FRIDAY FIVE: How to cope when motherhood feels tough
THE other night was one of those tough parenting nights.
I was poorly, my little girl was poorly and so both of us got very little sleep. As I lay there in the early hours trying to settle Elsie and encourage her back to the land of nod, I had a lightbulb moment.
For I realised that whilst many people will happily provide parenting advice (which is often unwanted) on everything from breast feeding to weening, toddler tantrums to sleep habits, no one really tells you how to cope with those days and nights when everything is going wrong.
When you feel at the end of your tether. When you feel so exhausted, that you just don’t know how you’re going to make it through the next hour, never mind the next day.
It’s rare for anyone to offer words of comfort for those moments. Possibly because we don’t often share our bleak times with those closest to us and also, I guess, because motherhood is meant to be a totally joyous and loving experience.
It is of course. No doubt about that. But it’s also bloody hard, exhausting and frustrating at times too. There I said it.
So for those of you battling with toddlers, struggling with newborns, dreaming of sleep or feeling totally cheesed off with motherhood right now (regardless of what some people tell you this is ok and perfectly normal) this Friday Five is especially for you.
Here’s how to cope with those tough motherhood times. From one loving, knackered mum to another.
Cry if and when you need to
The other night as I lay in the darkness trying to get Elsie to sleep, I cried. Just a little. And ever so quietly.
I was ill, exhausted, totally worn out and feeling incredibly sorry for myself. All I wanted to do was rest and sleep but the little lady had other ideas. And so as I battled for two hours to settle her back into dream land, I let myself have a little cry.
On most other occasions, I wouldn’t have been so upset. But I was feeling sorry for myself and so I had a little weep. Not because I was unhappy. Not because I can’t cope. Not because I don’t love my daughter. But because I was feeling fed up and I knew that a little cry would make me feel better.
I let the big, fat, salty tears run down my face for a good few minutes until I no longer needed them. And do you know what, in a weird way, it felt really good.
It’s ok to cry folks. Really it is. So take my advice and do so, whenever you feel the need to. You’re a mummy yes. But you’re also a human. So let those tears fall if need be and know that you’ll soon be ready to face the world again. Sometimes, we all just need a little weep.
Know that tomorrow will most probably be better
Such a blasé statement I know, but I say this from experience. Nineteen months of motherhood experience. Not much granted, but enough to know that…
Whenever I have one of those dark, dreadful parenting days, what often gets me through and stops me wanting to run for the hills, is the knowledge that ‘tomorrow will most probably be better’.
Admittedly, tomorrow might be in a few days time (especially if your little one is ill or going through a tricky phase) but all you need to remember, is that it will come. Even though it might not feel like it. You must keep telling yourself that things will get better. Because they will. I promise you. Perhaps not right this second. But they will.
Light always comes after the dark. So when the going gets tough, don’t get going. Just hang on in there as best you can and wait for a better day. For it will come my friends. It will come.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
This is a lesson that applies to so many of us. But really ladies, please, let’s try not to be so hard on ourselves shall we? I am, in all honesty, the world’s worst at this. Mainly because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and have very high expectations of myself.
It’s ridiculous really. If I heard any of my friends be so hard on themselves – like I am on myself – I would go crazy! But when it comes to those little voices in my head (I’m not the only one to hear them am I?!) I can’t help it.
So even though I know the house will not be spotlessly tidy for the foreseeable future because Elsie is an inquisitive, destructive toddler, I still feel like I’ve failed when it’s a mess.
Even though I know it’s normal for little ones to have temper tantrums, I still feel like I’ve somehow failed, whenever Elsie plays up. And even though I know there are only so many hours in the day, I still feel like a total and utter failure when I haven’t done all the many, many things I wanted to do!
Who’s with me?
When parenting feels tough, often it’s because we feel we are not meeting the expectations we demand of ourselves. Certainly, in my experience, this is the truth.
So please, I beg of you, be gentle to yourself and lower those expectations a little. Sometimes – as I said to a lovely Twitter friend last weekend – motherhood is just about survival.
So when things are tough, just concentrate on getting through the day and don’t let that ‘to do’ list worry your pretty little head.
Ask for help
Go on. I dare you.
It’s not easy to ask for help, especially if you’re an independent, proud, perfectionist like me. But it does get easier. Honestly, the more you reach out and ask, the easier it becomes! Take that from a woman who knows.
Sometimes we all need someone to give us a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on or a leg up. And that’s more than ok. That’s life. So whatever you need, ask for it.
If you need just an hour to yourself, ask your husband, best friend or Mum to babysit. If you’re struggling to keep on top of the housework (and let’s face it, who doesn’t) ask your partner to get acquainted with the duster. If you are feeling lonely, depressed and emotional, then ask for help. From anyone. Chew their ears off if you have to but make them hear you. Ask for whatever help you may need and don’t ever be ashamed of it.
It’s good to reach out and it’s good to talk. But it’s even better to admit that you need a little help.
Know that tough times make us better AND stronger
When you’re surviving and coping as best you can but still feel bleak, know that – in the words of Kanye West -“NN-n-now that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.” Hey, even sing them to yourself, if you need to. I won’t tell anyone.
We become better versions of ourselves, by experiencing the tough times. By rolling with the punches. By finding answers to parenting challenges. And, we become better mothers.
Parenthood is not easy. I don’t care what anyone says. It may be easier for some. But it is never easy.
No one has all the answers, even if they pretend to. We’re all just figuring out what to do, what works for us and how to keep our children alive and happy, from day to day. It’s an endless learning curve with every stage and every age bringing fresh challenges and obstacles to overcome.
Tough times are tough. And sometimes bloody awful. But they are tough for a reason. For without them, we wouldn’t be able to grow or develop.
Don’t ever forget, that without a little rain, there would be no beautiful rainbows in that sky.
To all you awesome mums and dads facing your parenthood battles head on, know that even if you don’t think it, you ARE doing one hell of a good job x
Have an incredible weekend! See you all next week. Mwah!