Before getting pregnant and during pregnancy, most women, including me, have a somewhat idealized image of motherhood. We are also influenced by social media, where all mothers seem happy. They radiate contentment through every pore in their body. Their babies are all smiles and well-behaved.
And then, you become a mom yourself, and you understand what your friend, who is also a mother, meant by extreme tiredness, the need for a proper shower, the constant worrying about another human, the need for “me” time. But you also understand what she meant when she said that you would love that little human more than anything in this world.
Motherhood is beautiful, don’t misunderstand me. But it’s also tough. So so tough sometimes. Every stage comes with its challenges. And even though some moms get more help with raising the child than others, the challenges remain.
Two months after my baby boy was born, we moved to a new country. I found myself alone with a colicky baby in a new place, with no friends, no relatives, husband worked all day. I went through some really dark days when the little one simply didn’t stop crying, and I had no one around to help me.
So, in order to keep my sanity, I had to develop strategies to help me cope with those moments.
Now, my toddler is almost two years old and can throw a tantrum like a superstar! He has periods when he’s so clingy and wants to be held constantly. He wants things his way now. Right now!!! Sounds familiar?
I know that my toddler is discovering the world. He might get overwhelmed or scared, and he needs the only person that he knows loves and protects him unconditionally. The little brave soldier is discovering his likes and dislikes. He is learning how to manage his emotions. There are so many things going on with a toddler that he will deal with them the only way he knows how.
What I’m trying to say is that most of those tantrums are his way of coping. And I know that. However, it doesn’t make things easier when he has one of those tough days, and I feel absolutely drained psychically and physically.
Below, I will share with you some of the tactics I employ to defuse the situation and help me survive the day.
Remove yourself from the situation
When it seems that nothing you do can calm down the raging tantrum of your child and you feel that you can’t handle it any longer, remove yourself from the situation. Even a 2-minute break can do wonders. Take deep breaths, drink a glass of water, make yourself a cup of tea, cuddle your cat. Anything that works for you.
The most important aspect is to make sure that the child is safe and can’t hurt him/herself. Put him/her in a secure playpen or a cot, make sure there are no steps that he/she can tumble down on, there aren’t any objects that he/she could throw, there aren’t any unlocked doors or windows and so on. Ideally, you are able to keep an eye on him from afar.
For me, this very short break enables me to recharge my very drained battery (we all know how draining a tantrum, or a crying baby can be) and continue to try to calm the apparently inconsolable toddler.
If you feel that you can’t handle it anymore, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Anyone who you think might be available to lend a hand. Mother, sister, brother, a friend, a neighbour.
If no one is available to help physically, even a phone call can do the trick. Hearing a friendly voice on the other end, plus the advice given can help the situation. Also, with today’s technology, you can have a video call with that person.
I noticed that sometimes when my toddler sees that my focus shifts from his behaviour to the phone call, he stops, especially if it’s a video call.
Distract and conquer
The fantastic news is that young children are so easily distractible. A tantrum can be quickly extinguished if you shift the toddler’s/baby’s attention to something else. Indeed, it doesn’t work every single time (my toddler generally has an excellent idea of what he wants), but it’s definitely worth trying. Moms know what their cutekins love, so they can use that as ammunition.
Being a mom is a 24/7 job pretty much. No wonder we sometimes lose our temper and find ourselves raising our voices at the little ones or worse, grabbing them and then feeling utterly wretched for it. We are so tired that sometimes it’s difficult to have self-control. That’s why having a bit of time for yourself is hugely important.
Decide on a schedule with your partner that gives you time away from the child on a regular basis. There are also places where you can leave your munchkin for a few hours in the care of professional childminders. Take full advantage of this. Go to the movies, meet your friends for a drink, go to the spa, pamper yourself, do whatever lifts your spirits.
Remember life before baby when you would go on a shopping spree or treat yourself with a day at the spa or have your nails and hair done? Now, pretty much all of your time and money go towards the little one. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your health, both mentally and physically, is crucial.
So, allow yourself from time to time to go shopping. Even if you just buy a cute blouse for you and a million things for your little sweetheart, it’s still refreshing. Do something that you used to do for yourself before the baby arrived. It will work wonders, I promise. Having these little “escapades” will help you get through those tough days easier.
Social media doesn’t always help
Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc. sometimes show a very distorted reality. People, naturally, post pictures and videos of their happy, smiling, and well-behaving children. And here you are, exhausted and frustrated after a few tough days with your little one. This would only deepen the dark abyss that you’re falling into.
A while back I used to get even more frustrated seeing those pictures online as I thought that I was doing something wrong, I wasn’t a good enough mother since I was struggling to calm my baby down or we couldn’t go to the park without having a meltdown for some reason. It took me a while to understand that those apparently perfect moms in the pictures faced the same struggles as I do.
So, I decided that when we go through tough days, the best thing to do is to skip my news feed.
Even though I stay away from my news feed on those tough days, I believe that talking to moms who go through or have been through the exact same things that you are is extremely helpful. They can give you valuable advice or simply have some encouraging words for you.
That’s why becoming a member of mom groups on Facebook can be very beneficial. Just type ‘Mom support group’/’Parenting support group’/’Motherhood’ or any variations, and you will literally find tens of groups. Request to join (some groups ask you some questions before approving your request), and that’s it. Make sure to read and follow the group rules. Here are some suggestions for mom support groups.
So, that’s it. These are some techniques that I use with my toddler on our tough days. Sometimes they work, other times …they work less. But what I’ve learned to be essential is not to let yourself slip in the last place, mama! You are the most crucial person in your child’s life, so make sure that you make time for yourself regularly.