6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

Exhausted, brain not thinking clearly, no time or energy to do much of anything so you’re overwhelmed and behind. Parenting is sometimes like that, isnt it? Sometimes it is because of a round of sickness, sometimes it is a season of busyness, maybe it is cabin fever after a bout of bad weather. For me right now it is a newborn.
Those on my email newsletter or who follow me on Twitter may have read my announcement that our fourth son entered the world just over a week ago. As I type this out, he is sleeping in my arms as I sit on my couch. Other than getting up to change a diaper or get a cup of milk for the 3 year old, I have been doing next to nothing since he was born. By noon my brain has turned to mush and having a complete intelligent thought is nearly impossible. (I don’t think I was ever this bad with the others!)  I felt like I was in a similar position after a round of a stomach virus hit us last winter.

By noon my brain has turned to mush and having a complete intelligent thought is nearly impossible.

Here are some tips for surviving when you feel like you’re drowning in motherhood:

Stay hydrated

We all know the benefit of drinking enough water yet many of us still have a hard time doing it. Find ways to make it easier on yourself. Set a timer to remind yourself to have a cup every couple of hours, have a big cup first thing in the morning with breakfast and have your regular coffee afterwards, use mason jars or water bottles and commit to when you want to finish them, remember you don’t have to drink just water. (I have fallen in love with the Takeya ThermoFlask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. We found it at Costco a few weeks ago and it is everything the description says it is. My husband fills his with ice water every evening when he games and he was totally surprised and impressed when he filled it for the second evening and there was still ice in it from the night before! I try to drink 2 of the 40oz bottles each day, in addition to a coffee, milk, and sometimes tea. Sometimes I throw a lemon wedge in there too.

Sleep

Go to bed early. Nap. It is critical to health and sanity and we all know it. Yet so many moms refuse to do it. I understand you want to have some kid free quiet time in the evening but you’ll find that it doesn’t compare to the sanity gained by an adequate amount of sleep. Napping gets a bit tricky when kids get older and no longer nap but lock the doors, throw on a show or pull out the playdough, and doze on the couch, within earshot. (One of my most popular posts has some more tips on how to survive on interrupted sleep.) Even 20 min of resting your body and mind can be very rejuvenating. My current bedtime is around 9:30pm. Sometimes I go to bed earlier but never later. I sacrifice time with my husband (he does bedtime routines for our older 3 at 8pm and comes back downstairs around 8:20 on non gaming nights) but he and I have been through this stage before and know it is only temporary. Even when I am through the exhausting newborn phase, I still rarely go to bed after 10:30 and set an alarm on my cell phone if I find I’m making excuses to stay up later. And the older boys have learned they are to stay in bed until 7am. The 3 year old sometimes wakes up at 6 but he is still in the side-carred crib, next to my husband, so they snuggle until 7am. Teach them how to read a clock young.

Easy Food

Hit up the frozen meals aisle. I normally prefer to cook from scratch (or mostly scratch anyway) but during this season I’m relying on frozen lasagnas, frozen pizza, canned soup, and easy prep foods and snacks like toast, cereal, yogurt, grilled cheese, noodles, precut veggies, and bananas. Even my 3 year old can prepare himself a simple breakfast and my older two can start the oven and pop a meal in. I’ve also been blessed with an amazing church family and friends who have dropped meals for us.

Maintain Peace

Sometimes this means allowing your 3 year old to have a chocolate chip cookie during breakfast. This may mean using technology more than normal. Or using it less, as it goes in my house. Sending kid to separate rooms for a portion of the day when squabbles get heated. Part of my peace comes in the boys clearing all the toys out of the living room before supper. I have barely looked in the playroom but I breathe a little easier when my main room has some semblance of order after they go to bed.

