How a Children’s Show Convinced Me to Go Back to Therapy

I was reading an article today on Scary Mommy, and the author was talking about how much she loves the show “Bluey”. She had all these amazing things to say about it. Now, I’ve watched A LOT of kids shows, but I’ve never seen this one, so I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s check this shit out”.

Guys, she was right.

It was like seeing the parent I want to be – and used to be, not that long ago – play out on the screen in front of me. No life lessons shoehorned in, no weird tie-ins to “learning”, just pure unadulterated play. With both parents equally. There was so much joy, and fun, and pure imaginative play that every ECE dreams about.

So why did it also make me feel so sad? The author I read wrote about how she used it to inspire her own parenting. I want to be that parent. It made me feel like all of my shortcomings were on full display. This was everything I wanted for my kids, for myself, for my marriage, and it was all playing out in front of me and it just made me feel jealous, and disappointed in myself for not being able to provide that for my kids anymore.

I tried so hard today to be more like that. I let them have water play, and let L. sit right on top of the coffee table and feel the water on his whole body. I took G. to the park and pushed her in the swing and let them run wild in the mud.
I also yelled because G. tried to steal her brother’s chocolate by pouring it in her bowl when he wasn’t looking, and then shoved it in her mouth when I called her on it, and I didn’t stay to cuddle as long as she would like at bedtime because all I could think about was the mountain of stuff I needed to finish before I could finally sleep tonight.

I ‘m trying to keep perspective. I’ve been telling myself “Baby steps”. I can’t change everything all at once, I can’t fix what’s wrong in my brain with 12 episodes of Bluey and a trip to the park. But I’m trying, at least. I’m not letting myself drown in these thoughts of “you’re not good enough. You’re going to give your children issues because you have so many issues. you’re a horrible mother because you yell. you make G. feel like shit and she’s going to resent you so much growing up and she’s going to have self-esteem issues and anxiety because she can never predict which version of me is going to come out of my mouth”.
This is the first time I’ve ever verbalized this. It’s been in my head for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve ever written it, and acknowledged it flat out. I’m scared of how my illness is affecting her, what damage I’m doing to her. I don’t want to be that mother, the unpredictable one, where you have to walk on eggshells because you never know how they’re going to react. I want to discipline with love, be firm but fair, but I’m struggling with that line.

So maybe that’s why I’m watching Bluey. I’m going to try to be more like that. Let them interrupt the dishes. The worst that’s going to happen is that I’ll forget about them and they’ll pile up and then I’ll have to spend time doing two loads instead of one and then I’ll stress about how the kitchen looks and how the house smells and then I’ll just turn turtle and ignore it all until it’s just a crushing weight on my anxiety. That’s not so bad, is it.

Or I could just spend five less minutes scrolling the Netflix screen trying to find something to watch after they go to bed and do it then, when the exhaustion hits from trying to parent and work and yoga and school and it feels like it’s impossible to move my body even just one more inch. It’s doable.

I know, mentally, that these aren’t real reasons not to do things. My life won’t all fall apart if I decide I’d rather make a fort than fold laundry, or if I play pretend with the kids instead of forcing them to clean their room. I know this. Things always get done, eventually. However, knowing it doesn’t make it feel less real, or make me feel less overwhelmed at how much there always is to do.

The only thing I took out of my sessions with my first therapist was “You can do anything for 5 minutes. Even if you don’t get it done, at least its started and you can give yourself permission to rest because you’ve made that start. And usually, once you start, you’re more motivated to finish. So whenever something feels overwhelming, just do it for 5 minutes.” It’s been my life saver. I’ve discovered just how much I can actually get done in 5 minutes – and honestly, she was right, I’m usually invested enough after 5 minutes that I just finish it. Maybe that’s the answer then. Play for 5 minutes, no distractions, just play. Or clean for 5 minutes, right after they go to bed. Find 5 minutes, and just do one thing that needs attention.

I think I’m going to stop putting it off and find a new therapist, if a children’s show brings up all this.

Anxiety and Cheerios

It’s a quiet Sunday morning, my coffee is hot, and my kids are doing sensory play. You would think this would be a lovely little morning but my anxiety is off. the. charts.

G. keeps taking her brother’s toys directly from his hands, he’s freaking out, she’s screaming when he tries to take them back. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I tell her that she can’t take things away from him, that he has a right to play with toys too, she just keeps grabbing. If I give him something, she immediately “trades” with him so she gets the new one. It’s like she doesn’t think he’s a real person, that he’s ‘just a baby’ and so what he has and wants doesn’t matter. She is the important one. We’ve had talks about how she would feel if her friends at school behaved like this with her, I’ve done it to her (lovingly, and with an explanation after the freakout) and she just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t care. Everything is hers, and he can just deal. So I’m constantly wranging at her, telling her to stop taking things from her brother, to share, he can play too, etc etc etc. It ended with ultimatums, that if she couldn’t play nice then she couldn’t play. Makes for a real relaxing play experience.

