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Is it normal to find parenting this hard?(32 Posts)
I have a 9 month old and a 2 year old, moved house and jobs in the past year. I set out these facts as I consider that I've had a lot going on, so extenuating circumstances to affect my mood.
I am breast feeding the baby who wakes several times a night still and sometimes takes some time to settle. Toddler is usually a good sleeper but of late has been waking very early, shouting and waking the baby, and taking time to settle at night too. One or the other is usually awake for the day at "5 something."
I have very little time to myself. I have support from my parents (who aren't that close by) but they don't know the extent of how hard I'm finding it. I feel ashamed to admit it, as I always wanted a family and I love them so much, I am just exhausted though and feel on edge a lot of the time and feel that I'm not enjoying it as I'm always lurching from one task to the other, calming a tantrum, or trying to get one to sleep - folk say "just get them into the same routine" - Ha! If only it were that easy.
DH is very hands on but has high standards and spends a lot of time tidying up and I take this as a slight that my more cluttered existence is not good enough. No support at all from in-laws, I don't think they hear our pretty clear requests for help for whatever reason.
Because I'm new here, my friends with toddlers aren't that close by, so I don't have that "sounding board" to chat about things, and apart from the baby's sleep, I find parenting a strong-willed (but lovely, bright and funny) toddler more challenging than the baby. I'm too tired to read any books about it, and when I asked the health visitor for advice she told me to go on a ten week parenting course which is just too much to consider. I also think I know the principles, it's just hard to put into practice with how I feel. It's so hard to strike up meaningful conversations with new people at groups when I'm watching for who she's about to hit or snatch a toy off, and juggling a mobile baby who really doesn't want to be in a sling all the time. Evenings are presently spent in and out trying to settle baby, who I think is probably in a sleep regression. DH informed me that he thinks they are both quite good sleepers. Hmm.....
Sometimes I just want to walk away, then I feel really really guilty for even thinking that. I don't of course but I'm on my knees, and I'm find it way harder than my very challenging job from which I am on mat leave.
Logically I know this phase will pass but I'm finding to really difficult. I think if I could get more sleep my mood would feel better, and I don't want to be wrongly labelled as depressed (my mum has asked me if I am and I denied it) if it's just tiredness which will pass.
A lot of the time though I think I'm not doing a good enough job, and keeping no-one happy, and I don't know where to turn to. I guess it would be useful to hear thoughts about whether how I'm feeling is normal given circumstances, or as DH thinks if I just need to accept it for what it is and get on with it without complaint, or if folk with experience of any similar circumstances think that I shouldn't be finding it this hard and should seek help.
Apologies if I don't reply immediately, I'm trying to get my head down whenever I can at night as I am up so frequently.
Sounds to me like you do have a low level depression.
You feel as though you want to walk away, then guilty. This is a symptom of anxiety and depression.
Your Dh seems to tidy up around you but you don't mention his emotional support, or affection. Does your DH thank or praise you? Are you affectionate with each other?
With a baby and a toddler in tow, it's very important to get that headspace so you feel like yourself again.
To lift your mood you need some time to do things you enjoy while the children are taken care of. Ask for childcare help.
You could also take Vitamin B which may lift your mood.
Thanks Ophelia. DH doesn't criticise me but what I think is missing is much recognition, he says things like "it's not that hard" which make me feel more ashamed. And I think he's one to just get on with life whereas I seem to increasingly worry.
I will be sorting childcare for return to work. I find it really hard to relax if I do have any time. Mainly I try to tidy up the clutter that is mine that I have no time to sort every day.
If anyone else has made it through the essay in my OP, I'd be grateful for thoughts. The baby is presently waking after 2 hours all night, and I need to be in for around 30 min to ensure she is fully settled so I am really tired. I think this is badly affecting how I feel I'm coping and my mood so this is prob what I need to focus on. I just don't know if I have the reserves to tackle the sleep. I think our health visiting team are not into controlled crying which is what we used successfully with my older one. I get really anxious about the baby crying - she is loud! - and waking my toddler whose behaviour is then difficult as she gets tired.
I Only have one toddler but can empathise with a lot of what you are saying. I'm considering seeing doctor about anti depressants but I'm a bit cautious partly cos still breastfeeding. Life feels like a series of chores at the minute, my son is a complete joy but I'm completely worn down. Sorry no advice - except maybe to stick to the sleep training that worked for you before - you're not alone in this situation is my point!
