Parenting Exhaustion!

I think many parents look back at the baby and toddler years fondly and say things like, “If only my teenager’s problems could be solved by a nice warm bath”  “If only I could distract them with a pail and shovel in the sandbox” but I think these parents have forgotten the sheer physicality that prevails in parenting in these Early Years.

  • It is exhausting to change a baby’s diaper when they hate it and are crawling away (or when they are a toddler, running away!)
  • It is exhausting to chase your toddler down the street because they left the park.   Again.  With a baby on your hip and an older child racing beside you.
  • It is exhausting when you have literally saved your toddler from death about fifty times in one day despite the fact you have “child-proofed” everything in sight.

Just plain tiring.  Nursing, rocking, holding, co sleeping, co bathing, chasing, playing, feeding and starting all over again and again all night and all day.

So here are my Top Secret Super Survival Tips!  (Eh, not so top secret, but doesn’t that sound fun??!)

  • Keep it simple.  Toddlers do not need a lot of excursions, play dates and trips to the store.  Try to run errands later or have someone else do it; if there is one place you go that is repeatedly a problem, for example, a certain park or a store parking lot, then by all means skip going there for awhile.  Only time can add maturity.  It is that simple.  Running away and being chased is just plain fun, and that behavior really can persist until they are five years of age or so.  It is hard to leave when you are having a good time!  Same thing with places with  too many overwhelming choices; I was at the library the other day where a little boy (older toddler, probably close to three)  was just sobbing because his poor Mommy wanted him to choose books and he was completely and utterly overwhelmed!  He probably  would have been happier if she had just stopped at the library herself and brought the books home and snuggled with him.   Trying to be quiet AND not run AND pick books out of what probably looked like MILLIONS of books to him really was not working for this little guy. So I guess what I am saying is, please don’t expect too much too soon!  :)
  • Understand toddler behavior and developmental ages.  There are so many posts on this blog about each age I can’t even count anymore!  Check them out; there is also a whole listing of baby/toddler posts under the Baby/Toddler header.
  • Have a set of tools for dealing with common toddler behaviors.  See here; this one covers running away in public places and face slapping and other fun behaviors (but also look for an upcoming post): http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/11/common-toddler-challenges-and-how-to-solve-them/
  • Structure the environment; your older baby/ toddler pretty much does need to be with you and under your eye at all times.  Don’t be afraid to put up a gate to block off where your little one needs to be.
  • Continue nursing if you can.  Nursing is a great toddler tool.  “Mothering Your Nursing Toddler” is a classic La Leche League book about the nursing toddler; and many  La Leche League groups have Toddler Meetings.  That is a great place to go and get support because everyone is going through what you are going through!  See this link to find a group in your area: www.lalecheleague.org
  • Continue to cultivate use of a sling if your little one will still ride in a backpack.  That really does help during preparation of food and such.  If this child is two or so, they may enjoy helping out with simple chores and running little errands for you around the house (like putting something in the trash, or wiping up a little spill).  They do want to please you, you are not on opposing teams here!
  • Stay away from negative people who tell you that your older baby or toddler is “manipulating” you or “defying” you.  I know this sounds really harsh, and I am sorry, but these people are unfortunately generally  uninformed regarding the development of the brain, childhood psychology and childhood development and just seem to lack a good sense of humor about children to boot!    Please see this post for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/
  • Ask for what you need and get help.  Fathers are parents too!
  • Get outside every day.  Babies can crawl on the ground, it really is okay.  Toddlers can toddle.  Good times for all!
  • Work hard on rest, sleep and meal times.  These basic things are very important for small children. There are posts under the Baby/Toddler header regarding sleep.
  • Don’t be afraid to take naps and go to bed when your toddler goes to bed.  This is a short period and it is okay to do that!
  • Stay positive, sing and sing and have finger plays and Mother Goose rhymes at the ready.  Distraction is your number one tool!
  • Here is a post that addressed burn-out and some other intensive mothering issues:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/21/day-number-five-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

The last major tip I have is to think of these Early Years in this way:   most of us are in at least our fourth or fifth seven year cycle of life (look at those back posts on the Tapestries book, it was very interesting!), and these little ones are only in the beginning of their first.  It is very hard for us in general to enter this consciousness of the toddler.  Many times we give it way too much adult weight!  It takes a lot of practice, and  the more you can think humor and play and love, the less stressful the toddler years become! 

With joy,

Carrie

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15 thoughts on “Parenting Exhaustion!

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the store or at church when some older mother of teens stops me and says just this with a misty eye regarding how easy those days were. I always want to say, “really?? have you really forgotten wiping poop off the floor sometimes daily, pulling toddlers out of near death experiences hourly, hearing loss from screaming…” You really captured this, Carrie and thank you for not forgetting and for giving value to this short but intense time in raising our little ones.

