Letting go

I haven’t been here in a while, and it feels like dusting that sultry dress you were itching to buy, got it on offer… and never wore it for months on end. Before finally deciding to dress up, show up and strut in that dress.

I have been away from this space, and I will be honest and admit – it has been a mix of neglect, despair and questioning, lots of questioning. The past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not quite sure exactly when the rain started beating, but when the year started out, I was hopeful, optimistic and enthusiastic. I’d just confirmed that at PPDKenya, we would be running our first support group therapy sessions in January. In the months leading up to the end of 2017, a few moms had gotten in touch and registered for the support group meetings. It was encouraging really, because this is something I had been wanting to do all of 2017 (but was holding back because of fear). And so the year began, with hope, enthusiasm and lots of gusto.

We had our first meeting on Saturday 13th January 2018, and it marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for PPDKenya. It was encouraging to hear the moms’ stories, see the passion and hope to get better and make a full recovery. Our meetings were bimonthly, so we met every other Saturday for a total of five sessions up until the second weekend of March 2018. Never before have I been so certain of what my purpose is, what I am meant to be doing and my small thing as far as touching lives is concerned.

Away from PPDKenya however, I was struggling to get work done. I have worked online as a freelance writer since late 2012, a few months after the birth of my son. This wasn’t part of the plan to be honest. I have a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and had just began my career’s trajectory when I found out I was pregnant. Unprepared for this new role, wondering how I’d raise this child alone and having to move back to my family’s home meant my career took a backseat.

Part of the reason for this was I lost my job at about 7/8 months pregnant, and that threw me off balance. It was one of the factors that contributed to my Postpartum Depression (PPD). It is well known that financial constraints, unplanned pregnancies and raising a child single-handedly (whether due to the death of a spouse or a partner taking off when responsibility knocks) are all risk factors for PPD, as was the case for me.

Read more: Celebrating with PPDKenya support group 01

Without any source of income, I found it pretty hard to get a nanny so I could go job hunting. That is how I found myself looking online after a dear friend mentioned online jobs in passing. Initially, it was hard because having to meet deadlines when still learning how to wean, sleep train and just take care of my son is not a walk in the park. At the time too, I was struggling with PPD, found it incredibly hard to bond with my son, and would, from time to time, imagine a world without us both. I did experience suicide ideation too, and every other day it would feel too overwhelming… I have shared that in this post.

I eventually got help after attending therapy sessions with a counselling psychologist (who has since walked the journey with me) and made a full recovery. I continued to work from home, while managing this website. It certainly wasn’t what I studied for, but it paid the bills and so I kept going. As at the time of writing this post, it has been six years of working from home – pretty much all of my son’s life.

And it was great, until it wasn’t. My social life is well, non-existent. I was struggling to accept that my life as it is/was, revolves around my son – prepare him for school, drop him off at school, work until 3PM, pick him from school, prepare his snacks and dinner, spend time with him, put him to sleep, lay out his uniform… rinse, repeat, rewind. Add to this the mundaneness of daily house chores and I started to feel like I was losing myself in motherhood. Now, please get me right: I love my son, so much, I am grateful he came into my life and I appreciate these moments for they are fleeting. But at the back of my mind I asked myself, why do I feel like I lost myself in motherhood? Like I became a mom and everything I loved to do faded into the background? What happens when my son is out of the nest and I am left alone? Will I be struggling to pick up the pieces? To relearn who I am, not as a mom or daughter – but as an individual? Will I be struggling to fill my days because I know not who I am anymore and have no idea what I love to do?

Read More: Change

After six years of working from home I started to feel closed in, lost, flustered. The demands of the online job meant often, I couldn’t work on PPDKenya, which is where my heart truly is. I am passionate about raising awareness about PPD and walking with moms who are struggling. It fires me up, it makes me come alive, and it is so fulfilling. But I continually found myself typing the days away, letting go of my dreams. I can’t explain how frustrating it is, and slowly, I started to inch closer to the edge.

I’d wake up on some days and feel there was nothing to live for. I felt lost, overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew everything wasn’t okay when, for more than two weeks in recent months, I’d drop my son off to school and come back home to cry it out – till 3PM when I’d do a facial to try hide my swollen eyes from him. I’d write for hours on end, filling up my journal pages and emptying my thoughts. My mind was constantly racing and I couldn’t seem to catch a breath, ever. It was exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally. I remember how, in despair, I admitted to a friend how I was tired of living, yet not wanting to die because I had so much to do with PPDKenya. I will add too, that I was not suicidal/ wasn’t having thoughts of harming myself or my child, and that’s hard to articulate. I felt like all I wanted to do was exist in a vacuum. Not live, not die – just exist. I am not sure that makes sense, but that’s the best way to explain it..

During this time, many thoughts crossed my mind. The racing thoughts:

  • Does PPDKenya even matter? Is anyone even reading what we do/ follow what we do online? We could simply close shop because it feels like it doesn’t matter, isn’t helping anyone.
  • My family supports me the best way they can, but I am letting them down.
  • I am not caring for my son like good moms ought to (regardless of the fact that it felt like my life revolved around him)
  • So many contacts on phone, so few people I feel I could talk to. (Also, some of my closest friends at the time were also fighting their own battles, and I was cognizant of the fact that they may not be available, and that is okay. But it didn’t take away from the loneliness.)
  • I feel suffocated; i feel like I am drowning and there is no way out.
  • I feel grossly inadequate, insignificant and unworthy – a failure really.