I could have written your post a couple of months ago. Still could in a lot of ways. Are you still on mat leave or are you back at work?
Hubnut, yes that's my worry, and I think I really need to see how I feel if I can get more sleep. DH is on board with a joint effort to work on the sleep now I've told him calmly today how awful I feel. It does feel like I lurch from one "task" to another and don't give myself the chance to appreciate all the fun bits. Which is awful as I know logically I have so much to be grateful for and I have a lovely family. It's really hard in a fog of exhaustion, I suppose a bit of time will help me work out if I need to do more about it.
Nephrofox (good name by the way!) - I'm not back at work yet, I have considered whether going back earlier would actually be better all round, as I am part-time anyway, but I feel worried that at the moment I'm too tired to carry the responsibilities I have at work.
Yes...I was you. Exactly the same. Day started at stupid onclock and finished, well, it just didn't. Long, long hard days, long, long hard nights. Zero break. No help. Husband 'good' but just didn't get how hard it is for the sahm. Honestly, I went to Drs and am now on anti depressants. Best. Thing. EVER!
The feeling when I did wake up for the day, that awful gut dropping moment you realise you have to live your life for another day, went, I got energy back, stopped crying and became much calmer. If I was your real life friend I'd be literally pushing some into your hand, as I think they are so good.
Eurine, thanks it is good to hear your experience. What feels really difficult is that at present I can't practically do all that sensible stuff that you are supposed to do to improve your mood - enough sleep, exercise, seeing friends because of the logistics of the situation at present. I know it won't be like this forever though but it's a matter of how much longer I "stagger on" without extra help.
Nephro, has anything changed over the last couple of months to make your situation better?
I'm trying to read about "mindful parenting" but all that stuff goes out of my head when feeling light-headed with lack of sleep and faced with a shrieking toddler!
Best way to parent when you are barely functioning is to pretend you are being filmed. I used to imagine I was in a documentary about good mothers and it made me do, and say the right things even if I was cursing the screaming baby in my mind.
My two are very similar ages to yours, and I find it incredibly hard going at the moment, fwiw. You wouldn't consider cosleeping? I do, so the BF baby's night waking isn't as disruptive to my sleep, but I know it isn't for everyone.
I'm sure it will all gradually get easier, and eventually we'll look back on this rather trying time with rosy tinted specs!
Coulda, I did cosleep for the first few months which actually meant that I felt a lot more rested than I had first time round. But that had to stop as the baby became too nosy, mobile and sociable - if she comes in we just get tapped on arms, noses poked, hair pulled and it is really hard to settle.
I think it's the sleep combined with proper two year old behaviour kicking in which is challenging my low reserves.
I think one of the other issues is that it's quite hard to have the space to even have a conversation where you admit how hard it is. I sort of feel that when I talk to mums of just one, they're a bit like "well, what did you expect, we all told you were mad having another so soon".....that's pretty much what my midwife said as well. And mostly when we're out it's "damage control" at toddler groups. I do have an old friend with a similar gap but a couple of years ahead who "gets it" so I will try to talk to her again soon.
A day at work is much less tiring than a day with little ones. I'm not surprised that you are exhausted if you're being woken every 2 hours and are awake for 30mins. And then getting up at 5. Here are a few things that might help - not all at once, but perhaps a couple will chime with you-
Pay for some help - cleaner, nursery or babysitter
If they both nap after lunch then that is time when you must either nap or watch tv. Enforced relaxing.
Divide and rule. Can dh or your parents take the toddler for the day giving you the chance to relax with the baby?
could dh give the baby a bottle for a couple of the night feeds?
Could you cut night feeds - Pantley pull off method worked for us.
The biggest change for me was going back to work I'm afraid. I went back at 10 months, 3 days a week. It has helped get the household back on a more even keel - in terms of parental contribution to household between me and DH too.
On a practical level, do try and prioritise yourself when you can. You don't need to have a clean house but you do need to eat (relatively) decent food regularly
I had a 21 month gap & ended up obsessive about making sure we were at home for an afternoon nap. Both children slept from 12.30-2.30 and so did I. It was the only way I survived until baby was 9 months we went to a holiday cottage with thick stone walls & had 3 nights of controlled crying where the biggest couldn't be disturbed. Good luck!
Thanks for the replies, even being able to sound off on this thread has helped and made me feel less alone.
