Burn Out

It has been a while since I posted anything on here, not because I didn’t want to, or didn’t have anything to say… Truth is, I have been struggling these past four weeks. For whatever reason, it has been an incredibly hard season with parenting. I have stumbled, waddled, and fought through these past couple of weeks. And you know what is so scary about it? The fact that I could feel myself losing a grip on me; it is that all-so familiar feeling when things are about to spin out of control.

Having suffered Postpartum Depression before, this is one of the scariest things as far as my mental health is concerned. There is always that lingering thought at the back of my mind, “could it be depression, again? What am I not doing right? What am I missing? OR perhaps I have let go of my self-care toolbox and I am paying a mighty price for it…”

It is almost cliché, parenting does not come with a manual, you learn on the go – always learning. And yes, I know I have written that 5 was the best year yet… and it was. Until this depressive episode knocked me off my feet. (NOTE: Not depression, depressive episode, it is temporary, it will lift off, it is lifting off). The realization that my son is growing up way faster than I am probably adjusting hit home hard. And with it comes the independence, the ability to structure thoughts and articulate himself, and of course, the need to push boundaries and limits.

Read More: Why I kept my Postpartum Depression A Secret

And these, admittedly got to me. These parenting struggles. ( I am a single mom, and we recently moved away from home to live on our own. Needless to say, while it seemed like my son had settled well in school and in our new neighborhood, the upsetting of family structure as he knew it started to unravel in a myriad of ways, among them epic meltdowns and legend tantrums. I am talking punch-you-back-because-you-are-not-getting-me-this-snack-and-so-i-will throw-food-in-the-bin – doesn’t help kid takes tae-kwondo classes at school…)

A good part of me could not reconcile the lessons I learned during my therapy sessions with what I was going through. For many reasons, this child seemed not to take any correction from me, and at the time, no one could step in seeing as we were in a new hood. And I started to feel that all-so familiar sense of overwhelm, the one that starts to gather small clouds of haze in true depressive-style.

There were all the red flags: I stopped going for my morning walks, I stopped journaling, early mornings became a thing of the past and the food cravings hit hard and proper. I have struggled with emotional eating before, so the moment I fall back, off early morning runs, off conscious eating, I know I am teetering on the edges of a depressive episode. Add to these the pressures of working from home and I was a proper mess.

Read More: Planning to visit a new mom? Here are 8 things to remember

I am slowly coming out of this depressive episode. I am finding myself, first as an individual, then as a mother – because you cannot pour from an empty cup. I am looking at my selfcare toolbox once again. It is a work in progress. I am easing off pressure with work. I am looking at options on how to get help with parenting – grateful to have a support system around me. I am grateful the people I never thought would come through, and understand this phase I am in, showed up for me. I am doing something about it, and that is what matters.

Why am I sharing this? I am doing this to remind myself that a depressive episode is not a relapse and to keep in mind that I am not a bad mother. This is to remind myself that it is okay not to be okay, but it is not okay to build a home there. That kicking PPD in the butt does not mean I will not struggle with parenting some days. And to let moms know, it is okay to ask for help. It matters.

Image credits

 

Tantrums, and how to deal

As I wrote in my last post which you can read here, there are tons of lessons I continue to pick from my therapy sessions. I am grateful I have been able to pull through the haze that Postpartum Depression is. I realize that the road to recovery is long and winding, and there are many things to learn and many more to unlearn. I did mention that for me, anger and intrusive thoughts were the most intense struggles when I was deep in PPD. I have blogged about this extensively too…and so for that reason, the two entities have been at the forefront of my therapy sessions.

This is the second installment of takeaway lessons from session II when my therapist and I sought to unearth the real issues masked by anger. In the last post, I touched on dealing with my expectations, letting the child be and the anger curve. In today’s post, I will look at 3 more pointers that continue to help me on the road to PPD recovery. Hopefully, this will help another mom as well.

  • Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. Let me write that again for emphasis purposes, and so that you can also read it again: TANTRUMS ARE A NORMAL PART OF CHILDHOOD. The moment you understand that, you are better placed to respond, not react (I am preaching to myself too) By definition, a tantrum refers to a sudden emotional meltdown in kids and is typically associated with whines, tears, screaming, defiance and stubbornness.

Read More: #SnapshotsforSanity

One minute your little one is enjoying cartoon, the next they are screaming their lungs out because the cartoon didn’t do something/cartoon ended/ cartoon slept.. you get the drift. According to this study, at the heart of the tantrums is your child’s inability to express themselves coherently. It is worsened by the fact that the child understands a lot more of what they hear, yet their language is still so limited. Pause and think about how frustrating it is. It is this inability to express their feelings that births tantrums. They are in fact, very very normal. Write it down and post it above your bed if you must. You are not poor at parenting; your little one is just growing as they should.

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Tantrums can be very frustrating

  • The next thing therefore would be, just how do you handle a tantrum?> What do you do in the midst of ear-piercing screams complete with body contortions? Instinctively, the first response would be to join in the scream fest, telling the little child to stop it. It is a very frustrating moment, yet, instead of looking at tantrums as an apocalypse (even though your house may seem like it just happened), you can start to see tantrums as opportune moments for discipline and education.

It is very tempting to storm out of the house to escape a tantrum, but this has the opposite of the intended effect – your child ends up feeling abandoned ( I am guilty as charged of this one. I would lock him up in my bedroom and leave him to his devices – long lessons I tell you). My therapist let me know that the magnitude of the tantrum emotions can actually be scary for a child, hence the need for them to know that you are around.

Read More: Shouting at my son and 4 tips that helped me

Secondly, keep calm and know that your child is growing normally (there should be a meme for this, no?). I realized, deep in PPD that the more I shouted in response to tantrums, the wilder my son became, and so we met at the infamous intersection of emotional meltdown and anger – not a pretty sight, so much so that my mom once asked me, who between the two of us was the child seeing as I was shouting just as much :O.

My therapist advised I needed to learn to approach him in a gentle spirit (hard as it is, it does quell the raging emotional storm to some extent), and embrace him (my eyes almost popped out y’all. Embrace a tantrum-er when I was boiling inside?) While this may not work immediately, it sure does make for a better reaction than yelling.

  • That said, she did mention it was imperative not to yield to unreasonable demands by a screaming child. This is oh-so difficult especially in public spaces (I’m referring to that child who lays prostate in the mall because mom didn’t get skittles :D), but agreeing to their demands teaches him/her that a fit is the way to get things done in future, and who are we really helping in that case?
  • Once the tantrum has subsided, she advised me to take time to talk it out with him, something I almost never used to do! I’d just shut off till the next day (It has been a mighty long road, heh!) Hug and talk to him, acknowledging his frustrations, but making it clear throwing a fit is not the way to express himself.

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  • Lastly, avoid situations that trigger a tantrum. Simply put, tantrums are more likely when your child is a) tired b) sleep-deprived c) hungry. Carry a snack if you are on the go and allow your child to rest before starting your errands (when possible). In addition, know that your child is growing and starting to get a little independent. It helps to give choices from time to time. For instance, “Would you like to watch cartoon first or change your clothes (after school?)” It gives them a sense of control and gives you better feedback.

When all else fails, wine!, be easy on yourself and try it out again tomorrow.

NOTE: I do realize that for moms suffering from Postpartum Depression, tantrums may seem insurmountable. It is easy to feel defeated, suffocated even by what is considered normal child milestones. Do not feel ashamed to ask for help. Take one day at a time, sometimes even one hour at a time. This too shall pass. There is hope.

What are some of the ways you have dealt with tantrums before? How do you handle the whirlwind emotions that you may feel? Let’s chat in the comment box below.

Just a few reminders:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks.
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Takeaway Lessons from Session II

In the second installment of this series of posts (Read the first one here)reflecting my experience during my therapy sessions, I share some of the key pointers my therapist shared with me, and how they are interspersed with my postpartum depression journey. During the second session, my therapist opted to help me deal with my anger, especially towards my son as this was the most prevalent symptoms of my PPD journey. I have written more about this here and here. The second reason for this was so that as the sessions went by, I’d be able to track my progress and journal the same for posterity sake.

