Another day, another vitally honest guest post, this time by the brilliant Lucianne Lewis of The Tantrum Times.
Lucianne Lewis is a stay at home mum to two girls aged 22 months and 3 and a half respectively and says that since becoming a mum, she has developed a passion for writing.
Over to Lucianne
Last bank holiday weekend I was in Battersea park with my husband and 2 young daughters. We could have been an ‘If Carling did family life advert yet I found myself walking away from the play area, where my kids were playing to sit alone on a bench and cry. I was really going for it, sobbing loudly. The reason? Being a full time mum to toddlers is sometimes overwhelming. I am a stay at home mum, or whatever the term du jour is for everything except the breadwinner.
Since becoming a mum, I have experienced episodes of loneliness, helplessness and self-doubt. I love my family life but not me in it.
Here are the tools I have found helpful when I start feeling overwhelmed that can often feel like the pressure cooker of looking after my toddlers. I will be a sobbing mess again I’m sure but as the anthem to my daughter’s life goes, at least I have a way to, ‘let it go’.
- Recognise your negative thought pattern. It helps you to be objective and then you can focus on solving the specific problem which stops it becoming a spiral of negative thoughts and self doubt. If I start worrying that friends are not returning my messages when I am with the children all day this can quickly escalate to believing people don’t like me. It’s usually a sign that I’m missing adult company, tired, hormonal or all three. Accepting this makes it is easy to find a solution rather than dwell on the negative feelings of self doubt. I quickly arrange to meet a friend, eat an enormous bar of dairy milk or go to bed early.
- Time off doesn’t necessarily mean time away from your family, sometimes its just a change in dynamic… It has taken me a while to realise this. Take the other week: my daughter had been doing the opposite of what I wanted her to do, running away whenever I called her and was generally a threenager which lead a full on week of me stomping around being a shouty mum who, to use a football term, had lost the dressing room. So when my husband was around at the weekend, after a week of long hours, I needed him to be the driver and give me some time to be the passenger. I still wanted to be part of the family journey but I took a back-seat and much-needed rest.
- Exercise For The Soul. Most evenings I go to the gym, not because I’m a fitness fanatic, far from it but because I don’t have to fit in with anyone else’s busy schedule. ‘They’ say life isn’t a spectator sport, well try telling that to the parent of a toddler desperately trying to put their own pants on. I spend so much time willing them to do things and sitting patiently while they take an age to do the simplest of tasks, and that’s just my husband lol. So when I go to the gym I can do whatever I want to do and at my own speed. It also means I can eat a massive bar of chocolate without too much guilt too- are you sensing a theme here?
- Take Omega 3 Fish oils and Primrose Oils. Breastfeeding depleted the essential fats my body was storing and affected my memory and general cognitive function, I put this down to sleep deprivation but it carried on long after the baby started to sleep through. Taking these three times a day has really helped with feelings of anxiety and nervousness and I can focus on what I need to do instead of worrying which is far more relaxing. Ask your doctor for advice.
- What would you say to your children in your shoes? If you are giving yourself a hard time for being a stay at home mum, it’s hard not to let your inner critic take over. What would you say to your son or daughter if they were being this hard on themselves? Be their example of how to treat yourself and be kind to you.
- Remind yourself that you made a positive choice to be a stay at home mum. There may have been reasons why you made that choice but it was still the right choice for you and you are in control.
- Do what you are good at. This is career advice 101 but can be easily overlooked when it comes to parenting. I am not a good cook in the same way that Donald Trump does not have good hair. However, I am good at bringing people together so I organise play dates and activities and people come and bring along delicious food to my place. They are happy to have an activity planned without thinking and I’m happy that the kids have enjoyed something home made. Win, win
- Change the script. How you portray yourself will eventually be how you see yourself and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You get back from the universe what you give out. For so long I was getting sick of my own answers to the usual questions, ‘Do you work?’ ‘Sorry, not at the moment, I’m just stay at home mum’ and then I would launch into an abridged version of my life pre kids as if justifying my current existence. Most of the time people don’t really care what you say, it’s just chit chat but if you keep repeating the same negative patter it starts to become how you see yourself so keep it simple, ‘I’m a full time mum’.
- Don’t fight it. I really struggled with the cliches of being a stay at home mum. Play dates where you had to sit around talking about the toilet habits of other people’s offspring filled me with dread, so I didn’t do it. The stereotypes are all true but they are for a good reason and by throwing myself into it I have started to enjoy it and build a group of mum friends that I gel with.
- Embrace social media. The mum cheerleaders on social channels felt like a shouty, cool kids party I didn’t belong at or have any interest in what they were talking about. The Honest Mum and The Motherload Facebook groups are my go-to as I find them relatable to my life. Responding to someone with a problem with nappy rash or liking a photo of a baby wearing a daffodil hat can truly take you out of your own bubble.
There are so many privileges to being a stay at home mum but it can play with your mind, particularly during the toddler years. These are the 10 practical tips have helped me out when I have felt low.
What are yours?