I put a lot of thought into how to be a happy mom. I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for years to work on my tendency towards anxiety and depression. I had made a lot of progress. So much so that she told me at one point that she thought we could consider stopping my therapy if I weren’t about to become a mother.
I was fortunate that I was able to spend time in therapy during my pregnancy discussing my fears about parenthood. Would I mess up my kid? How could I give him the skills for good mental health when I felt like I was just learning them? She told me it was important to make sure I was taking care of myself because it would be much harder to take care of someone else if my needs weren’t met.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in the beginning I was just trying to get through it. It was hard to make sure my needs were met while caring for a newborn. I couldn’t get all the sleep I needed and it was hard to find the time to eat when I was hungry.
Now the stress and urgency have eased up a bit. My husband generally doesn’t leave for work until I’ve had a shower and something to eat or at least that first cup of coffee I need to feel like I can start the day. My son is less demanding most days so he will play on his own nearby while I cook or start a load of laundry.
If you saw how my situation had changed, you’d see the world of difference and might think, “she must be so relieved and happy”. But I wasn’t happy a lot of the time and sometimes I’m still not. Why not?
Well, have I mentioned that spending time with a baby can be really boring? I love spending time with my son, but I do it nearly 24 hours a day. He could be the most adorable, funnest baby in the world (and of course I think he is) and it would still be reasonable to want some variety in daily activity.
Now that he’s a little more independent I try to do other things while he plays nearby, but I’m limited in what I can do. I’d love to write or read a book, but neither is interruptible enough or allows me to keep an eye on him. Instead, I spend my time doing housework and occasionally I get the chance to reply to an email.
But just like playing with a baby, there’s only so much time one can spend on rote tasks like housework. Plus, Siddhartha needs and deserves some interaction. The problem comes when I try to just unwind and play with him. All I can think about is what else needs to be accomplished. All I can feel is unproductive. I hate feeling that way. I hate that it’s so hard for me to relax and just have fun with my son, completely focusing on him.
I am honest with myself in knowing that I will never feel like everything is accomplished. I know that there will always be something that “needs” to be done and, because of my anxiety, even if there weren’t any tasks needing attention, I would feel as though there were and possibly invent something.
I shared my conundrum with my therapist. She told me these were the times to practice mindfulness, to notice the colors of Siddhartha’s clothes, the beauty of this smile, feel the softness of his hair and notice the metamorphosis of his babbling as it worked its way toward intelligible words.
It hadn’t occurred to me that one could practice mindfulness anywhere, at any time. I had been thinking it was a shame I could not meditate because I very rarely have quiet moments to myself. In my mind, meditation practice was only achieved through sitting with body and hands in a specific position while counting one’s breath. Of course, the irony of thinking of it as an inflexible activity hadn’t occurred to me.
Now, after I’ve thrown in a load of laundry, done the dishes, and both Siddhartha and I are fed, I sit down on the floor and practice. I hear the washing machine stop, feel the impulse to get up immediately in order to switch the load to the dryer, stop myself and return my attention to my son. In this way, we have fun.
Have you ever felt bored hanging out with your kid(s)? What do you do to enjoy your time with them?