This weekend I had one of those days, as a parent, that I wish had never happened. I’m not sure what triggered it – maybe hormones, or sleep-deprivation, or the chronic stress of having been sick with sick kids for the whole month of January – but I felt like I’ve felt in the midst of a depressive episode. In other words, I had no energy or motivation, I cried at the drop of a hat, I kept fighting back irrational waves of panic, and I was incredibly, explosively, angry. Not a good set of emotions with which to set about being with two toddlers…
The worst moment came after I’d been trying to get Limerick to take a nap since he was completely exhausted, failed once because Rondel came in with his own set of needs (to which I responded horribly), and had just given up for the second time because Limerick didn’t want to stop nursing and I felt like I couldn’t handle it any more. I came down the stairs yelling, pouring all my frustration out verbally, and then burst into uncontrollable tears. My husband took in everything at a glance, took Limerick up for a nap, and left me with Rondel. And my little boy just looked at me with these big eyes and asked, “type of thing Mommy sad about?”
So I sat down with him and told him how wonderful he was, and how much I loved him, and how I was just having a really bad day and felt awful and didn’t know why. I don’t think he understood, but he snuggled up to me and gave me a hug. I told him that I shouldn’t have yelled at him earlier, that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and asked him if he would forgive me, and he stopped nursing, looked up at me with the sweetest smile on his face, and said that he would. Then he resumed nursing and snuggling.
The whole episode made me realize how much my emotions affect my children: the next day, while I was sleeping in with Limerick, Rondel apparently asked my husband to sing songs about being sad, and all the different reasons people would be sad, and for the next several days he continued to talk a lot about sadness. It had to have been unsettling for him to see that kind of raw emotion in one of the people he counts on to keep his world stable and safe (obviously he’s used to seeing Limerick upset 🙂 ), and he’s had to process that in his own way in the days since. I don’t really know what to think about that except that I’m so happy he can process it verbally and relationally with us instead of holding it in or expressing his discomfort with testing behaviors. He is an extremely emotionally sensitive and mature toddler, and I’m really grateful for that.
Because we’ve been through this before, my husband and I made sure that I took care of some basic things that night and the next day to try to prevent the emotions from getting worse or forming a mental habit: I went to bed early and slept late, I took my vitamins, and I took a couple naps with the babies the next day. It was a sacrifice for him of study time and family time, and it felt pretty selfish for me on one level – but on the other hand, it pushed away the unmanageable emotions, or at least reduced them to something I could handle while still being the gentle and respectful parent I am trying to be. It is amazing to me how much something so simple as sleep can affect my mood and my ability to cope with life – but it was a reminder to me of the importance of self-care, and a reminder that the good emotional weather I’ve been having since my pregnancy with Limerick isn’t something I should take for granted. Storms may yet arise.
Have any of you other moms dealt with depression, anxiety, or anger? This is really the first time it’s hit me since my first was a baby (so, the first time he’s old enough to perceive what’s happening), and it makes the experience – and the urgency I feel about remedying it – very different. So if you have any tips or advice for handling those things in the midst of motherhood, I’m all ears! I don’t want to be caught unawares and unprepared again.