Being a busy working mom of three boys, born 21 months apart, is a learning adventure. Some might just say it is crazy! During their infant/toddler years, I found that I was often stressed and overwhelmed. This came to a head after the birth of my third son; I developed clinical post-partum depression. At the time, I did not have the energy to get out of bed and take care of basic tasks. It was debilitating.
I found parenting to be the most frustrating, draining, and thankless job I have ever loved. So much so, that I became enveloped in my life as a dutiful mom and I forgot to care for my own personal needs, or that I even had any.
I was still a person with likes, hopes, dreams, and needs, but at the time they were ALL on the back burner. I began to realize the need to develop outlets that would allow me to continue being me, while still being a wife, mom and homemaker. The problem was that I did not know how.
I needed personal time to build my mood and attitude for the parenting challenges that came with the territory. Not taking time for myself seemed noble, but in reality it left me ill-equipped to handle the emotional, physical toll that came with child rearing. I would find myself snapping at the boys and being emotionally unstable. It left me sinking into a self-imposed prison of sadness and despair.
For the sake of my kids, husband and myself, I had to begin unlocking ways to manage this new lifestyle in a healthier way. I began the process of taking small amounts of time for myself. The first step was admitting I needed a time apart for me. I would purchase uplifting audio tapes and listen to them on a walk outside. This kept my mind engaged while my body was getting what it needed: exercise, sunshine and fresh air.
This respite set the tone for other activities. I began looking for other ways I could express my creative spirit while I was in the midst of parental duties. Small blocks of time away for reading, walking or hobbies were my first outlets. During those times, I did not have to be mom, caregiver, or provider; I was just me. This nurtured my spirit, my soul, who I was on a deeper level.
The next step was developing "now" thinking. Focusing ahead or behind causes anxiety and stress, staying focused only on the task at hand was a way of keeping calm and focused. When my mind would wander, I was more likely see my moods fluctuate and feelings of helplessness and overwhelm return. Now-thinking keeps you at a manageable place, where multiple thoughts can't attack you.
Creating this awareness, then refocusing my thoughts, was a vital part of the process. The last step I took was to seek a calming and re-centering exercise to keep my mind-body-spirit connection strong and healthy. More hurried activity was not what I was looking for, so this led me to yoga and deep breathing exercises. That, combined with relaxation and guided imagery, gave a yin to my yang of hectic family life. I came to enjoy and look forward to this set aside time. This anticipation was also a valuable emotion.
Knowing how to do these things was not enough; it was only when I made time to practice them that I found true benefit from them. I also learned when a person wants to do something badly enough, they will find the time for it. It was not always easy to do, but by fully recognizing how vital this was to my well-being, I was able to make sure that somehow, there would be time to do it.
It did not happen overnight, but it did happen. I began to gain back a greater sense of who I was at the core and why I wanted to have a family in the first place. By creating purposeful balance in small steps, I was able to better appreciate those growing years. And get myself back to a healthful place, not only in body, but in mind, spirit, and emotions.