Over the many days I struggled with anger, I had started to notice a pattern which I aptly called the ‘anger curve’ – a term I coined because that is what it felt like. The curve typically had 4 key sections: ‘warning signs’, momentum, peak and the dip. The part of the curve that I called the ‘warning signs’ was just that: the cloud before the storm. For Jay, it was typically jumping up and down like a Maasai moran, rolling on the ground and often a cascade of shrill screams. He also had this upward quirk of his mouth that just made me know, and anticipate an emotional storm in every sense of the word.

Read More: Angst

The curve gained momentum because the intensity of all the warning signs aforementioned just escalated. These included sharper screams, vigorous rolling and faster jumps. Occasionally, there were spits (Yes I know, spit-in-my-face and for a moment, I’d often reconsider whose child this was) and punches. At the peak of the curve was that moment when all these theatrics simply melted into a raging unstoppable toddler, and a mom for whom the inability to calm her son simply created the perfect setting for a meltdown. At the end of the curve was a remorseful and apologetic toddler, all spent, exhausted and weepy. At the end of the same curve was a guilt-filled teary mom.

My therapist listened to me keenly, and when I was done offered a number of pointers that’d help me deal with the anger towards my son, then have us look at the source of the intense anger in the next session.

  • The first thing she said was that it was important to realize that while childhood memories as far back as 5 months (when my anger episodes were far more frequent, irrational and uncontrolled) may not be stored on a child’s brain, now I had the chance to create fresh memories. Simply put, kids, for the most part, do not remember details of their past up until about 3 years, after which, their brain starts to retain events.
  • Secondly, as pertains the ‘anger curve’, she mentioned the fact that I needed to find a slot where I could step in and halt the progress. Ideally, it is best to do this at the onset, what I called the ‘warning signs’. When all the jumping and rolling sets in, she advised me to take him to a place where he’d be able to do that without injuring himself in a bid to create a lag within the curve. This also serves to distract him from the issue at hand.

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It also provides me with a chance to breathe in, count to 10 and let some of the tension dissipate. Getting this breather prevents irrational reaction, and allows a moment of clarity for a better response.

Read More: What is Postpartum Depression?

  • Sometimes, stepping in works; it should. But it does not always work, which is why she advised me to try as much as I could to set ground rules when he was calm and exuberant. This also helps him view the rules as something positive, and not always mentioned when things went downhill.
  • The third thing which she said, and which hit me like a ton of bricks, was the fact that I needed to manage my expectations. “You expect a 4 year toddler to behave like you, that is the problem Samoina.” Whew, I looked back on all the meltdowns I could recall vividly and saw her point. I expected non-messy potty training sessions. I expected him to sit through social functions and stay clean (hellooo, he is an energetic boy- expect cuts, bruises, climbs and torn jeans!) And what this did is that it simply created a viable environment for a proper tantrum. Let your child be a child within reasonable boundaries, she said. ** This I had to write in my journal, profoundly deep**

In the next post, I will share the other three pointers that have helped me thus far in dealing with my anger towards my child during and after PPD, as well as document the help I continue to get from the therapy sessions. If anyone is interested, I attend psychotherapy sessions at Royal Fountain Counseling Services.

Just a few more things:

  1. If you think you suffer from PPD, or know someone who does, do not be afraid to ask for help. PPD is a mental health condition, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Please email me at ppdisland@gmail.com for details or if you need someone to talk to.
  2. I finally decided to take the plunge and do my #littlething as far as reaching out and creating PPD awareness online is concerned. If you are on Twitter, please take a minute and check out @PPDKenya as well as #PPDKenya and if it is not too much to ask, share on your networks. Many thanks J
  3. You may also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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The other day, while shopping for groceries at the market, I overheard two moms converse and it got me thinking (I know they must have been moms because of the nature of conversation). It went something like:

Mom A: So the August holidays are here *insert shrug*

Mom B: Oh, I do not need a reminder. They are coming home for a couple of weeks.