And the list goes on and on. I know that these thoughts are not the truth, but in a moment of utter overwhelm, there is no mental fortitude to fight back. And so, for a couple of months now I have been in that place, that dark place. A few days ago, I hit rock bottom and knew I had to get help. I had to ask for help, and I did. It brought hard truths to the surface. It made radical change a necessity if I was to get out of this mental space. It made me realize that nothing is worth it if it affects my mental health negatively – not a job, not a relationship, not manipulative relatives, not a toxic work environment. The mental fog is beginning to clear. Starting to feel a lot more like myself – it is hard, it is scary, it is beautiful.

 

 

4 Tips that help(ed) me as a Stay-at-home Mom

4 Tips that help(ed) me as a Stay-at-home Mom

I enjoyed been a Stay-at-home Mom, I love being a Work-at-home Mom.

While this has been one of the hardest things I have had to go through because of my Postpartum Depression (PPD) which you can read about here, it has also been incredibly rewarding, especially in recent months as I have come to a place of healing and been truly present for my son. Do I miss the corporate scene and yearn to climb the proverbial career ladder? Yes, on some days (though I am now realizing it is so much better to actually own the ladder, not just climb it 😀 ). Then I am reminded, these kids grow up fast, and before you know it, they are out of the nest. In light of this, I opt to be a SAHM for a couple more years.

One of the most incredulous things I have come to find out is the perception that Stay-at-home moms (abbreviated SAHM) have it all chocolates-strawberries-Netlflix and smiles. While this happens on some days, there are difficult days; mundane days when the routine revolves around potty-training, crayons, power blackouts and crankiness. The beauty about it is that over and above all, as a SAHM I get the chance to raise my son, to spend quality time with him, and lay the foundation I’d want him to have in life.

Despite the tough days, I am grateful for this chance. I would not trade it for anything else in my motherhood journey. Having been a SAHM and WAHM since the birth of my son in 2012- I have gleaned tips that help me maintain my sanity when I get to stay home for more than 5 days in a row. Here are some of the tips that have worked for me alongside the lessons I have picked on the way.

  1. Clear the to-do list for some Me-time every so often

It is easy for life to be wrapped around your little bundle of joy at the onset, but sooner or later you realize burn out is real. I cannot over-emphasize the need to create some Me-time, even if you are a stay at home mom.

The purpose of this me-time is to decompress, to recharge and just simply to replenish your energy levels. Watching over your kid(s) 24/7 is very taxing, and one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take some time off.

Now, it need not be a luxurious cruise trip to Mauritius (but how cool would that be!) Sometimes it can be as simple as going to the supermarket, ALONE. Or taking an evening walk. Or pampering sessions at the spa. The essence is to get away from your Little One(s) – LOs- and focus on yourself. Think about it as ‘touching base with yourself’. It is extremely important because this way, once you are back, you are refreshed enough to wear the mommy hat.

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Because I gotta work too.

  1. Link up with other parents

This is important for some much-needed adult interactions. I share with some of my friends how, when all your talk is drool-inspired goo-goo-gah-gigi, sometimes what you need is a coherent adult conversation, Not that you despise baby talk, but after a few days, you realize how much this does not stimulate you mentally.

In short, call another mom, share your experiences, catch up over latte, schedule for play dates and spend some time as you watch the kids play or even host a get-together to gather your high school friends. Whatever works for you, just make sure you shift your attention from your LO, albeit for a short while.

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for and receive help.

I remember with nostalgia how, whenever my sister offered to babysit, I’d jump at the idea and look for ways to incorporate me-time. I have never had a domestic manager since my son’s birth, so such help was very welcome. I learnt the hard way that you cannot be super mom, no matter how much you would want. Well, you can, for a day or two, then it takes a tremendous toll on you and you realize you are slowly ebbing away from truly living. So, snap up every opportunity when help is offered.

Many moms find it difficult to ask for help, leave alone receiving help. One of the things that I learnt smirk in the fog that depression is, is that it is okay to ask for help. It does not make me less of a mom if I have to tell someone that I am really struggling and would appreciate help. Which brings me to the other point, it also helps to be specific the kind of help you need. Do you need someone to watch your baby when you need to run errands urgently? Would you appreciate it if your friend took your son for a boys’ day out? Or perhaps your neighbor could do grocery shopping for you? Maybe your sister could help you do laundry for the week.

However you look at it, sometimes a little help is all you need to get through your day. Plus, the worst anyone can do is turn down your request!

  1. Make the most of this time

It certainly sounds cliché, but the truth is that kids whiz through the different stages and it is easy to miss all that if you focus on the challenges alone. Enjoy the moments, capture the milestones on camera and savour the different chances to learn from your kid. Take this time to appreciate the fact that you have a chance to raise this little human into an upright member of society. One morning you wake up to a toothless gummy smile, the next you are wondering what to give during weaning, then potty training, then voila, they are in uniform going to school! Cherish the days.

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What are your experiences as a SAHM? What tips worked for you? What would you love to share? Let’s chat in the comment box below.

 

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.