I do use a nursery for a couple of mornings a week as I still get vouchers from work and baby starting too. This will give me some space to rest and get my head sorted I hope. I can't afford full days but the time I am getting is helping.
I can't crack the baby's naps and I seem to spend most of the day worrying about sleep. Hopefully a concerted joint effort with DH with the night sleep will help. Well-meaning people say "just get them to nap at the same time".....oh how I'd like them to come to my house and do that!
And I think sometimes I'm in such a spin I let things get a bit messy so I don't feel I can lie down with the baby, who I think might cosleep for naps. I might just try that once a week as at present any extra sleep helps.
Wanda, cross-post. I'm going to try harder to get that nap at the same time, on the couple of times I've managed it, it's been wonderful!
The biggest change for me too, was getting back to work pt at 4 and 5 months respectively. And stopping bf. I'm sure I would have headed into PND territory otherwise.
I immediately had a 'break' from the DC set days each week. Feeding became a joint effort (and sleep improved all round) and I generally felt more in control.
It cost us financially as we had no regular family help, but I've much fonder memories of their childhoods once the decisions were made, and if you are 'on your knees' then something has to give.
You are right in the thick of it. I was you this time last year (2y6m gap here) - lurching from day to day. I loved maternity leave first time around but it was far more of a drudge second time.
I expected dc2 to be easier but no. Far worse. Total velcro baby who bfed constantly and only really wanted me. Hard bloody work.
Things really improved from 15mths and now at 20mths dc2 sleeps reliably from 7-7. I honestly never thought we'd get to that point. I only recently stopped bf-ing and I do think that has made a difference and improved sleep no end.
I totally get how you feel. I also couldn't really let anyone else know how tough it was and kind of laughed it off as a joke when people asked how I found having two. But honestly I thought it was horrendous. I feel a bit sad that I didn't enjoy the baby stage as much with DC2 as I'd loved it with DC1 (who with hindsight was a doddle in comparison) and I'm slightly envious of friends who have had a real easy DC2 who's "slotted right in"
DH got it but I think felt powerless to do much. Every time we'd try and battle it out in various guises with DC2 at bedtime or night wakings we'd both wonder wtf and end up "giving in" and feeding/cuddling her back to sleep, which was ultimately the only thing that worked.
All this whilst dealing with a threenager and I seriously doubted my capacity to perform as a mother on many many occasions.
The things that kept me sane were just getting out of the house for a walk, meeting up with 1 or 2 select friends who totally understood, spending time on my phone (sad but it was an easy form of escapism) and getting a couple of breaks/holidays in as a family. I found leaving the DCs for any amount of time (with DH, grandparents etc) quite stressful as it was likely DC2 would be screaming by the time I got back. So I'd feel guilty and sad with a bit of resentment too which wasn't a great mix. It never felt like a break!
Ugh. So anyway, enough of me rambling on. I guess I'm trying to say that there was no magical answer and things have just got easier with time. I'm sad that I felt that having 1 DC made me a better person and having 2 DC has made me feel like a worse person (but I've got some other stuff going on that I think is probably more responsible for that side of things tbh). I could hold on to the promise that it would get easier but by no means think this is the best way to deal with things. I came v close to going to the docs a few times but was v reluctant to go down the depression route. I worried that it would then forever hang over me. However, I'm not 100% convinced that dealing with it alone was the best thing either. I definitely think things are better now but I'm by no means fully happy.
I'm putting it down to the grind of having two small children for now...
Good luck OP, hope you figure out a way forward that works for all of you!
Do you have a double buggy? Would going for a walk after lunch send them off to sleep together? Depends if you have somewhere sensible to leave them when you get home I guess. I've also taken them both out for a drive in the past and parked up when they were both asleep
Oh yes - the amount of diesel I must've gone through driving round trying to get them both to sleep at the same time!! I used to try to sleep in the car too and once the neighbour knocked on the window to check on me - he thought I'd gassed us all
never knocked again though
Yucky all of that rings so many bells with me. My other NCT friends seems to have found having the 2nd one quite straightforward, but I've struggled much more 2nd time. 1st child was a good sleeper, 2nd is most definitely not! I can get quite angry when comparing our lives and jealous over their helpful families and husbands, but ultimately that doesn't help me and so I do try reign it in. Again that has been helped by going back to work
Definitely empathise with feeling like a worse person after having dc2. I'm much less patient with friends and family too, there seems to be much more bubbling resentment inside me
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