Challenges in motherhood come up all the time. From small things to big things, from feeding a baby to managing challenging behaviour in an older child and later emotional developments and boundaries with teenagers- there are always going to be challenges and things that take us unawares as we go through motherhood and our children grow older. As we adapt to the different stages of mothering, challenges come up that are more related to ourselves than to our children, we can experience things like postnatal depression, fear about the future or other health issues that affect our life and our parenting.
In fact, challenges in life are unfortunately inevitable as long as the world is broken- and it’s worth spending a bit of time and energy thinking about how we approach challenges in parenting and the rest of our life, and how our attitudes affect the way we tackle things.
In the moment-
If you’re caught in a tricky situation and emotions and tempers are rising, making sure you can stop, and breathe and try to think clearly is important (but hard, I know!). It’s fine to take yourself to another room to breathe for a few minutes or put something on the tv or get them engaged in a game so you can stop and reflect for a minute in peace. You need to let some more oxygen get to your brain so that you can stop and try to think clearly!
Identify your thoughts in those moments and try to work out whether you are having negative thoughts that are making the challenge because of the way you’re letting it affect you. Replacing the tired cries of our hearts, which can be that we are too tired, fed up of certain behaviour or that we can’t do it any more, with truth about who we are and the truth that our children are children and just like us can’t be perfect.
Recognising the challenge
A really important early step is knowing what the challenge is that you are dealing with. This can be easy or incredibly difficult, depending on whether you are dealing with smaller issues getting your child dressed or battling through things in your own mind. It can be helpful to have a time to reflect on your day, week, or month, and see which smaller and larger challenges keep occurring. The challenges section in The Mama Book is designed for reflection and writing down these things.
If you are repeatedly finding a certain time of day stressful, that is a good thing to take a note of and have some time to think about reasons why that time is causing difficulties for you or making your children act a certain way. Sometime it just takes stepping back a bit to see simple changes we can put into place to make life a bit simpler and smoother.
It’s so easy to get really wrapped up in the details of a problem or challenge, and it can take over when we spend lots of time thinking about it. We easily get overwhelmed and wrapped up in our own lives, but taking time to zoom out and see the rest of the world around you helps us to get a right persecutive.
A good way to do this is to think about what you would say to a friend who was sharing a challenge like this with you. Take a pause, a deep breath, and try to look at it objectively (as hard as that is!) and work out what you’d say to your best friend. It’s unlikely that you’d be unkind or blame them. The negative self talk that can go on in our heads is more obvious when we stop and talk as though we were talking to a friend.
On the note of friends- it is really good to be able to find find a woman or two who is a bit further along in motherhood who you can confide in and ask, who has a bit more perspective on the stage you’re in. If you are tackling something scenic you know that that person has been through themselves, even better. Remember that you only need a few folk whose advice you really trust, whether thats through books or articles or real life. There is no right way to do all of these things, but there is a way that will work for you, so don’t worry about pleasing everyone, just finding your way.
Some folk are able to have formal mentor relationships with those around them but even having a coffee every so often with someone else can be such a helpful time to discuss things, share your concerns and have someone come alongside you in harder things. Even if the best she can do is to tell you that it won’t kill you, or your children- you know that it will pass and you will survive. Toddler years are tough- and knowing that you’ll make it to a point where your child can communicate without feeling like needing to lie down and scream can be encouraging!
If you need more sleep, advice from those around you or to find a good book on a certain topic, reach out and find it. If no one is offering to help, be honest and work out what you need. If you are struggling through something big like a bereavement, illness, or mental health issues, find those who want to support you, and accept help when others ask. Find a kind health visitor or children centre worker to chat to, approach your doctor, just to see what the options are, even if you’re not sure you need them. Sharing your challenges with others allows them to share their burdens with you and in turn everyone finds their loads lifting.
Whether we face challenges that seem big or small, we are not alone. Everyone has their struggles of different degrees at different times, and everyone feels like motherhood is overwhelming at times.
You do not have to do this alone. You do not have to do this perfectly. You do not have to have everything together, and even if it seems like everyone else does, they don’t.
Let someone in, share your experiences and in turn you will be lifting them as you go. You don’t have to struggle through and work it all out on your own, and this too shall pass.