you can encourage them to share and trade toys with a friend or two on their own. Make sure to check that the other parents are okay with this idea. Remind your child that if a friend says “no” that your child must respect thatthat particular toy is not available for a trade.

5- LIBRARIES ARE GREAT! Now this may not seem like a tip but in this age of electronics, it bears repeating and repeating. Here are some library tips:

• Some libraries lend games or toys as well as books. A great way to always have new items or to try out a game or toys before buying it. ***If you are in CT, I know Farmington Library does this.***

• Libraries are also a good way to not drive yourself crazy reading the same baby/kid books over and over and over again. Parents definitely get tired of reading a book way before the child gets tired of hearing it.

• Making a habit of exploring libraries you’ve never been to before is a great way to get out of the house and make a day of it. Most libraries have baby and child play areas as well. ***In CT you can rent and return to any library so if you travel an hour to go to a couple new libraries, you don’t have to drive back to return the items. Just return to your local library.***

Hope all these tips and reminders were helpful. More later in the month!  Have a day filled with hope now that you are armed with (possibly) new ideas (or just reminded of some).  🌞🌞🌞

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 7

“We don’t heal in isolation but in community.”  ~S. Kelley Harrell

Support can come from near or far, face-to-face or through a phone, keyboard or letter.  Support can be provided with a smile, nod or kind words.  Support can be a hug.  Support can be just being there.  Support can be uplifting and empowering.

“How quickly your world fell to pieces.

Never needed a friend now you do.

Love is all that I’ve ever known from you,

And love is the least I can do.  

I’m gonna hold on as tight as I can,

’til these dark days let go of you.  

I’m right here and I will shelter you through.  

 

Oh your dark days they are numbered.

I know it don’t feel that way, but it’s true.

Just press on past the cold and the storm,

’til you find your clear skies of blue.

You’re gonna make your way right out of here,

One step at a time, go ahead, I got you.

I’m right here and I will shelter you through.  

 

Love is all that I’ve ever known from you.

And love is the least I can do. 

I’m right here and I will shelter you through.”

“Shelter You Through” ~ Andrew Duhon

 

 

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 6

EXPECTATIONS PART 2:

Guilt lies in wait when you set expectations upon yourself. 

Mommy expectations are the worst.  You expect yourself to sleep in 1-2 hour spurts of time and still function the next day as if you’d slept all night.  You expect yourself to have energy and ability to care for and stimulate your child, clean, cook, do laundry and dishes, grocery shop and look your personal best while doing it.  And somehow you convince yourself that these are the expectations everyone else has for you as well. Nothing compares to unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves as mothers.  And nothing compares to the guilt felt when the expectations aren’t met.  Guilt, failure, frustration, sadness.  

Where do these expectations come from?  Probably many places.  Partly from the childless you.  The you before the baby(ies) came along.  The one who has the child’s eye memory of your own parent cooking, cleaning, smiling and playing with you.  The childless you who may have internally judged parents of children throwing tantrums in public.  The childless you who could not really conceive of the reality of being woken up every couple hours so, this warning lived in your mind as a joke people with kids tell childless friends.  It’s difficult to separate yourself from all of those previous thoughts and judgments about what motherhood would be like.  It is impossible to truly know what having a child will be like when you have not had one so don’t fault the childless you.  But appreciate your misconceptions, and lack of understanding for how your life would change. Give yourself a break.  

Expectations are also fostered by comparison.  Comparing yourself to other moms. Believing that the snapshot picture you get of another mom’s life from a FB posting, a glimpse in a store or even a lunchtime catch-up with the kids is telling of what their whole life is like.  It’s not.  Everyone struggles.  Maybe not in the same areas, or to the same degree, but being a mom is hard.  Don’t create a picture perfect life for this person you see and hold yourselves to the same expectations.  The expectation that you can “do it all” while looking your best and loving everything about your children and motherhood is not realistic.   

Guilt is poisonous.  It can paralyze you.  Ruin your self-esteem and view of yourself as a mother.  And it is self-imposed.   It makes it impossible to sleep when the baby is sleeping even though that would do wonders for your ability to function and think.  But it is not easy to just turn off the guilt.  It starts with the expectations.  Erase the expectation board and start over.  Make your expectations smaller and your picture bigger.  And make sleep, eating and other self-care acts part of your expectations for yourself.  

Think about your schedule in terms of the week not the day and think about your day in parts…morning, nap time, lunch, afternoon (maybe another nap time) and evening.  If baby naps twice a day, use one nap for being productive and one nap for rest/sleep/treating yourself well.  If baby naps once a day, choose one (or two small) productive errands or tasks for when baby is awake and then use nap time for resting, or rejuvenating by watching a TV program you love while folding laundry.  Make sure your schedule works for you and for your baby.  

And start giving yourself credit for all the things you do everyday.  It’s too easy to ignore your accomplishments and focus on what is missing or lacking.  Often I hear moms say “yah, but…” when something they are doing well is pointed out to them.  Recognize that you are nurturing, feeding, keeping safe and enriching the life of your child in small ways everyday.   This takes energy, thought and effort.  Give yourself some credit.  Being a mom is a job…a day and night job…and you do it day and night.    

