People tried to warn me, but I didn’t really listen. I was over the moon at the arrival of my daughter. Angry? At my long-awaited baby? I couldn’t imagine it. Then came the colic. Or whatever it was that made her scream for hours five or six nights each week for no apparent reason – for the first five months of her life. And my blood began to boil.
And yours will, too. Your baby might be an angel, but at some point, you’ll feel frustrated and angry. It happens to everyone – parental anger. And it doesn’t make you a bad parent.
Before your child is even born, give some thought to getting some help with your baby. You might be a patient, logical person – one who can be reasonable in light of some crying, but add in sleep deprivation and hormones and the first few months can be difficult. After that, well, let’s just say that it never feels like you get that rest back.
I am convinced that not getting enough sleep is a huge factor in being able to deal with babies, so anything you can do to ensure you get more sleep is the first step toward being able to deal with the day-to-day situations that happen with a baby, toddler or preschooler. If you have more than one small child, the potential is higher for frustration or just a bad day. Work, family, and simple day-to-day irritants can all contribute to an adult meltdown.
When you find yourself starting to lose it, the first thing to do is to lay your child down somewhere safe. It’s ok if they are crying. It doesn’t hurt your baby to cry for a few minutes while you pull yourself together.
Take a deep breath. And another. Walk out of the room. If you can hand off care temporarily – do so. If you are alone, continue to take deep breaths and walk around. Talk to yourself – cheer yourself on and remind yourself that you are a good parent and can do this. It sounds simple, and it is, but it works.
Then, when you are calm, pick your child back up and take a fresh look at what might be distressing him or her. The more time you spend with your child, the more you will recognize their cues and can solve their problems, but there are days when they are out of sorts and the hours drag by. It just happens. Remember those pictures of well-dressed, well-rested women peacefully rocking their clean, happy babies in rocking chairs that somehow seem to epitomize motherhood? Well – keep in mind pictures are a nanosecond snapshot of life, and that were real, even those “mothers” would want to rip their hair out at times.
As you get to know your child, their triggers and strategies for soothing, you’ll also get to know what sets you off. My husband is a morning person and is useless at night, when he is short-tempered and tired, so we worked it out when my daughter was an infant that I would deal with any situations that came up, say, before 2am, since I was often up late at night anyway. On the flip side, once my husband would go to bed early, he was willing to deal with anything that came up after 2am until he went to work. Each of us could then count on several hours of uninterrupted sleep.
An arrangement like this may not work for you, but take a look at your schedule and see where you can make some changes to be sure you get a break and some rest. Maybe it’s having a family member come over a few times a week so you can take a nap, or a standing arrangement of a weekly night out at a friend’s house.
At times, it may seem like you are upset more than you are enjoying your child. One of my friends suggested keeping a calendar and just jotting down some thoughts each day, or, like my child’s daycare, you could just put a smiley or frown face for morning, noon and night. When I looked back, I could appreciate the small things that made me happy on different days, and even see some patterns for when I was upset, but it was a visual way to see my happiness, as well.
However, if you do see a pattern that shows you are upset a lot of the time, and coping strategies just aren’t working – do not hesitate to call your doctor and talk it over. It is completely normal to lose it at times, but if you are worried, your doctor can help you determine if postpartum depression could be a factor.