Sometimes being a mum can feel like too much. Especially in those first few sleep deprived weeks or if you already have a child. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having these types of feelings, every mum has them at some point, even if they don’t admit it. Having feelings such as frustration, annoyance or anger can take you by surprise and it can be difficult to deal with them, particularly if your child is being demanding too. This can result in emotional outbursts, sometimes in the most inappropriate locations or situations. Again, this is really normal and happens to a lot of mums.
Here’s some helpful advice to try and prevent mummy meltdowns happening.
This is really important. Start with being honest with yourself about how you are feeling, even if you don’t like the truth or wish that you weren’t feeling this way. If you can, try to look back at the circumstances that have caused you to feel this way – perhaps you are overwhelmed at dealing with a new baby, or had a traumatic birth experience? Identify if there are any specific triggers which cause you to become upset or angry.
Talk it through
If you feel that you can, talk through how you are feeling with someone else. This could be your partner, a family member or friend. Be clear with that person what you need out of the conversation – if you just want them to listen, then say so. If you need reassurance or advice, make sure that you are talking with someone that you trust and respect. Remember that it can be difficult for others to really empathize with your situation, especially if they don’t have children (or haven’t given birth). Whilst it can be very tempting to ask other mums if they have experienced the same, be aware that every mum is different and that they may not want to admit things themself. This is also the case for looking at online forums or social media, there will be plenty of mums in the same boat but also a lot of alternative views. These may cause you more upset if you read them with a negative mindset.
Ask for help
There is no shame in asking for help, and it certainly doesn’t make you any less of a super mum. Whether it’s for looking after your child to give you a break, or bringing round some dinner so you don’t have to think about it. People are always willing to help and it’s actually really beneficial for your child to be around other adults. Even if you just manage to get out to your local mum and baby group, there’ll be plenty of spare hands available. Getting yourself out of the house is a great way to keep your spirits up, even if you just take your baby for a walk around the block. It’s definitely the case that you can go stir crazy if you stay inside with a baby all day every day, so try to get out a few times a week at least. The fresh air is brilliant for both of you, and trips out are never as traumatic as you imagine them to be.
Look after yourself
Self care and treating yourself may seem like an ambition rather than an intention, but you should make sure you look after yourself properly. Staying hydrated with plenty of liquids is key, ideally water but lots of cups of tea and coffee will do the trick too. Eat sensibly and ensure that you are getting a good balance of nutrients through the day, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Aim for a mix of carbs, protein, fruits and vegetables at each meal to boost your energy levels.
Also make sure that you are taking care of your basic needs. You may feel that you haven’t got the time or energy to have a shower or bath and get dressed, but this can make you feel much more energised and positive. There’s no expectation that you blowdry your hair or have a full face of makeup though! Even though you may think that other mums are judging you on your appearance, they’re really not.
If you are sleep deprived or suffering from broken sleep, this can have a huge impact on your daytimes. If it is practical to do so, have short naps yourself during the day or at least a good rest. Look at options for getting more sleep at night time too. This could be sharing the load with your partner or just going to bed (much) earlier. Although it doesn’t seem like it, sleep issues do eventually get better and you will get your evenings back!
In the heat of the moment
If you feel yourself heading towards a meltdown, there are a few easy tricks you can use to help keep calm. Taking yourself away from your current location or situation can really work wonders, even just for a couple of minutes. If you have your children with you, make sure that they are safe and then go into a different room. Then use a distraction technique to help your brain change tack. This could be counting to ten or engaging in a mindfulness exercise. Some people even swear by sucking on an ice cube. If you can, keep your time out going for long enough that you feel yourself relaxing and changing perspective. If you’re struggling with this, it can be really helpful to describe your current situation either in your head or to another person. When you stop and observe what’s happening it gives you a reality check and often helps you see that you’re getting stressed over something that’s not really a major disaster.
If it’s not possible to step away you could try clapping your hands loudly once or twice. This works in two ways, the noise gives you time to stop and assess your situation, plus the clapping action helps to get rid of some tension.
Also, concentrate on your breathing. You may find that your breathing gets shallower or even stops when you’re feeling stressed. Try to take slower deeper breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Although it might be the last thing you feel like doing, being silly and laughing can also be a great distraction, plus your kids will love it! Try to really let go and find something to make you laugh. This could be pulling silly faces or throwing some shapes in an impromptu dance. Dancing is brilliant for shaking out tension too.
Reward charts are brilliant for kids, but they can also work for adults too. It doesn’t need to be stuck on the fridge; you could think creatively! Give yourself a reward when you feel that you’ve dealt with a situation well, especially if you’re aware of your specific triggers. Then plan for something special when you’ve reached a certain amount. This gives you motivation but also boosts your confidence because you can see how you are progressing. Don’t ever take rewards away, such as if you feel like you’ve had a bad day.
If you do find that you’re not coping on a regular basis, or that you can’t get yourself out feeling the way that you do, it’s probably time to seek professional help. You can start off by talking to your midwife, health visitor or GP about how you are feeling. In some cases, talking it through with someone external to your situation can be really useful and help to put things into perspective. They may also be able to offer some helpful advice or tips, especially if your baby is struggling with things like colic or reflux.
There’s absolutely no problem in being completely honest about how you are feeling, you won’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last. It may be that you are suffering from post-natal depression, which is a lot more common than you may think. The mental health charity Mind estimates that 10-15% of mothers experience post-natal depression, and it can occur in new mums and those who already have children. It’s different to the hormone surge you feel around three days after giving birth which comes and goes quickly. Post-natal depression normally occurs from around six weeks after birth, and can last for many weeks or months. There are varied symptoms, which include being tired and unable to concentrate as well as feelings about being unable to cope, guilt or anger towards your partner or baby.
There are a range of treatments available for post-natal depression, and you won’t necessarily need to take medication. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy can be very beneficial. You will need to be completely honest with yourself and others to gain the most benefit of these types of treatments, but you can talk through the options before you start anything. There are lots of organisations that offer support to mums with post-natal depression.