Before my son was born, I spent a decade working in a fast-paced and stressful environment. Things moved and changed quickly, and I suppose I got used to that pace. For a variety of reasons, I chose to leave my career when my son was ten months old. I knew that there would be a mental and emotional transition to being a stay at home mom, but I assumed that merely being aware of it was enough to deal with it. It turned out that going from the speed of the working world to the speed of a toddler was harder than I anticipated.
Once I was home fulltime with my son, I felt bored and lost. The days passed so slowly – an hour at the park was like three hours. I found myself second-guessing my decisions, trying to make the perfect decision. In the back of my mind, I felt like – if I was “just” going to be a mom, I had better be a really good one. The time I spent deliberating over each decision point and berating myself for making the wrong choice made me really annoying to be around. I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do next because apparently toddlers don’t like to play quietly in the living room all afternoon. This created an additional challenge of trying to pass the time until dinner and bedtime.
Over time, I started to figure out a few tricks. For me, having a schedule is key. I enrolled my son in some classes to give me milestones during the week. I know what I am doing on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and it ensures that I don’t find myself in pajamas at 11am. I also try to set a general game plan for the day. It is usually a mix of playgrounds, running errands and walks – with field trips thrown in periodically. Now, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what to do in the moment, I just execute my plan. Obviously, if my son’s mood has gone off the rails, I adjust.
However, what really helped was therapy. I saw someone that allowed me to talk through what I was experiencing and become more aware of what I was doing to myself. The thing I found the most helpful was giving my inner voice a name and treating her like the devil that sits on my shoulder. Seems silly, but it has allowed me to choose to ignore her talking. I am not perfect, but definitely getting better at it.
It took time to slow down to a toddler’s pace, but now that I have given myself permission to relax and enjoy it, I am much happier. It still doesn’t come naturally to me, but I am better able to work toward improvement.