The Lonely Load – And Some Wisdom To Lighten It

In so many ways, being a mom, and in particular a working-studying-depressive-mom, is an incredibly lonely business.

Which is funny, considering how fundamentally social this thing called parenting is.

The past few weeks have been just brutal. I knew it beforehand, while in the thick of it, and looking back (having survived). It was a perfect storm. A heavy workload at each of school and work, a looming transition to a new job, Dearest writing two crucial French exams, new friends and routines at daycare for Bonhomme to get used to, and resulting temper tantrums all around.

The best indicator of just how stressful it all was, was surprisingly not me falling apart at the emotional seams (my usual metric), but the behaviour of our trusty toddler.

Two stressed-filled weeks and two stressed-out parents resulted in one big puddle of whining, indecisive, irritable stressee – and stressor.

The time when Dearest and I most needed a peaceful, smoothly-running, predictable routine to come home to became the most contentious, loud and exasperating place our house has ever been.

Feeling alone, overwhelmed, out of steam and just about defeated as I hit this marathon’s wall, I reached out for help.

In the intervening days, I received some profound advice and reminders.

In case you’re curious, sympathetic, or quite simply desperate, here goes.

1) Trust your instincts.

Sure, there are plenty of ideas and resources and tools out there that can help you in your parenting, but ultimately, you’re the expert. No one knows how to parent your child better than you.

2) Replace juggling with a catch and release program.

Don’t try so hard to keep all the balls up in the air in a beautifully coordinated and choreographed dance – catch the balls that come at you, then release them gently back into their own natural orbits. If any of them drop – oh well. Balls bounce.

3) Aim for being a Good Enough kind of parent.

A friend of mine who shares a history of depression with me often jokes with me about the nuggets of wisdom we need to stitch on a pillow some day – one of which is “Shoot For The Middle!” In most areas of my life, I’ve managed to adopt this philosophy – but not in my parenting. It’s always seemed to me that there’s too much at stake to play it too loose when it comes to raising a child. I’ve come to realize that there may be too much at stake if not playing it loose enough. What I’ve been told, have told others, and am telling myself once again is that what my child needs more than anything else in the world is a healthy mom. And ignoring or negating my own needs – mental, emotional and physical – in answering my son’s, is not healthy for anyone. I need to conserve some energy by cutting back on practically perfect and instead zeroing in on good enough – so that I can have some energy left over for myself. (For the record – I’m not the one who thinks I might be aiming for practically perfect – a wise lady with a great deal more perspective than I mentioned that in comparison to my peers, I may be setting the bar a wee bit high.)

4) Democracy was never intended to be efficient.

Neither, I think, is raising a toddler.

5) It really does take a village.

I can’t do it all on my own, nor should I try. When I do, I crowd out all the other wonders my child could experience from all the other people who love him. My job as a mom is to identify the trouble spots, ask questions, listen, leverage, advocate, set parameters, provide some tools, make some introductions, supply infinite hugs, and get the heck out of the way.

6) Play to your strengths.

You have some. You have lots. Recognize them, embrace them, use them, respect them. Weaknesses are useful in identifying which strengths can be used to get around them (yours, or others’), and that’s about it.

7) Each individual part, let alone the sum total, of what I’m doing is DAMN HARD. So stop being so damned hard on myself.

It can be a lonely business. But only if we let it be.


1 comment so far

  1. Lynn on

    So true that it takes a village. I need to remember that I don’t need to do everything myself, all the time. It’s a hard one.

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