Mom A: They eat so much, and are generally a pain in the house…

Mom B: You can say that again… I can’t wait for the weeks to whizz by so they get back to school…

Mom A: Me too *insert facial expression to complete the statement*

Then the topic changed to something else, but I was stuck at this conversation for many days to come. I asked myself, why is it so easy to want the kids to stay in school as opposed to spending time with them once they are home, which incidentally, is very few months. Consider this: Kids, on average, start Kindergarten at about 3 years. They will be in school till they are 18. During this period, ¾ of the year is spent in school with just 3 months for holiday. For the 15 years the child is in school – from Kindergarten to High school- , they will only be home for 45 months. For a whopping 135 months, they will be away from home.

Read More: Feeling Like A Mom

For those 45 months, we need to remember all the visits to grandma’s, uncles, aunts, school trips, church programs… are not accounted for. The point is, a critical look at the amount of time the kids are actually home reveals so much more. Yet even in this limited time, the general notion is that kids are bothersome, they are a handful, they are annoying, they spike the budget (hello moms with boys!), they interrupt our daily schedules…

That conversation challenged me to take an introspective look and see what my attitude as regards my son’s holiday is. I am not painting a perfect-got-it-all-together front. I know I am guilty as charged in letting these very statements come out of my mouth, and sometimes whispered in the heat of the tantrum. But, this holiday, I want it to be different.

Read More: 3 Reasons I Was An Angry Mom

I want this holiday to be one during which we will learn the essence of each other, and not just for my little to remember the mom who was constantly working her butt off but had no time to play with him….

I want this holiday to be one during which we will bond in new ways; over coloring books, or pancake recipes or mounds of wet mud…

I want this holiday to be one during which we will put into practice what we have picked up during our therapy sessions in the month of August…

I want this to be the last holiday I ever look at through the lenses of ‘what a bothersome period the holidays are going to be’.

It is off to a good start.

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 Adult coloring x child coloring

I once forgot these 2 things raising my then-infant…

Motherhood is synonymous with perfect imperfection, and for good reason. There are many scenarios that paint this picture perfectly well, and I guess the older the kids grow, the more the incidences, many of which you look back at with hilarity. There are two things that stand out when I think of infancy and the simple things that seemed to elude my mommy brain. It is not the kind of stuff that readily comes to mind for new moms, and only after some time does it hit you!

  1. I forgot to wipe in between my son’s toes…eek!

I knowwww, gross! But it actually happened severally until his granny noticed it. I wrote about bath time nostalgia here, and this is certainly one of the things that I muse about, 4 years on. See, for the first two weeks, cucu (grandma) bathed him. And why was that? Because I was too scared he’d slip right through my hands. He was such a tiny baby, and for that period I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell whether his cries were hunger-induced or otherwise.

Read More: Wait Your Turn

So to avoid all this, cucu did the bathing. When I eventually got the hang of it, I would bath him speedy-speedy, dry and dress. On cold days, I’d make sure the heater was on. And so, for some reason, in the process of drying his tiny body, I’d skim through his toes and proceed to dress him warmly. One of those random hot days I was scrutinizing him and noticed he had the whitish stuff in between his toes, eeeeww.

I was shocked, I mean, how could I forget that? Perhaps it was because his feet were so small, and in the quest to dress him quickly, it never crossed my mind to dry his toes. Suffice to say, I never ever forget to do so, to-date. What I find interesting is that my friend, who is a new mom herself, once asked me why her baby’s toes had some whitish stuff. Only then did I realize, this probably happens to new moms a lot more than I thought.

  1. I forgot to buy my son’s nail cutter.

LOL, this looks so mundane, but I remember getting home that Tuesday evening with my bundle of joy, my train of thoughts constantly getting derailed by this new reality. I unpacked my hospital bag and pretty much just sat down to get the hang of breastfeeding. Only then did I notice baby had these peculiarly sharp finger nails which he’d constantly scratch his face with. Now, yall know how delicate baby skin is, so the scratches are not a pretty sight.

