I roll over and look at the clock on my phone for the twentieth time-it reads 3:34 am. My almost ten month old son has been waking up every two hours since we put him to bed at seven pm. I immediately begin to calculate the amount of sleep I haven’t gotten on this very long night/morning and can feel the anxiety begin to build.
As someone who was diagnosed with extreme PPA (postpartum anxiety) I have a few triggers that can take me into panic mode if I’m not careful. One of those triggers is consistent lack of sleep. PPA and PPD are struggles unique to each woman and the way she lives her life, her support system, her coping mechanisms and the help she may or may not have found. The support that I’ve found, those who’ve reached out and shared their stories and the encouragement offered has been incredible! As I’ve continued to journey through PPA, I’ve had some time to reflect on my day-to-day life, as a stay at home mama and how I cope with what can be a debilitating diagnosis.
I want to share and break down some of the ways in which I work through PPA everyday. My situation is such that I’m blessed to be a stay at home mama with my son who is almost 10 months old. I’m currently 5 months pregnant with my daughter. My husband often works long hours and we have one car. It can feel overwhelming on the difficult days when my son is going through a developmental leap, teething, sleep regression, figuring out schedules and appointments etc. But I have found some practical and important ways that I navigate these daily challenges and in the process I am learning to make these days count as joyful blessings. Our season as a mama to our little ones is so swift and before we know it, they will be gone from our homes and into the world on their own. Maybe you aren’t struggling with PPA or PPD but you are struggling with the long days as a stay at home mama and how to fill the time. Here are some ideas that hopefully help!
- Establish A Routine: When my son was 4 months old, I started lightly sleep training him and eventually had him on a set schedule with naps, bedtime routine and bedtime. This helped immensely with giving my day a sense of direction and purpose. It can be difficult in the beginning when babies require a lot of daytime sleep. You may feel like you can’t leave your house and that may be true for a few months until they can stay awake for longer periods of time. If you want to sleep train and establish a routine, it’s worth it to be home in this short season. You will find a balance that works for you. There are constants in my day that help. I go for a walk with my son before his first nap every morning. I listen to a podcast devotional during this time. I make breakfast for myself while he naps. I tidy the house at some point. I work on my blog or natural skin care products. I call my mom a few times a week. I sit outside in the sun while my son naps. I rest when I need to rest.
- Find Mom Friends: This can be hard, I understand. We live in a time where social media serves as a platform in which we can express and share our lives without ever coming face to face with other people. This can be negative if we never leave our homes or have in person relationships with other people who are in similar places in life. I encourage you to find even one mom friend that you feel comfortable being with and make it a priority to get together (with or without babies) for fellowship. This has brought me LIFE in the toughest of seasons. Social media can be a great tool here, as well. I’m in a mom group on Facebook that stems from the college I went to, 14 years ago. I also have 2 friends I keep in touch with daily, through chat, from back home. These women all give me life, are a positive sounding board and offer a safe place for me to express myself or the struggles I’m going through. I also keep in touch with my own mom and my sister, their support and friendship is sacred to me!
- Get Out Of The House: I know this is hard too! Trust me. We have one car. We’ve only ever been a one car family so we’ve learned to make it work. We are fortunate that my husband works 10 minutes from here and then takes a work truck to his various work sites. Winter time is the hardest with sharing one car. The last thing I want to do is pack my baby (soon to be BABIES) up on a freezing cold morning and drop my husband off at work. BUT I have found how important it is to have a change of scenery. You don’t even have to spend money to do this. You can go to the library, community center, parks, indoor rec center with walking tracks, etc. I also walk everywhere. We live really close to quite a bit which is a blessing. My neighbor doesn’t drive and they only have one car but she buses it with her 1-year-old! We have great public transit but even I haven’t tried this. I’m impressed with her as she also knows the value of getting out and about.
- Meet Your Husband/Partner Halfway: If you can’t get out as easily during the day, find a way to get out in the evening by yourself while your baby daddy holds down the fort. It’s really important to do this! I did this in the winter more often because it was difficult to get out during the daytime. I would drive to the mall and walk around or meet a friend for coffee. It also meant letting go of that control of being the person who predominately cared for my son. I KNOW this is hard for us as a mama, even when we have great husbands/partners who help us. Just make yourself do it and trust your baby daddy. He loves you and the baby too, he will be fine and you will be refreshed. *This also goes for letting family help you. I’m so blessed to have my mother in love (because I love her!) who helps me all the time. My family lives far away and I don’t know what I’d do without her. It’s also very special for her to have time with her grandson. I’m forever grateful for her help and I love seeing how much my son enjoys his time with her.
- Exercise/Move: Ok. Tough one, right? Who wants to workout when they are sleep deprived?! I do not “workout” per say. Sometimes I’ll use these resistance bands I have if I’m feeling up for it. But I walk every day, sometimes two or three times a day. I do this not only for my physical health but it’s great for my son to get out. We do this rain or shine and in the winter. The only time I don’t go is if the weather is really bad or it’s too cold (or too hot). Walking has aided me in having a shorter, easier labour with my son, rid of me sciatica, helped me sleep and honestly, I just FEEL BETTER!
- Find A Hobby: THIS. Finding something (or a few things) for myself that I enjoy has given me so much life in this season as new mom while struggling with PPA. I’ve always loved writing. I started dabbling with essential oils a few years ago. This lead me to experimenting with making my own natural skin care, body and household products. When I had my son, I had an explosion of ideas to write about as well as new products to experiment making. It only made sense to combine the things I loved and start blogging. While I typically write about motherhood, I still find it therapeutic. Even as I type this blog post, I’m feeling so revived! You might work from home and if that brings you enjoyment, there you go! But I’d encourage you to find something unique to your interests that refreshes you. I’ve had people tease me about how could I possibly have time for my “hobbies. Because I make time! It wasn’t easy in the beginning when my son was really young and some days he doesn’t nap well or just needs me more than usual. But as a mama, we are resilient. We have the unique ability to adapt. You can make time if you realize it’s important. AND YOU, my friend, are very, very important.
- Make Time For Yourself: This goes hand in hand with the above suggestion. I think the reason motherhood is so difficult is because we can’t dedicate the time to ourselves that we had before. Our lives are turned upside down and now we have this human who depends on us for everything. It’s hard not to feel angry or upset sometimes when all we want is five minutes to ourselves. While we may not be able to grab that five minutes in the moment we want it, I do believe it’s possible to make time and practice self-care. Self care is not selfish. What self-care looks like for you is going to be different from what it looks like for someone else. You will figure it out and when you do, you will thank yourself. My sister is a stay at home, homeschooling mama of four. Her husband works two jobs. He’s a Pastor of a home church and he works a local job during the week. He’s an amazing hands on dad but my sister has adapted to his schedule and she does amazing. She still figures out how to find time for herself and she’s taught me how it makes her a better wife and mama!
I understand the struggle. I may not understand your unique struggle, depending on your life. But I do understand the basic struggle of being a mama, loving my baby to the best of my ability, not feeling guilty for practicing self-care and finding value in each day. What we do is an incredibly hard but wonderfully rewarding job. I hope you are encouraged by these suggestions and I’d love to hear from you about how you practice self-care in your season of mother hood!