And then he starts to eat the “sand” (ground cheerios, because I’m not a masochist hahaha) and so she does, then she gets pissy because I told her to stop eating the sand, because when he sees her eat the sand then he thinks he can eat the sand and I don’t want him to think that, the next sensory bin might not be edible. Now the powder is getting every where. You would think as an ECE I would be able to relax and see the learning in this but there’s no learning, just snacking. And messing.

Why can’t I just relax and let the play happen?! Why must I be so in control of it all the time?!

My girlfriend has been posting all this stuff on Insta, like she’s trying to start an educational mom blog there, and she talks a lot about letting go and letting experiences happen. I admire that. I want to be like that. I can’t quite get there yet. A lot of my PPD was wrapped up in the idea of control, that I needed to be in control all the time, if I lost control of the situation, of the kids, everything would fall apart on me. With my hubby being gone so much of the time, I always needed to be in control, I always needed to be on. If I let go, things would spiral and I would never be able to get things under control again.
This obviously is not what would happen, but in my mind, I needed to be on top of everything always. So now, part of what I’m trying to do is let go. Not control everything. The outcome is what it is.

It’s an especially hard pill to swallow, because I used to BE that mom. The one that let messes happen, the one that made ooblek and did science experiments, and just let it be. I remember sitting with some moms at out local Parent Link, silently judging them because they all agreed that they hated playdoh, that it was something that could be done at daycare, they hated it because it got everywhere and then they were forever cleaning it. And all I could think was Playdoh? Really? That’s where you draw your line? THAT’S too messy? They’d hate my house!

And now I hate my house 🤣 That’s a little extreme, but it is what it is. I hate that I’m not fun anymore, that I can’t let play happen. Let mess happen. They’re only little once, mess can be cleaned, blah blah blah. This is why this morning I decided I needed to let it happen.

Fuck me, it’s hard work. It feels like exposure therapy, and I’m ignoring the mess and the fighting and the crying and the eating by blogging and deep breathing. Makes sense, right?! If I can’t see it, I can’t stress about it 🤣

While I typed, the play calmed down. G. found a pot and started to ‘cook’ with the powder. L. started to just scoop it on to his body. I could see what was starting to form.

And then L. grabbed the towel I placed underneath to help with clean up (baby steps haha) and dragged the powder all over the kitchen and living room. Cue the deep breathing, pull out the vacuum. We’re getting there.

Parenting the Shit out of Life. Literally.

Let’s talk potty training.

G. daytime potty trained like a dream. We tried once or twice when she was small, around 18 months. She was showing signs, she wanted to sit on the potty, she asked for it, but it never went anywhere. Around 2 we tried again; she would pee in the potty once, then find a corner to hide in and use that for the rest of the day.

At 2 1/2 I had two weeks off for Christmas break, and I decided “This is it. We’re doing this.” And this time, it worked. Within 2 days she was accident free.

Night training has been a whole different issue. At first, she was in pull ups, and that was fine. She stayed dry for almost a month. And then she was having accidents almost every night. Nothing seemed to help; we tried reward charts, we tried restricting fluids, we tried getting her up to pee during the night. All that did was keep her awake at night, because she was not the type to just lay down and go back to sleep. When she was up, she was UP.

So we decided to just roll with it. Let her stay in her pull ups. Whatever, she’s only 3. But then, she started peeing in her pull-ups on purpose. She would wake up dry, and then wet herself. Or, she would get up out of her bed 3 or 4 times before she fell asleep because she needed a dry pull-up. When the morning came that she crawled into MY bed, peed in her pull-up, and it leaked all over MY mattress – the one with no mattress cover – I decided enough was enough. I took her out of the pull-ups. I figured, at this point, there’s a bit of behaviour issues that is going along with this. This isn’t strictly biological, she’s doing this out of laziness, or behaviour regression because her brother was getting up at night so she needed to too. Who knows. But, we ended up cutting the pull-ups at the worst possible time – when the local Walmart was out of mattress covers. Of course. We ended up going with some Goodnights bed pads, and they worked fine for a while but they only covered so much surface area, and now her mattress is basically ruined. It was working though, we could get down to one accident a week, usually less than that. And then all of a sudden, she was wetting the bed again. Like, two or three times a night sometimes. It was so frustrating, especially since her brother had just started to sleep better, and now she was up so many times needing her blankets changed. I was doing SO MUCH LAUNDRY just to keep up with the demand for sheets. I was exhausted.