Read More: Love is…

I went to his cot where the baby stuff was, searching for a baby nail cutter to no avail. I definitely could not use my regular nail cutter on his nails, so the only solution was to make him wear mittens to prevent him from scratching his face.

This is for my pregnant friends and new moms: Get that tiny baby nail cutter in your shopping list, and do not forget to wipe baby’s feet thoroughly.

PS: I think I am slowly piecing the memories of my son’s infancy with these recent posts. Given that most of the experience was lost in the haze of depression, the slow recollection is so much welcome. And, if I can be honest, I do miss this infancy stage (well, save for the lack of sleep and pooplosions!). Oh well….

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This is what I wish I knew while I was pregnant.

I have done a list on 10 things I would tell my pregnant self, which you can read here, but seemingly, so many of my friends are expecting their bundles of joy. So, I thought, another 10 or so (we will see) will not hurt. This post was birthed by the conversation I had with my pal whose daughter is just 2 months old. She was sharing on some of the shocking things that she experienced while she was expecting, and the least of which is talked about. In retrospect, I realized this was my case too! There were so many things I wished I knew, most of which were never shared. Here goes.

  1. You will be an emotional wreck, a whole lot more than you think.

Whether due to the upsurge of pregnancy hormones, or just the sheer thought of bringing new life to these world, your emotions will be all over the place (Got to love how well Shiko of The Green Calabash puts it in this post). I remember once, crying in a Thika-bound matatu, not the pretty crying. Ugly-sobs-mucus-type of crying. It does get overwhelming sometimes, so grab a box of tissue honey, and rock on.

  1. Things get, ermm… slippery in South Pole.

Pantyliners are your friend. Enough said.

Read More: Baby Shower!

  1. Labor is different for everyone.

This, I think, was one of those topics I steered away from when I was expecting my son. Enough with the horror stories, the grotesque images and everything in between, Granted, child birth is not a high tea party, but then again, moms-to-be need not be pumped with all the crazy happenings. It will help to give insight into what to expect, but in my view, all the horror stories are to be saved for later (probably after delivery). That’s just my 2 cents.

So yes, some will have the ‘she-just-came (and I still had my makeup on)’ narrative, and others, by the time their newborn is put in their hands, will have said unprintables, danced kanungo, gotten rid of every burden in the form of clothing and realized that there’s a level of pain where words and tears do not suffice. All that matters, is to take the journey in stride, however it comes.

  1. It is a whole new season of adjustments with breastfeeding.

Cracked. That Nivea ad doesn’t even do justice to try and imagine what cracked feels like. Now, picture cracked nipples, and a little clueless human being trying to latch. This is HARD. And on many days, you will want to give up, because sore bloody nipples are not anyone’s cup of tea. Good old Vaseline will be your friend, amidst all the shrieks and tears (I dreaded breastfeeding for this very reason on those first days, but it does get better. So, no, there’s nothing wrong with you!)

Read More: The Place of vulnerability

  1. Lochia is a thing.

The glee on my face when I realized I would be off periods for 9 months, could actually be packaged and sold for a pretty penny. But you see, the human body has a way of reminding you who the boss is. And so, immediately after delivery, the nurse tells you that you should expect lochia for the next couple of weeks.

Lochia is the medical term that refers to the vaginal discharge after birth. This discharge contains blood, tissue from the uterine lining and bacteria. Or in other words, it is payback for the 9 months you did not bleed, hah! Some women will experience cramps too, so painkillers will come in handy. And do not forget the maternal maxi pads, you know, the ones that feel like you rolled a gunny bag and placed it in your Mother Unions (which, by now, are like the best things after porridge and sleep) – those ones.

  1. You may have to re-invent your wardrobe

Those strappy tops you had that held your bosom in place and did not move an inch, forget them. Because, guess what, you need clothes that allow you to whip that boob out comfortably, and on LO’s demands. Invest in button-down blouses, zipped tops and anything else that allows easy access to the lactose zone.