Housekeeping

Ignore the mess. Truly. Yes, you’ll get behind and yes you’ll feel overwhelmed when you are finally able to catch up but you will catch up, step by step. The only one putting pressure on you is you. All you really need is moderately clean dishes (there are no housekeeping police saying you can use breakfast’s toast dishes for lunch’s grilled cheese and a veggies and dip snack) and moderately clean clothes (no housekeeping police here either so wear the same jeans all week and make your kids do the same and don’t worry about folding and putting away for the time being).

Enlist help

More often than not, our spouses are willing to help out. They just aren’t always good at seeing how much we need or what they can do about it. Let him know you feel like you’re drowning and that you need him to rescue you. And give him bite sized and practical solutions. Don’t say the housework is overwhelming, can you clean the house? Tell him the dishes are stressing you out and can he please fill and run the dishwasher. Or the laundry needs to be switched over, or gathered from bedroom floors and tossed in. And be honest with him (and yourself) about what is most important. If the toilet isn’t bothering you, don’t ask him to clean it. If you still have clean clothes, don’t ask him to do laundry. Kids can do the same. They are often more capable than you give them credit for. Be honest with them about the need to come together as a team to keep the household running.

Some seasons of parenting are harder than others.  There is no way around that. But you also don’t have to drown. So take care of yourself, let go of the housework, and focus on relationships and teamwork within your family. I know that I will get through the newborn hazy days, and I know that you will get through the tough seasons too.

Do you have any other tips to get through the tough seasons? I’d love to add them to my list. I’m sure that there will come a time when all 4 of the boys will get sick at the same time and I’m not looking forward to that!

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Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Fevers and illness, daring activities that lead to injuries, potential kidnappings, government interference… there are so many things that we worry about as mothers. It’s so easy to spiral down into those worries and start to panic.

As an INTJ, my typical response to worries is that I make a plan to deal with it and imagine myself coming through the other end. I like to plan out the alternative paths the particular concern could take and my potential responses to it. Usually that helps bring me some peace about the situation and puts things into perspective to remind myself that it isn’t the end of the world and that, no matter what, we’ll make it through to the other side (even if the interim is unpleasant, to say the least).

 

After plotting out all my potential conclusions, I remind myself that my kids are not my own. They belong body and soul to God the Creator. And as much as I love my children, God loves them more. I give them, and all of my worries surrounding them, back to Him and to His master plan for them.

As much as we love our children, God loves them more.

Moments like that are a good reminder that we aren’t in control. Which can be scary but, if you really analyze it, is actually a good thing. You and I don’t know everything that is happening or how everything in this world intertwines to affect each other. It’s a good thing that God does. All knowing and all powerful. It doesn’t mean that things will always make sense to us. It just means that we can trust that He really does know best and have our ultimate best interests at heart. Worrying is a sin. It shows that we lack trust in God’s power and love.

I read a great quote a while back: “We just think we are in the land of the living and that we are going to die, but when we believe in God the opposite is true. We’re in the land of the dying and because of Jesus we’re going to the land of the living. The land where there is no more pain, no more tears, and where we’ll be with Christ for eternity.” (The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer) As Christians, we can find comfort in the fact that this isn’t our world. It’s easier said than done, especially when our worries seem very big and legitimate, but it’s the plain and simple truth.

We act like worrying is a natural part of mothering but worrying is a sin. It shows a lack of trust in God’s love for us and His ultimate power over this world. I need to give my kids back to God every morning and every evening. I had been daily giving my pregnancy and my birth plans to God. A few weeks ago I had a scary incident that resulted in an ambulance ride (for myself, at 35 weeks pregnant) and a couple nights in the hospital. With no answers as to what happened, that’s one I give to God anytime it crosses my mind. I have some chronic health problems that made me worried I wouldn’t be able to hold my baby properly to nurse and cuddle when he arrived (which was 4 days ago, St Patricks Day, by the way. Stay tuned as I plan to share his birth story in the next month). So many things I could dwell on! I’m learning to trust Him more every day. So today, and every day, give your worries to God and trust that He’s got this. I know it’s easier said than done and this is a sin that many of us struggle with on a regular basis.

