Maybe it’s a “dramatic” title, but I know I’m not the first at-home mom to feel this way. And I truly am grateful to be able to be at home with the kids, while making some side income taking on business writing contracts. But my reality is that some weeks, I can go two, three or four days without even stepping outside beyond the mailbox. And that isn’t actually stepping outside – I just have to curve body around the side of the house to grab the mail, while my feet remain firmly planted inside.
“So just go outside! What is stopping you?” Well, I say this to myself a lot. I even put it on my daily to do list: “Get some sunshine.” I know if I want to come out on the healthy end of my experiences with postpartum anxiety and depression, natural light, Vitamin D and fresh air are all a part of that. Yet my home is my prison, and I am my own jailer.
That To Do List I mentioned? More specifically, it is my prison keeper. It is my handcuffs and my bars, as I add about three things to the list for every one I check off during the day. Here is how it works:
1) Get kids up. 2) Feed kids breakfast. 3) Clean up mess from meal. 4) Nurse baby. 5) Change diapers. 6) Go outside. WAIT! Before I do that, I should eat something too. And I need to throw in that load of sheets so they are clean before my children’s naps. Then I should remember to pull some meat out of the freezer for dinner. And someone is texting me, I better respond to that or I’ll forget. I need to pee. My toddler is asking for more milk. Now my toddler needs a diaper change again. And I might as well change the baby’s diaper now too.
Where was I? Oh yes, we were going to go outside.
Shoot, it’s getting cold and windy looking. Oh well, we can still go out! Bundle up the kiddos! Oh wait, I need to nurse the baby again. He fell asleep. That’s okay, I can put him in his crib and just take the toddler out to the backyard! Crap, now it is raining (or hailing, or snowing, or whatever!). Well, we’ll just wait a few minutes. I have plenty of stuff I can do. Like… laundry! I need to put that load in the dryer now. And what was I planning for dinner again? And now my mom is texting me, wondering when I would like her to come by to help out. Can you come RIGHT NOW? Haha, j/k!
Now time to go out! Oh but… it’s 1 pm. HOW IS IT 1 PM ALREADY??? My toddler needs lunch and a nap! And now the baby woke up and he wants to eat too. Oh well, we can go outside quick after her lunch and before her nap right?
At this point, I reflect on the last time I decided we could go out “quick” before her nap. It went something like this: Change diapers again, get them dressed for outside, get myself dressed, get the baby up in the carrier, get my daughter some more milk, and finally (it’s 2 pm at this point) go outside…
… And that is when my daughter has a meltdown. So here we are, getting our fresh air, and my daughter is screaming her sorrows into the sidewalk. All I can do is hold onto her coat and make sure she doesn’t roll into traffic.
Let’s back up to 1 p.m. Since I don’t find peace and enjoyment in the above scenario, I choose to just do lunch and a nap. Maybe she will fall asleep quickly and we can go outside afterwards? (That is always what I tell myself!) The reality is, that I will end up being busy with my To Do List: dinner, laundry, cleaning, answering e-mails, etc. Fortunately for my daughter, my husband often gets home from work in time to take her out for a bit before dinner.
Part of my experiences with Postpartum Anxiety is that it makes me very scatter brained. This is why I have my daily To Do List. It brings order to the chaos, and is helping me feel more in control of my own self and actions. It is something I need at this time. But, it can also chain me, from something as simple as getting fresh air. Especially in the winter, when the days are so much shorter in Canada, I feel that the simple act of getting outside is privilege that I cannot regularly achieve. And when I do manage it for a decent length of time – say a mom friend invites me on a walk and I make a real effort to make it – I have to suffer the consequences. The rush of being organized and on time and getting out gives me energy in the moment, but later in the day I will be exhausted. Or I will come home and realize that I didn’t get anything for supper figured out, or those sheets are still wet and not ready for nap time, or that the children don’t have many clean cloth diapers left. I know some of these things seem simple to fix (how hard is it to defrost a freezer meal the night before?) but the reality is that when you are constantly putting out fires, or spending a significant amount of mental energy regulating your mood, you don’t have the brainpower left over to remember to be more organized. So often, I stay inside, getting my Vitamin D in pill form.
It’s something I hope to change, and I am looking forward to a day when things are simpler for me. But progress takes time, and in this moment, I often still fall into the trap of never lifting my head up out of the daily grind. But for now, I just wanted to share this post, and let other moms who may feel the exact same way know that they aren’t alone!
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17
November 2016 Update: I FINALLY got diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, from the fall I received when I hit my head right after my son was born. It definitely lent to how scatterbrained I was feeling. It’s funny, even though I still have trouble being organized, knowing that there is reason for it, and it will eventually get better, makes a huge difference!