This meant, back to pull-ups. However, she had been out of them for so long that they were super uncomfortable. I was hoping that would mean she would stop peeing at night so that she wouldn’t need them anymore but surprise! She adjusted and now doesn’t complain about them anymore. However, she has been asking me the last few days when she can go back to just panties again.

Now I’m at a standstill. I want her to be able to wear panties to bed again. I know she’s not super comfortable, I know she doesn’t love wearing diapers like her brother does. However, she’s still waking up wet at least 1-2 times a week. I told her two nights ago, if she made it to the end of the week and stayed dry (i.e. until Monday, which is the 1st day of the month) then she could go back to panties. That night she had two accidents. So what do I do? Do I risk going back to having to change sheets every two nights? That’s especially less than ideal, since her brother now shares her room. Or do I keep her in pull-ups when I know she’s uncomfortable both physically and emotionally? I’m sort of stuck in the middle here.

Please let me figure this out before L. decides he’s done with diapers too 🤣

Gentle Parenting. Ish.

My four year old cried the entire way home from the grocery store today, and told me I broke her heart. She wanted to hold my hand, but she didn’t want me to get mad at her so she didn’t ask.

How utterly, unbelievably heart breaking is that?!

I had just yelled at her in the check out lane; she tried to lay down on the rack on the bottom of the cart while I boxed up the groceries, and she caused another man to crash into a stack of boxes on his way by in order to avoid her. So I got frustrated, and irritated, and told her to hold on to the cart and Not. Move. Daddy walked her out to the car and put her in her seat while I loaded in the groceries in the trunk and her brother into his seat, and then she cried. And cried. And cried. Because I yelled at her.

This was not the kind of mother I wanted to be. This was not the kind of mother I was before her brother came. This is what PPD created. I watch all these TikToks of amazing mothers, who remain calm, preach responsive parenting, who talk about respectful conversations and discipline over punishment, and all these beautiful things that I used to be able to do too. But not anymore. My temper is on a hair trigger, and G. is so used to my yelling that it doesn’t faze her anymore, she doesn’t hear it, doesn’t respond to it. Which of course is super frustrating, and causes even more yelling. I see all these mothers doing it “right” and think, “Why can’t I do that anymore?! Where did that mother go?!”

Of course, it’s easy to be that mother when you have a dream child who doesn’t really throw tantrums or not listen, or misbehave in really any major ways. G. always had a kind heart, she always really wants to please; the worst she ever does is jump on the furniture hahah. These behaviours are new and foreign and I’m so lost in dealing with them. I shouldn’t be, I do this for a living. Why is it so much harder when it’s your own? The emotional investment? The feeling like your child is a direct reflection of you as a person, and that if you can’t control your little clone you’re a failure as a human being? What exactly is it about our own children that make them so hard to parent?!

So how do they do it?! How do you find the patience of a saint, when your child is determined to throw you over the edge? She’s at the age where it matters more than ever. She’ll actually remember some of this. I want her to be respectful, to have patience, to listen and explain herself and be able to defend her actions. How the hell am I going to teach that to her if I can’t do it myself?

There’s a cycle here I’m desperate to break. I think part of why I started this was to be able recognize my patterns, see my triggers, write out what I’m doing so I can reflect easier. I’ve always processed better with writing than with just thinking, hopefully this continues here too.

Hopefully.

An Ode to My New Duvet

Seriously. Is there anything better than new bedding?!

Between my ginger furnace of a husband, my very needy cat, a four year old that still wets the bed at least 1 (if not 3) times a week, a 17 month old who just doesn’t sleep, and plain old insomnia, what sleep I get is precious. Very very precious. I needed at least 8 hours before kids, and now I’m surviving on five broken hours and usually the same amount of coffee. I could sponsor Folgers at this point, and Starbucks might as well just get my pay check direct deposited to them. It’s been rough for everyone involved.