What worries have you been holding on to lately? Feel free to share them in the comments so we can pray for you. Or just say a prayer right now to give them to God. And give it back to Him every time you find yourself spiraling. Regular prayer time is critical to our walk as Christian mothers.

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Normalizing Birth for Children

Normalizing Birth for Children

My eldest son witnessed his first birth around 1.5 years old. He stood with his little rubber boots on the fence and held on to the cable and watched as the calf emerged, feet, then face, then a wet body slipping out onto the bedding pack. I’d like to say it was a beautiful and life changing moment for him, but it wasn’t. He didn’t think there was anything much special about it. He saw calves of various sizes every day and he must have just realized that the life of a calf has to start somehow. So when I told him that the mama cow was pushing a calf out of her body, he took it as a perfectly normal occurrence.

Over the years, he (along with his brothers) has witnessed numerous births. Thanks to YouTube he has seen elephants, giraffes, horses, dolphins, and several others. Births he has witnessed live include numerous calves and kittens as well as the births of his younger brothers. Yes, you read that right: he witnessed the births of his brothers. And he will likely be present when our newest baby makes his or her appearance earth-side in a few weeks. (If you are interested, the story for the unassisted home water birth for my third son.)
I have been asked by friends and care providers whether I was concerned about traumatizing my kids by having them at their siblings’ births. I explain that I do some prep work including talking about the process, reading stories about birth, and even watching birth videos online. Sometimes this convinces them that it’s “okay” for me to have my kids present (as if I need their permission) and other times they remain skeptical. Inwardly, I’m reminded of how warped most people’s opinions of birth are.

Birthing a child is not a medical disorder or event any more than conceiving or carrying that child is.

My eldest’s attitude toward birth hasn’t changed from the first time he witnessed it: it’s a normal process that has been happening since the beginning of time. Birthing a child is not a medical disorder or event any more than conceiving or carrying that child is. It’s a time that requires privacy, love, and intimacy, much the same as the event that created that new life in the first place.
I believe that farm life has allowed our children recognize that birth is a natural process and not something to be feared or managed. Through farming research and experience, my husband knows that cows labour better if they are left to their own devices and we have a much lower intervention rate than on farms where farmers intervene or manage births within their herd. That was the number one reason why he shifted his mind on human birth (yes, he compared me to a cow, and no it wasn’t the first or last time).
I enjoy research and statistics and all of the research shows that birthing is largely influenced by the mother’s mindset. Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, women have been birthing since the beginning of time and, therefore, must be properly suited to such a task. From a God standpoint, women were designed to birth and God doesn’t make mistakes. While I’m grateful for the availability of medical intervention when necessary, most women don’t need it and their birth experience is only aggravated by it.
This evening my eldest, nearly 9, asked me why his friend’s sister was born at a hospital and through surgery. I told him that was the mother’s choice based on the information she had received. He told me it seemed silly to need a hospital and surgery for something a simple as having a baby. I agree son. May you keep this peace and trust regarding birth when it comes time for your own wife to have your children.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences with children attending birth? 

6 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You’re Drowning in Motherhood

Exhausted, brain not thinking clearly, no time or energy to do much of anything so you're overwhelmed and behind....

Dealing with Worries as a Mother

Fevers and illness, daring activities that lead to injuries, potential kidnappings, government interference... there...

Normalizing Birth for Children

My eldest son witnessed his first birth around 1.5 years old. He stood with his little rubber boots on the fence and...

Cloth Diaper Tips

These cloth diaper tips were written for a new cloth diapering mama, by a mom who has cloth diapered 3 little men over...

