After the birth of my fifth baby I struggled to enjoy the process. I dreaded waking up in the morning to my children and looked forward to bedtime only to dread waking up again the next morning to start over. I didn’t feel like I was meeting anyone’s needs successfully, including my own. I didn’t want anyone to ask me for anything. I longed to shut my door leaving everyone else outside so I could just be left alone. I didn’t really entertain the idea that I had postpartum depression because I was able to function. I didn’t want to end my life or my baby’s. I was able to take care of myself and my family. But I just was not finding any joy in doing it. It felt like such drudgery. The part that really bothered me was that I really did have so much to be grateful for. And that made me feel worse, knowing I should just be grateful but not knowing how to get out of the pit I found myself in.
I had survived hard things before, including the death of my son. I remembered one of my tactics of survival during that time was to latch on to my positive thoughts and discard the negative ones because I knew they would not do me any good. I had to keep moving forward, my family needed me. So I applied the same strategy to my postpartum struggle. At first I really struggled to be thankful for something. My baby fussed and cried if she wasn’t sleeping and she wasn’t a great sleeper to begin with either. At first I struggled to think of things to be grateful for, so I just repeated things to myself like, “I’m thankful I have arms to hold my baby” or “I”m thankful she has lungs to cry with” and so on. Slowly, I found more and more to be grateful for and the pit I felt buried in began to let me go.
I share this story because I know many struggle with enjoying the monotony of motherhood. One of my Relief Society presidents used to say to me,”you are in the trenches.” True. We fight a war everyday of our thoughts. And sometimes we struggle to find joy in the journey.
Fast forward a few years, I started reading Pollyanna with my seven year old daughter. As we read about Pollyanna’s “Just Be Glad Game” I realized that it was this kind of game that had kept me afloat during some difficult times. I can’t say that I don’t ever find myself struggling to enjoy motherhood anymore, but what I can tell you is the difference I feel when I play the Just Be Glad Game and make it a daily habit.
Here are a few other survival tactics that have helped me from day to day:
Turn on some dance music and just dance with my kids. This has been especially helpful in the afternoon before daddy gets home from work. Whatever contention was in my house before just has to leave.
Consolidate my efforts. Or multitask in a way that gets more than one thing done at once. I get frustrated when I don’t get to exercise or when my kids start fighting when I’m in the middle of my favorite pilates video. Take the kids on a walk. It’s good for you and good for them. Or make a game out of cleaning the house. Put the kids on a timer and see how much they can get cleaned up while you do your jumping jacks and squats in between picking up and wiping counters. I get a work out and the house gets clean! Involve your kids in making dinner or organizing a closet. I have found that they really don’t mind work if it means positive interaction with me.
Get out and visit with other moms. Playdates and visits to the park are great for this and you get some vitamin D in the process.
Take a picture or pull out the video camera. This really helps me put things in perspective and let go of being angry about a situation (like the bag of blueberries that my 3 year old emptied all over the floor yesterday).
Give myself something to look forward to. Telling myself I have something to look forward to is very motivating for me. Sometimes watching a short video of olympic gymnastics on youtube gives me a short break and keeps me going.
Pray for the aid of angels. When I’m feeling like I’m having an unproductive day or my kids just seem to keep arguing I pray for ministering angels to help us in our home.
Start the day with meditation and scripture study. Being consistent with daily meditation and scripture study has really helped me let go of negative thought patterns while replacing them with more positive ones.
And if you are finding that you are unable to to get out of the darkness you feel, or you are unable take care of yourself, your family, and/or you want to end your life or your baby’s, please seek help. Talk to someone, your spouse, medical provider, therapist, or LDS Family Services. Get help. Reach out. Be willing to ask for and receive help.
How have you been able to experience joy in the journey through motherhood? What are your survival tactics? How do you make the monotony fun?