Whether you are a new parent, a second/third/fourth-time (or more) parent, a single parent, a parent of multiples, or well, pretty much any parent, I can promise you two things: there will be times when you look at your child and think she is the cutest little nugget in the world, and there will be times when she subjects you to torture techniques that could bring even the best-trained double agent to his knees, begging for mercy, ready to spill national secrets (think: sleep-deprivation, solitary confinement, music torture…).
So when the going/fussing/crying/whining/[insert annoying verb here] gets tough (or more accurately, makes you want to tear your f*$&ing hair out), what do you do?
No, seriously…that’s an actual question. I really do want to know what to do because that’s something I’m still trying to figure out for myself. I’ve read all the baby books on the shelf, and I do what they say (practice empathy with the screaming child, remember that babies don’t know how to talk, etc. etc. etc.), but those techniques don’t always work to end the chaos. And more importantly, they only address our children’s needs, not ours as parents. Yes, I know my baby sometimes cries because she’s trying to tell me something and she doesn’t know how to talk. Duh. But what happens when she’s colicky or I just can’t figure out what it is that she needs and she cries for hours on end no matter what I do or how much boob I stick in her face? Even I, an obvious contender for the title of world’s best mother (ha!), sometimes start to lose my $hit. Crying is biologically designed to sound like a 5-alarm fire and stress parents out so they tend to their dying/constipated offspring IMMEDIATELY. So when the crying just doesn’t end, it is totally natural to turn into a total whack-a-doo. It happens to me all the time, so I’m just going to use my single data point and turn it into a population-wide statistic and conclude that it therefore must happen to us all since it happens to me, and I’m a relatively normal-ish mom and a representative sample of all of the other parents out there (I got a B- in statistics…so just roll with it for now). So given that I’ve now determined that parenting single-handedly causes insanity (yeah that’s right…I’m talkin’ causation, not correlation), maybe the question we should be asking each other is not what to do when our kids are freaking out, but rather how to cope with our own supressed, deranged craziness when said freaking out becomes overwhelming. How do we deal when we just can’t deal anymore? To find the answer to this question, I surveyed two experts* in the field to see what they had to say:
(*experts consist of me, after a nap, and me, while sleep-deprived)
Post-Nap Expert Tips:
Oh wait, sorry, there was no post-nap parenting expert available to interview…apparently no such person exists.
Sleep-Deprived Expert Tips:
Invest in a Break for Yourself
Taking a break and removing yourself from the crazy-making behavior of your child is an obvious solution, but I said invest. Seriously, set aside a portion of your paycheck/alimony/child support/welfare/whatever every week and hire a babysitter for a few hours. This is especially relevant for you SAHParents and new parents. Learn how to day trade if you have to, because finding a way to pimp off the craziness to someone else is one of the most important parenting skills you will ever learn. This is THE reason we started Parenteam – I live in New York where babysitters are like $4,000 an hour (plus meals and Uber home!), and no matter how hard I tried to save up for my weekly babysitter, it just wasn’t affordable to hire one. So who better to ask for help than my fellow parents, who would more than likely need me to return the favor one day in the future?! Seriously, whether you use money, Parenteam, relatives or strangers, find a way to take a break every once in a while.
Find Support From People Who are Genuinely Empathetic to Your Situation
Yep, I just dropped the empathy card. But I don’t mean squatting down to your child’s level to discuss how you understand that she must be upset because Billy stole her toy and it must be very frustrating to not be able to communicate with him how that made her feel. I am talking about venting to people that legitimately GET YOU. For example, I’m a single mom. I’ve learned that b*tching about parenting to other single parents is much more effective in soothing my insanity than attempting to vent to my married and/or childless confidants. Venting and b*tching about your kids needs to be unrestrained and honest in order to soothe your soul, but having the wrong audience present could lead to them calling CPS on you. Make sure you vent to the people that are going to show you genuine empathy, not judgment to the point of calling the authorities.
Teach Your Child How to Take a Deep Breath
Take a deep breath, and show your child how it’s done. Not so that she learns how to self-soothe, but so that next time you’re about to have a coronary, your 2-year-old will come up to you and say “mommy, just inhale deeply and hold it for a second.” Seriously, it’s damn near impossible to stay mad after that type of cuteness intervention.
They say the best fix for depression and anxiety is gratitude. As in you’re supposed to say three things that you’re grateful for every day in order to massively improve your life. So be grateful! If you’re not feeling your baby’s cute little smiles tugging at your heartstrings today, just remember that we live in an age where drinking wine and popping Xanax are totally acceptable – there’s 2 out of your 3 for the day!
When All Else Fails, Turn the TV On
No, not for your child. For yourself. I just checked out the non-child (adult?) section of Hulu and found out that Showtime is streaming and I can finally finish watching all those episodes of Homeland that I never got around to watching because my first maternity leave ended right around the time I was finishing Season 2. Watching Carrie take down terrorists in all of her insane glory reminds me that, no matter how crazy my children make me, I still have a shot at a career in the CIA, and that my friends, is reassuring.