Cloth Diaper Tips

Cloth Diaper Tips

These cloth diaper tips were written for a new cloth diapering mama, by a mom who has cloth diapered 3 little men over the course of the last 7 years. It was written to be a cheat sheet of tips, not a full blown tutorial. You may also  like to read about my favorite cloth diapers.

cloth diaper tips

  1. When changing baby, make sure you fold the Velcro laundry tabs down as you remove the diaper.
  2. Wash every 2 to 3 days at least. Going longer makes it tougher to get them clean.
  3. Start with a soak cycle. If you don’t have a soak cycle, drench the diapers to their full absorbency before washing by adding extra water to the washer drum or adding to the pail liner before tipping into the washer. (You don’t need to rinse until baby is on a lot of solid foods. At that point, tip any poop that comes off easily into the toilet and do a rinse cycle before soaking.)
  4. Use an eco friendly detergent (norwex, Seventh generation, shaklee, homemade, Rocking green, Laundry Tarts etc)
  5. Dry until fully dry, not damp. I just throw the covers and pail liner in the dryer too but you could air dry them (they should last longer if you do).
  6. Chuck them in the basket or drawer and they’re ready to use again.
Extra Tips:
  • Disposable wipes have a tendency to go through the washer so most people find cloth wipes (I use dollar store baby face cloths) much more convenient. 30-40 wipes should be plenty for a newborn. You’ll need less for older babies/toddlers.
  • A mesh laundry bag (held up in something like a large peanut butter container) for dirty wipes prevents wipes from getting lost. Be sure it is big enough to give the wipes lots of room to wiggle clean. Get two, one to wash and one to use. (I also has issues with wipes getting into my washer drainage hose and the mesh bag solved that problem.)
  • A small container of water on or near the change table, freshened every few days, makes it easier to wet a wipe when needed. Pre-wetting wipes is quick but can result in musty wipes that need to be washed even if they haven’t been used.
  • Wet and wring wipes and put them in a plastic sandwich bag for going out.
  • Use a pail liner. Turn it inside out to push the diapers into the washer and you’ll never have to touch the dirty diapers and you’ll rarely have to wash your diaper pail.
  • Keep the diapers in a cool part of the room with good airflow. Avoid sealing the lid onto the diaper pail because they may start to get hot and fermenty. They actually smell less than disposables because you don’t have that icky chemical smell mixed in.
  • Under normal circumstances, you should not have to strip diapers more than about once a year. If you are having problems that require your to strip more  frequently, try revising your wash routine.
  • Most diaper creams are not cloth diaper safe. Coconut oil may help any bum rashes you encounter or there are some great cloth diaper safe creams put there. My personal favorites are Earth Mama Angel Baby and Thirsties.
  • For using cloth on the go, remember your diapers, covers, pre-wetted wipes, a wet bag, and a change pad (flat cloth diapers work well for that).
The Explosive Child

The Explosive Child

By Ross W. Greene, Ph. D.

I didn’t even need to read the description of this book to know that it was one I needed to read. Since shortly after he was born, I have struggled to understand his communication style, love language, stressors etc. The first years of his life were filled with a lot of screaming and tears, on both of our parts. Things are much calmer now but there is still so much about this little boy that is still a mystery. So I read and analyze and practice and pray. And I take a lot of deep breaths.

I felt that this book was largely targeted at people who have less attached styles of parenting than I do. There was a lot of talk about consistency and positive encouragement as opposed to degrading and punishing. Those are great tips but what’s a mom to do when she does all of those things and is still struggling? Many of the case studies were about children with disorders but some of the ideas were still beneficial to my relationship with my high need, intense son.