The lack of sleep both was a huge trigger and a huge sign of my PPD/PPA. I barely slept when I was pregnant; as soon as I would fall asleep my hips would ache, and I would wake up every time I’d have to roll over. Then L was born SGA, with low blood sugar and losing more weight than he could afford to. We needed to wake him every three hours, nurse, pump, bottle feed, sleep for an hour, repeat. No “sleep when baby sleeps”, his seriously neglected sister needed me during daylight hours and heaven forbid she nap – too much time away from Mama. Then she was up at least twice a night screaming for me. Our first night with Daddy gone to camp, we all cried in G’s room at bedtime. They would tag team me – L would wake up to feed, go back to sleep, G would wake up and cry for two hours for me to snuggle, which I would resist because I wouldn’t be able to hear the baby, and then as soon as she would fall asleep, L would wake up to feed.
I didn’t sleep for weeks.
I would dread bedtime.
I would lay awake at night once one of them got me up, because I knew it would be pointless to go back to sleep, I’d be again up in less than an hour.
You have no idea how many nights I regretted having another baby, how shitty I felt about throwing off the balance we had as a family. I wanted to go back to the way things were before. I wanted to walk away. I loved him so fiercely, but I resented him at the same time. The same with his sister. I loved her so much, but I resented her not being able to adjust like *that*. Which is ridiculous. I couldn’t adjust and I was a grown ass woman. She was 3.

Everyone kept telling me “You just need some sleep”. “Everything will be better once you get some sleep”. Turns out, not helpful. Know what was helpful? When I started therapy. When I began to pay attention to myself and take care of myself. When we went into Lockdown and I was forced to find a way to make life happen without shutting down, burying myself in my phone, or rage screaming when all I wanted was 5 minutes of peace. Turns out, when you’re stuck in the house together in a long Alberta winter, you start to figure your shit out. We made it work.

However. Now with work, and school, and kids, and life, things are creeping up. I’m starting to lose sleep again. I’m starting to withdraw. My boss suggested a therapist through our Family Resource Centre, one would better understand my needs and would relate a little better than my first (A story for another day), and I’m very tempted to make that phone call. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

Just. I know it starts with sleep.

So this week I splurged. I bought a new duvet that was lightweight but still warm, and so soft to the touch. I also got a new throw blanket and matching throw pillows. Hubby is gone for work for two nights, the sheets are freshly washed, my legs are freshly shaved. Consider this an act of self-love. It’s gonna be fucking fantastic.

Balance

I made the choice a few months ago to return to grad school. I work in Early Learning, and after 11 years being on the floor, directly playing with children, I feel like my brain is turning to mush. How many times can you sing Row Row Row Your Boat? How many diapers can you change? How many times can you say “We don’t bite our friends” and “Gentle hands please” or “For the love of God, stop climbing the fucking shelves!”? (That last one might just be in my head).

So, I decided I would go back to school. I love to learn, I love the theory and the discourse behind what I do, so it was an easy decision. It started with a course on our provincial Early Learning Curriculum. Not bad, I thought. A few hours a week, I thought. I work early in the mornings, the kids go to bed early, I have my whole evenings. I can do that.

Goddamn.

I have a whole new fucking respect for parents who are currently working from home. This shit sucks. Attempting to get anything done with kids around is like shovelling your driveway in a snow storm. With a teaspoon. Trying to find time to do the readings, participate in the online discussions, make time for the Zoom classes, research and write the assignments. This is in addition to:

-Get up at 4am to get me and two children (none of which are morning people) ready for a full day at daycare.

-Work a full day in a room with 17 2.5-3 year olds.

-Come home, feed, bathe, and put to bed two little gremlins, who have been up since 4am (see above).

-Yoga/Run/Some form of physical movement.

-Spending time with my severely neglected husband.

-Go to bed at a decent hour so that I’m not a monster the next day.

Just, like, a little bit of exhaustion at this point. My weekends are my saving grace, I can catch up on some work during nap time, get some reading done while the kids play or run while they watch TV. Poor G. though. I feel like I’m neglecting and ignoring her, while she’s living her best life playing on her tablet the whole time. L., on the other hand, goes back and forth between just doing his own thing and desperately needing to cling to me like I’m vanishing into thin air. My little quarantine baby can’t handle being away from Mama too long. He’s a lot better at playing alone than his sister ever was, so he’s surviving just fine.

And this is just one course.

So I’m working on balance. When they said “Find time for yourself, make yourself a priority, you can’t pour from an empty cup, blah blah blah”, where exactly did they want me to take that time from? My precious sleeping time?! I already feel like I’m neglecting my kids for school and neglecting school for my kids. It’s tricky. However, I know it’s for the best in the long run, I’ll be happier, they’ll be happier. They have to learn to be independent at some point right? They have to be able to spend time with themselves at some point. I just hate that I feel guilt that I’m not with them at all times. Then I wonder, my mom kicked us out of the house to play as soon as breakfast was done and didn’t let us back in – unless it was to pee – until lunch. Did she ever feel guilt about it? Or did she just revel in her actual clean house? (That’s the dream, isn’t it)

So that’s where things are at. My brain is tired. My body is tired. My tired is tired. However, the personal satisfaction is worth it, my kids are developing some independence, it’s all good. Right?