Later in the month I’ll be writing about how to structure and use your time in different ways that may help you feel more accomplished.  Stay tuned!…

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 5

Cinco de Mayo…with kids?

Remember before you had children and you would go to Cinco de Mayo happy hour or a party at a friend’s house?  Often having children can create a dynamic where one parent is left home and out of these events or both view these types of events as off limits now because they have children.  This can cause resentment or feelings of isolation and loss in a marriage.  Babysitters are nice but not always economically possible and sometimes leaving kids with a sitter is more work then bringing them along if you are breastfeeding.

More and more places are kid friendly these days.  Formerly typical “adult only” environments such as nice restaurants and wineries are now places you will see kids playing and eating while their parents enjoy some adult time.  Want to go play pool, most bowling alleys have pool tables also now so the kids can bowl and you can play pool nearby.  Places you might be anxious about bringing your children often welcome the kids with small giveaway items, having games available or tvs on.  With the weather getting nicer, cookouts and parties will become more common.  However, kids and parties…do they mix?

Start by asking the question.  Rather then asking “Can I bring my kids?” which would cause your host to have to say no to a personal question, ask “Is the party adults only?”  This is a more general and less personal way of asking the same question.  Now the host is not saying “no” to YOUR kids but is saying yes to the party being just for adults across the board.  If the host is allowing kids, ask if there are any other kids coming and any the same age range as your children.  If not, consider asking if you can bring your child’s (well behaved) friend along as a playmate.  Think ahead on food, toys, and games, to bring with you.  Make sure not to bring things that are messy or potentially damaging to the host’s house (such as crayons).  And be responsible when it comes to recreational drug or alcohol use.  Make sure the environment is appropriate for your children and that you are being responsible in your own use in order to best supervise your children.

If children are not allowed at the party (or if you’d rather not bring them), consider splitting time with your partner.  One person takes the kids out to dinner and a store for a couple hours while the other goes to the party and then switch.  The other person takes the kids home for bedtime while parent 1 goes to the party.  It may not be as much fun as if you were there together but it would allow for childless relaxation time for each of you which is often much needed.

Remember, having a child (or two or three) does not mean your social life has to end.  It also does not mean your child has to stay home.  Sometimes a babysitter is the right answer but sometimes you just have to think outside the box, ask the right questions and be creative.

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month

Maternal Mental Health Month Day 4

EXPECTATIONS PART 1:

Expectations are the seeds of resentment.

We all have expectations…for ourselves (more on that tomorrow), for others, for the future.  Today I want to address expectations for partners.  When preparing for a new baby, there is often much conversation about room decor, safety, clothes, toys, baby care and birthing plans.  Often what is missed is conversation about what the expectations for everyone involved will be after the baby arrives.  This is most true for first children, though it can sometimes dupe second or third time parents who become too confident in how smoothly their routine runs prior to baby.  

A mom (or dad) struggling after baby is born can sometimes have those struggles compounded because the expectations they have for their partner are not being met.  The first thing I ask a mom who comes into session upset because her partner did not do the dishes/laundry, get up with the baby, change the baby’s diaper or any number of other complaints is, “Did you ask him/her to do that?”  The answer is usually “no” followed by a statement to the effect of “why should I have to ask him/her to…” or “if I know it needs to be done then he/she should too.”  My answer is almost always the same…We are different people who think of priorities differently and make observations about our surroundings differently.  

No one is a mind reader.  Just because the dishes or laundry are important to you or are on your To Do list, does not mean your partner will automatically think of them or know they are important.  You have to tell them what is important and ask for their help.  This can be difficult when you are sleep deprived, sad, foggy headed or anxious.  But your anxiety about “getting things done” can be lessened by delegating tasks.  Why then do we insist on expecting our partner to come up with the grand plan on their own?  Why do we push ourselves to “do it all” just because someone else did not notice what needed to be done?  

These expectations are the seeds of resentment.  For soon, you are “doing everything” and resenting your partner for not doing more or doing “the right things”.  Moms will resort to hints or waiting “to see how long it takes” their partner to figure it out and these types of tactics will backfire by failing and increasing your resentment or causing an argument.  How to avoid this…talk, talk, talk.  And start early.  Talking when you are sleep deprived, depressed, anxious, and can’t think clearly is not likely and if it does happen, it won’t go well.  Talk before the baby comes.  Ask a therapist to help you make a postpartum plan including sources of support, anticipated tasks, chores, or obligations, and how to set up a schedule and request assistance.   Let your partner know directly what you need.  Say “I’ve changed 10 diapers today, can you change her this time?”  or set up a plan that your partner changes any diapers they are home for and you do the rest. However you decide to work things out, start by talking.  Don’t assume they will know and don’t expect mind reading.  🙂

 

Posted in Maternal Mental Health Month