Book notes:

  • these children have difficulty accessing their “hindsight file” and therefore are unable to access the information as to how they’ve handled similar problems in the past.
  • they are unskilled at recognizing the impact of their behavior on others
  • he and I need to take time to reflect on the accuracy of his interpretations, the effectiveness of a given response, or the manner in which his behavior affects others
  • provide cognitive roadmaps that help him stay rational in moment’ he is likely to become explosive (perhaps give advance warning that this situation is something that may be difficult to deal with so pre-plan a way to deal with it calmly)
  • we need him to look at us as people who can help him thing things through instead of as adversaries
  • he becomes disorganized in the midst of frustration
  • how does it feel to the child to be inflexibly explosive? (Probably frustrates him as much as it does me when he can’t maintain control)
  • flexibility and tolerance are skills that need to be learned – they come more easily to some than others
  • the consequence you administered on the back end following the last explosion must be accessible and meaningful to the child on the front end the next time he is becoming frustrated
  • kids need help accessing the file in their brain that contains the critical information or roadmap.
  • is a child resisting because he is not motivated enough of because he is incapable of maintaining the state of mind to walk through the pros and cons of compliance?
  • a disorder is how the problem may be presenting itself but it doesn’t always give indication of the precise difficulties your child is experiencing
  • in a vapour-lock situation, downshift slowly before going into reverse (otherwise you’ll blow out the transmission)
  • Basket A: important behaviors worth inducing and enduing a meltdown over: safety, things that could be harmful to your child, other people, animals, or property, and other non-negotiables. Teaches child that you are an authority figure. (Should initially be a very empty basket).
  • Basket B: Important matters but aren’t worth the meltdown. This is where you will teach your child the skills of flexibility and frustration tolerance. Most important basket. Teaches them how to engage in a give and take, staying calm in the midst of frustration, taking another person’s perspective, coming up with alternative ways to solve a problem. Tell your child, “If we disagree, I’ll let you know if I’m willing to work things out. We will try to think of good ideas.” Start with empathy to signal to your child that you understand what he wants and that you think it is a legitimate desire, and that you are his advocate rather than adversary. Then, “Let’s think of how we can work this out?”
  • Basket C: Unimportant behaviors that aren’t even worth saying anything about anymore. Eating a variety of foods, wearing mittens etc. It is different than giving in because you decide ahead of time to put it in basket C.
  • It becomes you, the parent, who is the primary determinant of whether or not he has a meltdown.
  • Phrases such as No, You must, or You can’t automatically puts it into basket A, so use very rarely.
  • The real world is a whole lot more about resolving disputes and disagreements than it is about blind adherence to authority. 
  • Sometimes basket decision making can be delayed. “I’m not yet sure if that’s negotiable or not.”
  • some children have trouble actually recognizing that they are frustrated or even experiencing things like hunger or fatigue that is leading the to frustration
  • Use rudimentary works for feelings: happy, sad, frustrated. At the end of the day ask “What made you happy? Sad? Frustrated?” Then start expanding to confused, disappointed, excited, bored, annoyed etc.
  • A child walking away our of frustration is a good comping mechanism. He doesn’t want to hurt you.
  • Keeping your child coherent in the midst of frustration is goal number one. A frustrated child needs help.
  • Why is this so hard for my child? What’s getting in his way? How can I help?
  • Sibling relations: each child needs help/attention in different areas.
  • don’t allow inaccurate inferences about each other get in between relationships.
  • Consequences not enforced detract from your credibility
  • vapour-lock commencing means “I’m stuck. I need help!”

How We Chose Meaningful Boy Names

How We Chose Meaningful Boy Names

oct 27 14I don’t often (or maybe ever?) used my boys’ real names on my blog because I don’t need random passers-by to know all that information about my family. That being said,  I promised Sue from Stories of an Unschooling Family over a year ago that I would, one day, tell the story of how we came up with our children’s names. So here are those stories:

C:
Before I tell you about C’s name, I have to go back a bit to before I was pregnant with him. I was pregnant before him and my husband and I had for a girl and a boy name picked out within probably a week of conceiving: Rebecca or Jeremiah. Unfortunately, we lost that baby at about 8.5 weeks. There is no way to prove it but, in my heart, I know that we lost a little girl. So, the next time we conceived, I had a hard time thinking of a girl name. Adam figured that we could still use Rebecca but I just couldn’t agree. So we basically had one name that we agreed on: Jeremiah. We sort of added a few names to our list throughout the pregnancy but nothing concrete. We assumed the baby would be a boy named Jeremiah.

