Tips for New Moms: Three Steps for Sanity
Tips for New Moms: Three Steps for SanityHow do moms prevent becoming depleted? How do we demand help from our spouses or accept the injustice that things are not going to change? How do we acknowledge the rage we feel without torching our marriages? Here are some of the conclusions that been-there-done-that moms have come to bread crumbs for your first visit to this perilous forest.
Hurl Pots, and Then Make a Plan
When my sister and I, thirteen months apart, were both under the age of three, my mom took us to see the pediatrician, concerned about our wakefulness during the night and fussiness during the day. She told the kind doctor how frustrated and worried she was that something was amiss with our behavior.
The pediatrician prescribed two very sound treatment options: "First, install a gate outside of the girls' bedroom so they can't automatically bother you when they wake up. Secondly, go out to your garage once a week while the kids are asleep. Take the extra clay flowerpots you have around and one by one, hurl and smash the pots on the wall."
Hurl pots. That's what no one tells a new mom. Rage simply isn't among the traits we expect of cookie-baking, hand-holding mothers. Yet when asked, moms of every age admitted that rage was a defining characteristic of early motherhood.
Time-Outs for Mom
If the tempest erupts in the presence of your child, take a time out. In moments of fury, every parent realizes how capable he or she is becoming violent with a child. Be the best role model you can and show little fireball Devon how to count to ten, take deep breaths, or leave a situation till you can calm down.
If you're seething over your rights being trampled, try not to hiss and spew indiscriminately at your spouse. Ultimately, the paintball game in which you shoot splats of anger at him will only make him defend himself or run off. You won't change him and his loafing ways, unless you have a more strategic plan.
Start taking your livid self out of the house on a regular basis for cool-downs. This in itself will be progress, a decision to put yourself first, say, one night each week. Split a three-hour break in half, one part for pampering or exercise, one part for hard thinking. (If you decide to exercise, work out long or hard enough for endorphins to kick in. That sweet rush of adrenaline is darn near orgasmic for tight-wired moms.)
When you've de-stressed a bit, take some time to consider these valuable lessons from psychologist and author Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., in her book The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships:
- Venting anger may not help. It tends to protect or solidify, rather than challenge, the existing rules or patterns of a relationship.
- The only person we can truly change or control is our own self.
- Blaming and fighting are often ineffective methods for exacting change, and ways to avoid the more threatening job of changing your self.