Between scoliosis limiting me physically, and anxiety and depression driving me insane, I had a hard enough time adulting on my own. Yes, adulting is now a word. Seriously, I did everything wrong. I couldn’t manage to keep my own room clean, let alone anything else. Doing chores seemed too overwhelming and balancing a checkbook impossible. Then I decided getting married at 21 was a good idea. Oh no. Then kids came along.
What the hell was wrong with me? After five years of marriage and two children, I still have a lot to learn. I still screw up pretty often. But I’m not ashamed to admit it and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Nothing in the world can force you to grow up better than having children. And even though I started out my mommy life clueless in every way, I’d like to share a few things that have kept me sane. Ish. I’m not completely sane.
- Wake up early. I know, I know. We all probably need more sleep. But how does it feel to get up when the kids do? Crazy right? Like you aren’t prepared? Like you just wanna go back to bed? It sucks. Whenever I wake up late and the kids have woken up, my entire morning is shot. I’m so busy taking care of them that I forget myself until I’m a raving monster mommy from lack of coffee and food. Not fun. I decided a couple years ago to get up when my husband does, so we could have a coffee together before he left for work. His job changes all the time and now he gets up way too early for me, but I still get up almost 2 hours before the kids do. That gives me time to have a nice relaxing breakfast by myself, and read a bit while I’m eating. I have time for a shower, and by the time the kids are awake, I’m ready to handle them. Mostly.
- Get a hobby. You can’t make your entire existence about your kids. Or about your spouse. You need something for you. I’ve learned from experience. For years I got so caught up in taking care of everyone else, that I neglected myself and everyone suffered for it. I was cranky, short tempered and depressed. I still am, but nearly as bad as before! I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading whenever I can, and I’m even writing a book. *Please, God, say I didn’t just jinx myself!*
- Go out with friends. I don’t care if you have to move hell and earth to do it. Get the heck out of the house once in a while! If you don’t have any friends, I’m sorry, I can relate. But find some. Join a mommy group, a bible study, a gym, something where you can meet people. I’ve found a MOPS(Mothers of Preschoolers) in my area and it has been a lifesaver. Even if I haven’t gotten close enough to hang out with anyone one on one, I still join them for group outings, with and without kids in tow. And believe me, I know it’s hard. I attended these meetings for a year before I felt comfortable enough to speak up. And another year before I started going out with these ladies. Social anxiety tried to make me leave a thousand times but I was desperate.
- Make time for your significant other. Date nights never stop being important. And it doesn’t have to be fancy! My husband and I have a nightly routine of watching an episode of our current tv show in bed. Usually with a snack. And snuggles. Always snuggles. Did you know that just 20 seconds of a hug can release oxytocin? Which fights depression. We don’t get the chance for date nights out of the house that often, but we do make time for each other however we can.
Join a gym. Hear me out here. I didn’t like working out much either. I really didn’t. But I joined a gym to spend more time with my husband, and figured I’d try to lose some weight in the process. I’ve started a spin class, which sucked, until a few weeks later it didn’t suck so much. I’ve lost inches on my waist and thunder thighs, and I’m starting to feel good about myself. What has helped keep me going… Have you ever heard of runners high? I’d never heard of it nor experienced it until one magical spin class. I went nuts on that bike and all of a sudden, I got this euphoric breeze of beautiful feeling washing over me. I felt like I could conquer the world! And when that class was over I was disappointed. I felt like I could go another hour! I’ve never done any sort of drugs, but I’ve been chasing that runners high ever since. Exercise really does combat depression. It’s a terrible catch 22, because getting there is really the hardest part, I know. But believe me, it’s worth it. Oh, and I forgot to mention; childcare! I’ve gone to the gym a few times for the sole reason that my kids were too crazy and I didn’t have it in me to handle them. It’s helped tremendously. And no one cares if you prop up a kindle on the treadmill.
- Play with your kids! I often find myself not capable of doing much with my kids. The idea of taking them to the park or somewhere even bigger is just too overwhelming. When I do take them out, it’s like a miracle for me. I feel like a horrible mother sometimes. But you know what, our moms didn’t take us to a brand new park every day. We didn’t go to 5 different theme parks every summer and visit every zoo and museum before we turned 4. Kids don’t need to go to all these special places every single day. Give yourself a break. If you aren’t feeling up to the playground, play with them at home. If you aren’t in the mood to play with your kids, I get it, but do it anyway. When I’m in the midst of my PMDD (Oh yeah, I struggle with that too) I have no desire to play with my kids. I just want them to go away and I dream about how life would be with a nanny. But you know what? I get down on my hands and knees and I play anyway. If I don’t, they’ll drive me nuts and I’ll never finish dinner. But in the end, they are always happier for it, and it cheers me up a bit too. Even PMDD’s cranky face has to chill a bit after seeing my kids smile.
- Have a support system. Even if you only have people long distance, it’s still something. You need people around you supporting you, encouraging you, and listening when you need to blow off some steam. If no one knows about your condition, tell someone. I’ve suffered for 15 years with my depression and no one was around to help me through it because I hadn’t told anyone it was there. I hid it from the world and I honestly almost didn’t survive it. Now that I’ve got a few people close to me that know all about it, I have people watching out for me. Asking how I’ve been feeling. Offering to help. Letting me know they’re there and that it’s okay if I’m not okay.
- Which brings me here. It is okay if you are not okay! Keep going. Never ever give up. Know that you are loved, needed, and appreciated. But if you are not okay, you don’t have to hide it to make anyone else feel better. You don’t have to suffer in silence and there is no shame in seeking help. Remember how I said I suffered for 15 years before telling anyone my issues? That includes doctors. I just saw a doctor recently for the first time ever about my depression, and luckily she didn’t second guess me. She prescribed me Zoloft on the spot, and I’m two weeks into taking it. I’m still waiting to see if this is the right thing for me. But the point is that I tried everything else, and nothing was enough. I finally asked for help. Talking to a doctor or a therapist is not weak. It’s hard! It’s so so freaking difficult to talk about these things out loud and finding the strength to do it is something to admire.
Becoming a mom is a wonderful, powerful experience. It’s beautiful and sweet, frustrating and difficult. Add in a mental illness or chronic disease and it’s practically impossible. But there are more of us out there than you’d think. You are not alone. You can do this. And you are a good mom. Hell if you weren’t, you wouldn’t care enough to try to be better, right? Seriously, you’ve got this. I’ve got this. Our kids are teaching us and we will all be okay.