Read More: 7 gross things moms do

  1. You may not be able to bond with your child immediately

This, I have to slip in here a second time. Not all moms will have an instant bond with their child, whether due to the trauma of labor, or depression during pregnancy, or sometimes simply the overwhelming experience that this new chapter represents. And that is okay, to a certain extent.

Baby blues are fairly common, and will often die down on their own. In Postpartum Depression however, these blues only intensify. They have a vice-like grip on any mom, and will often wash up like mighty waves on the shore of your heart. If you do experience this, do not be afraid to get medical attention. There is no shame in asking for help. So chin up! (If you would like to read more on Postpartum depression, click here).

  1. They grow

In spite of the challenges at the onset, the kids grow. A proverb in my local language loosely translates to “Kids do not have stones on their heads” – easy to see why. Then we shall miss the infant stages where they are cute, cuddly and composed, before they get to 5 and you feel like you are handling a blender whose settings have been turned on… without the damn lid! And we shall be back to bringing other life to this world.

Is there anything I have missed on the two entries? Drop by in the comments below.

3 Reasons I was an angry mom

Anger has long been a struggle for me, partly Postpartum Depression, and in part, verbal diarrhea when emotions run high. Recently a text from L (For those who do not know, L is she whose fantastic baby shower we attended last year, and always a reminder of the power of friendships; read it here) came through, and took me down memory lane; To days when emotions and depression were an amalgam that made life a tunnel with elusive light. In her text, she made mention of bonding with J, my son. Hugs, and cuddles, and kisses, and so much warmth.

In retrospect, it was not always like this. J is 4.5 years now, and for the better part of 3 years I was a bitter, angry mom. Anger, for moms with PPD takes such a hold on your life. It feels like a choke-hold position by unimaginable forces. It is intense. It is irrational, and it saps the very joy of motherhood, stripping one right to their most vulnerability, and smirk in the midst of the shell-like condition. Now, I am grateful for having come to this point, a point where I cherish the moments, a point of healing from PPD. Looking back, there were a few reasons why I was an angry mom. Read on.

  1. Expecting too much from my LO given his age.

This was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest reasons why I was always snappy:  expecting perfection great manners from a toddler who barely knew how to talk. My mom reiterated the fact that kids would only behave their age, at least up to a certain point. For instance, at 1 year, having weaned him well, I subconsciously expected him to feed without a mess.

Yet, now I cringe when I think of my expectations. Granted, such expectations are fodder for anger.  My point, do expect your LO to make a mess when it is their first potty training session. Expect them to feed with their legs in the air when you wean them. Expect them to chew on stuff when they start teething. And when they get to 3, expect that silence means mischief, and take it in stride.

Read more: Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

  1. Projecting my stress onto him

So, the client rejected his order, or there was an 8-hour blackout when I had an urgent order, or it was simply just one of those difficult days living in the haze of PPD. All these scenarios had a common denominator; in my personal disappointment, J was, sadly, the recipient of my outbursts. It was worse if he was having a cranky day. It meant (usually) 2 crying persons at home.

Having realized this tendency over a period of time, I set out to compartmentalize thoughts especially when having a rough day. Journaling has been of immense help for the simple reason that it helps me sort out my thoughts (ie, is it that I am angry at J for spilling milk accidentally, or am I mentally fatigued from the day’s events?) In line with this, writing a daily gratitude list helps put things in perspective (ie, this may be a heated moment, but I am grateful my son is healthy, going to school, has a supportive family…)

  1. Lack of self-care

Post-PPD, one of the most precious things for me is self-care. Just as the name suggests, this is all about caring for ME. Without this self-care, I feel like I am mechanically getting through my days, burnout and all. When I do not intentionally carve out time for myself (especially because I work from home), I get irritable because I feel like I have depleted my resources and I am running on empty.

Today, I guard my space, indulge in self-care (always baby-free) – whether it is a relaxing pedicure session, catching up on my favorite reads on a warm musty afternoon or simply making my best dishes using choice recipes (on that note, yall head over to Cooking with Jazz for simple delicious meals with a Kenyan touch). More recently, I am aware that my devotions play an integral role in my life. Spending time with God makes me less prone to irrationality, more intentional and overall realizing that in the grand scheme of things, I am steward of my son, not an owner.

