Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to remain sane in the midst of caring for a child

Spending a major part of your time with a child is draining.  You need to recharge your batteries from time to time.  And of course, prevent the batteries from getting drained in the first place!  (Once again, since I am writing from the point of view of a mother, I've used "mom" everywhere - but it applies for all caregivers)

* Keep taking breaks to recharge your batteries.  Do whatever works for you - take a nap, read a book, exercise, meditate, do some handwork - but do it.  A grumpy/tired mom is a bad mom.  What works for me is that I set an alarm, and then take a short nap, or read for a while, or write something, or surf - and tell Puttachi not to disturb me for that much time.  I also tell her that she is my sweetest little itsy-bitsy and I love her very much and want to play with her but I have no strength left, and so I need a little time to "get strength"   I am available of course, to solve little problems during that time.  The setting of the alarm makes her feel that it is a fixed time, and though she has no idea how long that half an hour is, she realizes that it is a finite period, and I guess that is comforting. And after this time alone, I feel much better, and then I make an effort to be more involved with her, so that she can see the difference.

* As I see it, I have two choices - finish most of the work before Puttachi wakes up, and then be available to her all her waking time.  Or get in some of my work-work when she is asleep, and then get in cooking, cleaning, laundry when she is around.  I choose the latter, because, these are things I can do with her hanging on to my skirt, telling me things, or listening to stories.  But reading, and writing and napping - you need to be alone for that.

* Have some hand-work to do when all you are needed for is for company.  It doesn't make you feel like you are just sitting around doing nothing.  Some sewing, crochet, painting, mending or whatever works for you.   It can also be very satisfying.

* Get adult company/conversation/interaction.  It is essential.  I am not much of a phone person, and getting real people to talk to physically is not easy.  I rely quite a bit on online features/blogs/news/articles to keep my brain in working condition.  But nothing like some time with like-minded people.  In fact, I can safely say that a substantial part of my sanity and continued enthusiasm about parenting inspite of an energy-draining daughter, is because of the time I spend talking to (adult!) friends at the park nearly every day over the last two years. 

* Some days are nice and bright and cheerful and energetic.  But there are other days when you are cross, grumpy, tired, impatient, irritated and generally at odds with the world.  Save the television and movies for such days!  Don't waste the good days :)

* Put some time aside for exercise.  Take a walk, do yoga, do pranayama or meditation - whatever it is that keeps you feeling fit and healthy.  If you  have someone to leave the child with while you go to the gym or for a walk, great.  Else, it is not impossible to fit it into your schedule.  Exercise and yoga, again, can be done even when the child is around - he might try to imitate you, or he might just prefer to play by himself.    Exercise keeps your body healthy and energetic.

* Take a break.  Leave the child with someone else, and take off on your own or with friends for a rejuvenating day.  Go to the parlour or something, get a massage, a haircut - I don't know - whatever works with you.  Highly-recommended - a few hours with women-friends.

* Even if you are a full-time mom, develop some kind of an activity or interest that will keep a part of your brain occupied with something that is not connected with children.  It can be a hobby, or an interest, or working at something that will be useful for a future career, or volunteer work.  You could learn music, or start painting, you could start teaching - I don't know, whatever interests you.   It has got to be something of your own, something to keep you looking forward to it, pushing you to get better at it.  - Something completely disassociated with the child.

It is absolutely essential for you to remain yourself.  Don't get washed away with motherhood.  It is inevitable, that a part of you changes with motherhood.  But for a healthy mind, you ought to know that you are still yourself.  Am I making any sense at all?

In spite of all this, some days are bad, when  you are weepy, grumpy, frumpy, whiny and snappy.  DON'T FEEL GUILTY.  You are not a saint, nor are you a television commercial mother who is all spotless and shiny and smily all day long.  You are a normal human being.  So it is natural that we feel that way sometimes, even for no reason at all.  But we all know that after the trough, there is always a crest, and so, hang in there.   And if people around you expect you to be smiling and happy always, then it is their problem.  Not yours.  So there.

What are your secrets?

Also read:
Things to do with your child during the vacations
How to have a smooth day with your child


arundati said...

i dont have kids, but i can see so many of my mommy friends nodding in agreement... to most of them, i am their non mommy conversation/ friend from the outside world and am happy to regale them with the shallowness of my current life if it gives them a few laughs and relief!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post :) Thanks Shruthi for posting so many things concerning mother and child so effortlessly. My three year old is hyperactive and I'm physically and emotionally drained at the end of the day. Could you please let me know how to discipline kids in a mature way. I'm tempted to yell and spank my son at times and I know that its wrong. Please let me know.


Shilpi said...

I just had a completely new experience... i felt that i was reading my own writing! my son is close to 5 yrs now, and its exactly as you write... really nice to read my own feelings/experience penned by you :)

Shruthi said...

Arundati, thanks on behalf of all the company-starved mothers for your contribution :)

Rashmi, thank you! I am not sure if I am the right person to talk about discipline - since everybody tells me that I am lucky to have a very easy child (sometimes I wish they'd give me credit for my parenting! :))

Anyway, what has worked with me, in general, is:

1) Maintain limits, set rules and stick to them at all times, all situations, and these rules have to be followed by all the adults who immediately surround the child. The rules needn't be too strict, but you must stick to them - that is the key.
2) As far as possible, explain why the child has to do such and such a thing. Logical explanations work with Puttachi the majority of the time.
3) One thing I've noticed is that I tend to scold and feel the urge to hit when I am tired and angry and upset. So I make an effort to be in a good mood all through the day (see above post for that:))
4) Lastly, there are situations when the child does need a good scolding or perhaps a spank ;) especially when it concerns something that is related to his safety.

hope this helps!

Shilpi, I'm so glad you liked it!

Arnold said...

I'd just like to add the oft overlooked, "Just don't have kids!"

Chitra said...

Not a phone person?? Hyuck hyuck !! Now, when was the last time I heard that??

Shirish Sharma said...

i made this to read to my wife, as she get frustated by my daughter's question and mischiefs, its really nice

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