On Isolation: A response to a mother’s request for help
Being a parent, and life in general, can be isolating at times. A situation can easily become overwhelming and, when it does, we can start to feel disempowered, leading to a sense of helplessness.
This sentiment was expressed by a mother in an online forum recently. With a young baby to look after, the pressure to help him settle at night was becoming all-consuming.
Coming from her own experience, CYS Director, Monica Anderson, offered her advice. Hopefully, it’s not only valuable to the mother, but also to any of you who have experienced similar feelings of isolation.
“My little man, who’s 15 months old, has started unlatching and will just lay down and fidget, kick, roll around, etc. before going to sleep. Normally, I lay next to him in my bed, nurse to sleep, then sneak away until I go to bed. However, it’s taking an hour or longer for him to go to sleep because of this.
I’m so overwhelmed at being consumed by my children every single day for their entire lives I just broke down tonight and asked my husband to take over. He gladly stepped in but our baby has been screaming and crying for 15 or 20 minutes now. Any advice that follows Montessori principles? No CIO or sleep training advice please.”
“The way society is currently structured, with one or two adults in a home looking after 1+ children, is not natural.
As a mother to two little girls age three and five, I know what it feels like to feel overwhelmed and totally consumed by the time devoted to children, the stress from time not devoted to children, and the energy to juggle everything else.
If one adult is primarily working, and the other adult (usually the mother), is the predominant carer (which is the arrangement in many households), that load is not natural or optimal for one person, and neither is it optimal for the children.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. We are no longer in villages and we don’t operate as a tribe.
The norm of self-sufficiency and separation, alongside the work model of being on the treadmill to pay bills for a lifestyle – affects everything.
For women/mothers/a primary care giver in this position, it sacrifices fundamental self-care, and affects mental health. Be kind and compassionate with yourself.
- Try to be real with your child/children – they do not want a supermom (I’m not inferring you are trying to be one) — all kids want is a real human being.
Model by respecting your boundaries as much as you can. It’s hard when they’re little as they’re so reliant on you. But for my daughters, I tell them when I’m exhausted and I just need my space. At age 3 and 5, I didn’t think they’d understand but they do.
- Make fundamental self-care as important as you can – if say drawing or going for a walk is a big part of what tops up your spirit, claim it even just for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, or before you sleep at night, make it important. The more these fundamental needs are met, the more you will feel alive and more yourself.
It is also good modelling for the child/children on self-relationship and making their own needs important/ respecting their energy and boundaries;
- Be creative with booking time out or arranging support. This was not easy to do when the girls were under 12 months, but it’s gotten easier as they got more independent. My husband has let me know that he can see when I’m about to burn out and he has wondered why I haven’t claimed time off. He has encouraged me to book even two nights in a month or every two months away, just by myself at a hotel or somewhere nice. Just time away, to rest and rejuvenate. It works well for everyone – my husband loves it as he gets a turn on a weekend being a full time parent; my girls get to build a different relationship with him; and he also gets time off from me (I can be crabby). Overall it’s been healthier for everyone.
- With being creative arranging support – some people are lucky to be close to their extended family and get support. Many like myself, don’t have this luxury. I have started coming out of my shell to make my own tribe. It has involved making the brave decision to even move cities to be with a more like minded community of people. It doesn’t have to be this extreme, where you are may already be perfectly ripe for it. You are not the only mother in this boat. It’s a good opportunity to express our vulnerability, and explore ways to help each other out. Whether it be a carpool system, or taking turns looking after each other’s kids so one can do the groceries and have a mental break, and vice versa. I hope that helps.”
It’s not an easy road, so be compassionate and kind with yourself.