I’m fucked.

Being “Healthy”

I have a complicated relationship with exercise.

Sometimes I say things like ” I run so I can eat pizza”.

How fucked up is that?!

Running isn’t supposed to be a punishment for eating. Eating shouldn’t be a reward for exercise. But, lately I’ve been finding myself in this mindset. I’ve committed to regaining some strength, to making time for myself, to making my heath a priority again, but really, how healthy am I being? Is it an actual mindset shift, or am I just punishing myself in the name of Being Healthy?

I love how energized I feel after a run, when I’ve ran further and faster than I thought I was capable of. I love how calm and focused my mind feels after a good yoga session, how strong I feel in my base, I feel like I’m in control of my body again. I don’t know why I fall into this trap of “you have to lose 5 more lbs! You ate a whole box of wings, you need to add extra miles this weekend!”

I think part of it is that I haven’t gotten control of my eating yet – I still do things like eat an entire pizza, or the whole box of wings. And not just every now and then – more often than I’d like to admit. I have no motivation to cook healthier, because it takes more time and that’s something I have so little of. So when I do things like this, I always end up on this mental loop of “You’re fat, you’re lazy, you have no self-control, your husband is going to leave you because you’re fat and lazy and no one wants to have sex with someone who’s fat and lazy.” So what do I do? Binge exercise, wear myself out, get no results because I have unrealistic expectations, and then eat because why not. Then I look in the mirror, say “look at that fucking gut” (read: post c-section sagging belly) and the cycle starts.

It’s a cliche, but I started to try to shift my mindset in January. No resolutions, just an attempt to bring myself back. Gentle weight loss, move more, eat more veggies. I’ve managed 1/3. I’ve rediscovered how much I love regular yoga. The weight keeps fluctuating – up 5, down 15, up 7, down 2, up 5, so on and so on -and for the most part I’ve stopped the late night binges. However, the healthy cooking habits are still a challenge, and I don’t want my kids to grow up with unhealthy relationships with food because I have unhealthy relationships with food. But even that seems to not be enough to really shift my mind.

So now here’s my conundrum. How do I force myself to eat better, create a better mindset around food and exercise, without it feeling like I’m punishing myself? Is there a mantra I can tell myself? Something new to help reframe my way of thinking? Obviously I need to speak more love to myself. Be kinder to myself. Everyone is their own worst critic, that’s what everyone keeps saying. Too bad my critic speaks so fucking loud.

Breathe.

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

The biggest thing I struggle with is guilt. I think that’s pretty common among most mothers. However, mine is debilitating. I can’t breathe under the weight of the guilt. Over everything. What I feed them. What I don’t feed them. How they play. How they don’t play. Am I providing enough experiences for them? Should I even provide experiences? Should I just let them be? Am I being too hard on them? Am I keeping them safe enough? Am I keeping them too safe? Are they getting too much screen time? Am I giving them enough face time? Enough one on one time? Am I yelling too much? Am I too permissive? Did they even eat vegetables today?

It goes on and on and on.

It’s not fun in my head.

So, I started something last month. I joined some girlfriends on Facebook, and we decided we would do a free 30 day yoga challenge. Every night, I had 20-30 minutes where I turned off the lights, lit some candles, and did yoga. Even when I had online classes, even when Hubby was home from camp, I still escaped into my office and did some yoga. Fuck me, it was hard. I lost so much muscle tone in the last year, I could barely hold my body up. But, I wasn’t going to chicken out this time. I fucking did it. I finished all 30 days.

And then something weird happened that I didn’t expect.

Monday was supposed to be a new work out program. A new fresh start. I did Day 1. Hated it. Tuesday, I did Day 2, hated every minute of it even though it was yoga/pilates inspired workout. Today is Wednesday, and I did Day 1 and 2 of a new monthly calendar of yoga and it felt so good.

Turns out, even though I didn’t notice it happening, I was addicted to yoga. It was a safe space, away from everything going on. I missed it. And lets be real, it gave me some space away from everyone else’s needs. Hubby had to step up and be the default parent while I was in my space, and it felt so nice to not be “It” for a while. This never happens – Hubby works camp, and so I had to step up when he’s gone, and it’s a routine that never changes even when he’s home – which leaves me feeling pissed off and overwhelmed. I didn’t think 20-30 minutes a night would be so life changing (not to be melodramatic or anything).

I still have guilt. No doubt. Crippling guilt. Just, for once, none about knowing I need self-care and all that stuff mom blogs post about, and then failing at taking care of myself in the most basic way.

Weird.