    This is a great post, I will be passing it on to several friends.
    Gratefully,
    amy

  2. Thank you!
    Now i just need to figure out how to keep from becoming a battered mother. My little guy will hit, kick and headbutt me while I’m in bed and papa’s in the shower, trying to rest b/c he’s usually up to nurse every hour from 2-6am. He does it other times too, when we are at home. That’s not even the biting and pinching part. I’m so sick of getting beaten up by my baby! I think it’s causing further damage to my already low self-esteem.
    I read the post, but still don’t know how to handle the aggressive behavior in a way that makes an impact. We have tried abruptly leaving the situation, sitting, breathing, “this is not okay”, “be gentle”, modeling, showing him we love each other, the kitties, buddies, babies, etc. Maybe you have to do it a thousand times before they understand?
    He still makes a beeline for the baby in the room and pushes her over. She cries and gets milk, so I think he’s trying to do her a favor?
    We are not going to indoor playgroups for a while, but that isn’t stopping the behavior at home.

  3. Thank you, I’m sure I’ll look back fondly, remembering the best times with my little ones, but it always bothers me when I ask someone their thoughts on an issue I’m having, and they say “just wait until they’re teenagers”. I’m sure I have many challenges to come, but it is belittling when people say that!! So thank you!

  4. Hi Carrie…inspiring post again! I am making some real progress with my kids and thankfully my partner is seeing it too now…he has a totally different opinion to parenting and its been stressful battling him the whole way also to see the benefits of gentle discipline. Thank you again…I read your website every day. Vicki (your down under faithful reader!)

    • Vicki
      Keep modeling, it will come! Thank you for being a faithful reader! I love my Down Under folks :)
      Blessings,
      Carrie

  5. This was good timing for me as well. I have been doing well with creating and deepening rhythms in our life generally speaking, and in practicing GD with my 2 year old (who behaves more like a 2.5 year old – generally very amusing, unless my batteries are sorely in need of a recharge). This week, though, I am really feeling the exhaustion of our family’s new business that has my husband working very long hours, of being 7 months pregnant, and of having a bad cold. I’m curious how you modify or change what you are doing when you are physically overwhelmed. My poor kid still needs to be running around outside just as much as ever, but this week I am just not up for it, or much of our normal housework routine. Quality of life for all of us suffers when I am not able to be my family’s source/home base, which is how I normally think of myself. I both struggle to cut myself some slack and let things go when I need to like this week, but also to accept the then consequences of letting said things god. Breaks in rhythm and routine have consequences as does lack of cleaning and meal prep. I have a great community of like-minded mamas, and several people my son loves and trusts who watch him periodically, but help is just not available this week. Trying to be peaceful about it, but man. I am just at the end of my spirit’s energy right now.

  6. Thank you for a great post – I was really happy to see this because on the really exhausting days it seems like I’m the *only* mother in the world who feels this way, and everybody else just seem absolutely perfect!

    But… What to do when you have a 2-year old whose falling-asleep-routine includes nursing to sleep, and even though the dad is really involved and they have a great connection, there is just no way the child will accept falling asleep without me nursing him to sleep? I literally haven’t been outside my house since after 7 pm since I was pregnant… He wakes up to nurse throughout the night (we cosleep so it’s not really that exhausting physically, but mentally I’m starting to feel a need for a bit more space and uninterrupted sleep!).

    Maybe I should’ve asked you this in the “Looking for GD challenges” post? Although it’s not really a discipline issue, it’s a “Help I’ve imposed a stupid bedtime routine on my child and now he’s Seriously Breast Addicted” ;)

    • Hi Stella, I think so many mothers are in the same spot where you are. Why as mothers we don’t talk about these things more and support each other is beyond me…. What you mention is pretty normal behavior for a tiny two year old… I know how challenging it is when you are in it though!…..Could you nurse him and then go out? Could you have an afternoon out instead of at night? I have to say also, nursing or not nusring, most two year olds are seriously mommy addicted! It isn’t just nursing, it is the whole Mommy package, and that does last for some time. Even my five year old doesn’t like Mommy to not be there to read stories :) But, I think parening a two year old can be very fatiguing, so trying to find some time and space for yourself is important…. Dr. Sears has lots of suggestions for co-sleeping with a toddler at night, have you seen those?
      Hugs,
      Carrie

  7. Thank you for answering :) You know, after thinking about this – I mean *really* thinking about this – I realize it’s not so much the nights that are the problem. I nursed my oldes until he weaned himself at 3. I think it’s more about no one around me understanding WHY we are doing this to ourselves – no one understands why my husband and I haven’t been to a concert for two years or why we haven’t had a nighttime date outside the house, you know – those kinds of things. I hear my neighbors’ children cry themselves to sleep every night. They wake up at night and they cry themselves to sleep. My children sleep well, safe, and in togetherness. I need to remind myself that this will not last forever (and try to get more time for myself during the day – which I actually can do, because he adores being with his dad, I just tend to spend that time working with something).

    Anyways – I’m so glad I found this blog. Thank you!

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