Read more: 6 simple ways I bond with my son

These 3 were the major reasons I was an angry mom. I am slowly getting out of that debilitating angst that characterizes PPD, all the while seizing the precious moments before they fade away. Do you relate to any of the 3 reasons? How are you working around it? Let’s chat in the comment box below. I look forward to hearing from you.

PS: I wrote in detail about Scary Anger over at Butterfly mom’s blog, and you can read it here.

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Silence

Before I indulge you in my thoughts on silence, let me admit that I am still reeling from the excitement of my 30 day challenge which started here, and culminated here. It was not so much to create hype, like it was to reach out to moms, to meet them in their fleeting thoughts of inadequacy, and throw in a little dry humour. This was a gentle reminder that anything I put my mind to, is in fact achievable, possible, do-able. I will revel in the lessons therein for many days to come.

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My son is a ball of kinetic energy (no asking where that came from), and has an amazing appetite to match his gusto for life. I never had any idea how this would impact my parenting, but I am learning, and re-learning. Oh how my frayed mind sometimes wishes there was a manual, a PDF guide, a downloadable torrent… the slightest inkling to this thing called motherhood and bringing up boys. Since my son was born, I have taken time to appreciate the value of self care and spending time alone, in silence.

This sounds selfish, certainly, but looking back, sometimes it gets a little overbearing when you have a tiny mammal coiling up around your dusty legs when all you want to do is hang those legs and sip some wine. You learn to appreciate your own time, especially when you are a SAHM/WAHM (Stay/Work At Home Mom) and have your pals asking you what in the world you do all day, and why you cannot afford to steal some time for yourself.

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LOL, feels Legit. Any SAHMs relate? Meme Generator

I am learning to look for those silent and small moments scattered through out the day when my lil’ man decides to pop champagne open and click Begin on his Tantrums series. After my morning devotion, these moments are my next favorite in the quest for the Double S – Silence and Sanity. When I cannot catch these moments, I find myself experiencing a severe bout of verbal diarrhea, I cannot concentrate on simple tasks, and I almost always retreat to my cocoon and shut the world out.

These moments of silence are as varied as they are ephemeral. They can be anywhere, anytime. They do not necessarily mean that the world is in a state of quiescence; rather, my inner world is still, tranquil. These moments have grown to be very precious, and I put in effort to get them. In a world that is increasingly operating at a frenzied pace, these transient moments are a breath of fresh air.  These moments help me put things in perspective, analyze what I am really feeling in that moment versus the truth that I know. The truth is that even in my imperfection as a mom struggling to quieten my soul, grace will meet me there.

It is silent now.

Day 28 – Monkey See, Monkey Do.

This is Day 28 of the 30 day writing challenge. The curtains are almost drawing on this life-changing (at least for me) challenge, I have learnt so much, about Postpartum Depression, about myself, about motherhood, about my son and about the relationships that matter. See, I just cannot post stuff on here and not abide by it. I cannot write something that I cannot vouch for. In that regard, this challenge has made me endeavor to be true to myself, as a child of God, as an individual, as a mom and as a friend.

Today’s post is reflective. Going home yesterday evening, I happened to sit next to a man and someone who I presumed to be his son. A man whose smell was unmistakably that of dingy seedy bars. You know the kind with dim lighting, slow mugiithi and likely, the highest concentration of Savco jeans per square kilometer? Yes that one. His verbal diarrhea was peppered with political small talk, the weather, and his bedroom conquests. I cannot forget the off-key singing that reminded me of a loquacious someone somewhere.

I’d not have a problem with him, okay, I did. Because on most evenings, I want to retreat to my little space, whether in the matatu (public transport in Kenya), or driving back home or walking under the moonlight. There is something reflective about some quiet, internal quiescence, after a long day that is as captivating as it is liberating. So suddenly, that was not an option with the unwelcome decibel-packed singing of the passenger in the backseat.