I had C as a c-section so I didn’t get to hold him until my husband brought him into the room when he was about an hour old. I had been telling all of the nurses in recovery how I was so excited to hold my little Jeremiah. They all told me it was such a beautiful and unique name. Adam laid our tiny little (just under 7 lbs) boy in my arms and said to me, “Honey, I’m really sorry. He just doesn’t look like a Jeremiah.” I agreed. So now we had to scramble to find a name. Our name list was at home. The only name I could think of was Caleb. A name that I had added just a few days before and had planned to ask Adam about. It has a lot of meanings but the meaning that we chose for our son was “faithful.” And it suits him completely. He also carries on Adam’s Dad’s name as his middle name. Everyone was convinced Caleb was going to be a girl. It’s a good thing he wasn’t, we never did agree on a single girl’s name.

oct 27 14 c

Biscuit:

With almost 3 years in between our boys, you would think we would had had lots of time to figure out some more names. Adam could still only think of Rebecca for a girl while I still felt like we already had our Rebecca as our first. We kept a list of names that each of us liked but truly couldn’t agree on any name. It was tough because everyone (including Adam) thought we were having a girl. I wasn’t convinced so, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t waste a lot of effort thinking of girl names.

When he was born, we sat with our list of names and… debated. My friend who attended the birth couldn’t help but laugh at us as we tried to present our case for our particular picks, only to change our mind right when we had nearly convince the other person. We were so busy trying to figure out a name that we forgot to call my parents (who lived right across the yard and had probably figured out something was up by this point) to tell them they had another grandson. He was also my victorious home birth after my caesarean so there was a lot of joy and laughter.

Isaac means “laughter,” or “he laughs.” The name felt rather unfitting for the first year with our high need son but, once we really started to get to know him, there is no better name. This kids has a gift for humour and the most contagious laugh in the world. It’s a perfect fit for him. He doesn’t have a middle name. We could barely agree on a first name so, true to my Dutch heritage, we chose not to give him one.

Baby Bear:

I can’t believe he’s over a year already. It feels like I was just recently sitting here writing blog posts while pregnant with him and imagining who this little person would turn out to be. I actually had a lot of fun making up a name list for him and it seemed that Adam was a lot more open to name options this time around. We had our perfect list of boy names and girl names. Once again, everyone was convinced it was a girl. Mostly because we had two boy so, statistically speaking, it should be a girl. I even had a week when God put it in my heart that I was going to have a girl and that I should mentally and emotionally prepare for that (I LOVE being a boy mom so the thought of a girl took some time to get used to). After that week, however, I was comfortable with birthing a daughter but truly still hoping and believing I was carrying another son.

He was born at home and we read through our handy name list as I sat on the couch while he was a few hours old. Adam, Caleb, and Isaac all agreed that he should be called Noah. Adam nearly called the whole family to tell them that Noah had made his arrival. If I hadn’t just given birth, I would have jumped off the couch to snatch his phone from his hand. Instead, I yelled at him. Not a mean yell but I had to raise my voice to get over their excitement. Noah was NOT going to work for this boy. God had laid a different name on my heart for the previous couple of weeks that seemed to match this baby’s temperament more. Noah seems like the name of a Type 3 boy (according to The Child Whisperer’s typing system): determined, physical, forward push type of child. This baby was still, laid back, peaceful, and the whole pregnancy and birth felt like a gift from God. Jesse means gift. It took me about 45 minutes of convincing but all three of them started to wrap their heads around Jesse. Now we look at Jesse and know he could never have been a Noah. (He also doesn’t have a middle name, just in case you were wondering.)

oct 27 14b

Caleb. Isaac. Jesse. Not the names that we expected but perfectly fitting for our boys.

Did your choose your children’s names because have a significant meaning? Did you know their names before they were born or did you choose a name to suit them after birth?

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