My daughter Juliana is deep into her terrible twos. In fact, it feels like she has been two for about 10 years now. Her 4-year-old sister, Clarabella, gave us the false impression that caring for babies and toddlers is easy (ha!). When Clarabella was two, she would read quietly by herself for an hour or more, and loved to walk around cleaning the walls with baby wipes. Those walls are now decorated daily with food, crayons, and…well, I don’t even know what this stain is. While our home was once filled with the melodic sounds of Raffi and story time on the rug, there is now a cacophony of piercing screams, crashes, toys hurled at the wall, crying, and the occasional evil laughter.
And I am losing my shit.
I have always been sensitive to sound. In a chaotic and noisy environment, I feel claustrophobic and over stimulated. I would be lying if I said I didn’t suffer from more than a few panic attacks at the hands of my beloved second child. Despite all this, I can clearly and honestly admit to myself that I love Juliana 100% as much as her sister–which is the beauty of being a mother, isn’t it? In the off times when she is not melting down, I catch myself gazing in amazement. She is the fiercest, bravest, toughest little girl I have ever witnessed. She will dive bomb off of the couch onto her face, gleefully shout “wipeout!” and go back for more. I strive each day to teach her self-control and manners, but there is zero part of me that wants to squash this free spirit that flows within her. The difficult part is keeping my marbles intact while I attempt to tame the beast.
I know that I am not the only mother who has desperately grasped at the last strands of her sanity while dealing with a difficult child. So what are we to do? How do we keep being good mothers in a situation that sears your every nerve? Well, the good thing about having a difficult child is you are forced to develop new coping mechanisms. Here are a few of my favorites.
This one may seem obvious—of course you love your child. But when you are in the thick of a difficult phase, it is easy to get lost in simply surviving minute to minute. Any chance you have, make a conscious effort to cacoon your child and whisper in his ear that you love him. Kiss her on the head while she is crying, even if she pushes you away. This outward display of love benefits your child, of course, but you might be surprised how it affects you. When you are lying in bed questioning every parenting decision you make, and doubting your abilities, you will be able to tell yourself that your son or daughter knows they are loved. Allow this affirmation to comfort you. You are doing a great job.
“Sleep while the baby is sleeping.” We have all heard this, but if you are anything like me, that advice seems ridiculous. With my first baby, I used naptime to clean, shower, have coffee, or catch up on Nashville (WWRD: What Would Rayna Do?) I could get away with this because I had an easy baby who was an even easier toddler. Now that I have a child who requires every last bit of my energy, do I nap when she naps? Damn. Straight. Nearly every day, I take at least a short nap while she sleeps, and it helps me tremendously. Even when I can’t sleep, simply lying down and resting my body replenishes energy for the afternoon battle. Is my house messier than it could be? Absolutely. Luckily my husband appreciates a sane wife more than a spotless home.
Play With Friends
Any chance you get, spend time outside of the house with people who make you feel like YOU–not Tommy’s mommy–YOU. Hang out with the friend who makes you laugh so hard you cry, and the one who helped you survive the bad decisions you made in college. Tap into your own identity, separate from parenthood—you and the old you deserve a reunion.
Trust that you are doing a good job. Trust that everything really is a phase. Trust that your child, while difficult now, is growing day by day into a wonderful human being. To feed this sense of trust, actively open your eyes to each beautiful little moment of progress. I distinctly remember the first time I took Juliana into a store without her pulling things off the shelf, running away from me, or having a tantrum because I “trapped” her in a cart. I came home and practically cried tears of joy to my husband as I retold my mundane tale in excruciating detail. It was a win that I badly needed. These victories are there, I promise you. But you need to be open to recognizing and celebrating them.
To be a good parent to any child, easy or hard, self-care is essential. Do not be ashamed to ask your spouse or family for more support when you need it. Don’t feel guilty if you have to lock yourself in your bedroom for a few minutes to get away from the monsters. The world will keep turning, and it will be a much better ride for everyone.
Author: Chelsea Nealy
Author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Bio: Chelsea is a stay at home mom and passionate writer with a background in elementary school teaching. A west coast gal living in the wild west of Wyoming, she enjoys exploring new places, people, and experiences with open arms and a pretty notebook.