But that was not what disturbed me. I was befuddled by the fact that the man was accompanied by the young lad. The young boy, huddled in the back seat, was an unwitting spectator to the drama that unfolded right before our eyes. The man I presumed to be the young boy’s dad reeked of alcohol, and not the classic Cognac, or Hennessy. It was something far worse.

I could not imagine how the young boy perceived all these. I let my thoughts wander to distract myself from the guy’s speech on bedroom matters and which women he thought had it all. I wondered to myself, if this is what we saw panning out in the matatu, how much more when he got home? What was the young boy exposed to? What would his upbringing lead him to become? Was this guy violent? Did he hurl insults at the women in his home? Did he ever make time for the young boy? Would the kid grow up knowing that insults and a drunken stupor were the norm?

The boy didn’t say much, but you could tell everyone in the matatu was flustered by ol’ man’s antics. The conductor said little too. After a long day, perhaps such a verbose confrontation was the last thing he wanted. I couldn’t blame him either, yet this encounter set my thoughts on a different trajectory altogether. Perhaps it is because I saw little of my son in the young boy sitting on ol’ man’s laps. Or maybe the thought that the skeletons in my closet would almost expose a similar situation had my son been brought up in a two-parent home.

Whichever the case, this had me thinking about how we influence our children. Kids, I am learning, do not do what you say, they do what you do. A precise case of monkey see, monkey do. I took an introspective look. Do I ask my son to be gentle when things do not go his way, then be the one to shout when situations get awry? Do I tell him he ought to be organized for school, yet wake up in a huff, looking for stockings and earrings and wondering where one of my heels is?

Do I ask him to extend kindness even when he is wronged, then go ahead and hurl some unsavory words complete with gesticulation at the driver who cuts in mummy in traffic? When it comes to eating, do I advocate for healthy eating, only to steal away and munch on them fries? What about asking him to read the Word yet He never sees mommy open her Bible save for Sunday School? Do I ask him to pray, yet he never hears or sees mom doing that? I could go on and on…

The point is, am I a living example of what I tell my son to be or to do? I’d rumble on and on about what he needs to do or who he needs to be, but for as long as I do not live it, I might as well be playing a saxophone for a Merino goat. I am tasked with been an example for my child. It is my responsibility to model for him the traits I’d want him to exhibit, the character I’d like to see him as he grows to be a fine young man.

One of the challenges that single moms face, especially in Bringing Up Boys as James Dobson puts succinctly, is allowing for a present father-figure. This is often a male adult, a relative or friend who will walk with the boy in his journey to manhood. Grateful for this realization, and even more for the position I have as a mom to influence my son’s life.

Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

How do you influence your children’s lives? What are some of the challenges you have faced in been a role model? Are you a single parent? How are you handling the challenges that come with this? Let’s connect below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Featured Image photo credits: Authentic Parenting

Day 25 – Grace

This is Day 25 of the 30 day writing challenge, albeit late. Here’s what happened *accountability*. I often write the posts early morning, 5AM, and schedule them to publish at 11. Yesterday night, my son had an erratic night, thanks to a cold and all-night sniffles. I couldn’t get the post scheduled, and so resorted to writing it late in the night. As if on cue, my internet decided, you know what, I ain working. for half an hour I kept refreshing tabs and figured I’m better off asleep. Here is yesterday’s piece.

*****

The moon stands majestic, tiny cloud hovering around,

I can’t contain myself, I hear my heart pound,

Gentle whistling of the wind, and the rustling of the dried leaves,

An eerie quiet fills the atmosphere, and a cat purrs in the distant,

this scenario was all too familiar, causing me to be flippant.

Then a sharp cry rent the air, breaking the still of dusk,

I knew what was going to come after that, and resorted to the sulk.

Rolling, screaming, caking himself with fine dust.

He looked up, puffy eyes, gasping for breath. Amid his sobs, white hands he cast.

For a split second, there was a moment of grace.

Grace would meet me when I couldn’t see His face.

Sweet Grace.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Estera Marian