WAHM/D, SAHM/D, Work out of the home or other?
* Work full-time – outside of the home.
# of Kids? Ages?
WAHM/D, SAHM/D, Work out of the home or other?
# of Kids? Ages?
I’m going on a vacation this month…alone, well, not alone, but without my spouse or kids. It’s a week in an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. The type of vacation that you dream of. No cooking, no yelling at (your own) children, margaritas by the pool, real heat and no snow and did I mention, margaritas by the pool.
I don’t celebrate Christmas, I never have. I grew up in beautiful Jasper National Park. Although now it is a lovely diverse community, when I was growing up in the 90’s it wasn’t so diverse. There were not even a handful of Muslim families and basically 2 Arab families. Finding a sense of community based on my faith and heritage was impossible. Luckily for me, although predominantly Caucasian, the community of Jasper National Park is made up of some of the most amazing, supportive and accepting people I have ever met. We weren’t the only minorities, but for me it sure seemed so!
By mom Elizabeth Tadman-Kickham
I didn’t always dream about becoming a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to welcome my baby to the world, but I was also terrified to spend a year at home, alone with her. I knew I would learn how to take care of her, hold her properly, change her diapers, feed her around the clock, but I didn’t know how well I would adapt to my new life at home.
Petrified of being lonely and going stir crazy, I stepped out of my comfort zone while on maternity leave and completely surprised myself. I’d be lying if I said every minute at home has been blissful but here are a few things I learned that have made the year an overall success.
“This retreat is like Summer Camp – For Moms!” ~ Maria, Mom of 2
I joined a few friends at the Summer Breathe, Women’s Retreat. The retreat took place by Winfield, Alberta at Pure Awareness,about an hour and a half west of Edmonton. To say this place was beautiful is an absolute understatement.
This is not an easy post for me to write, but in light of recent events, I feel compelled to share a part of my story and some of my coping mechanisms…. So here goes. I’ve been described by some people, as a person who has a lot on her plate. They’re not wrong, it is a lot to juggle.Taking care of two young boys, caring for a mother who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and early onset dementia,managing the household and having 2 bigger dogs to contend with, holding down a job ( or sometimes 2 jobs) and having a husband that works in and out of town does have me mentally and physically exhausted at times. My emotions get the best of me.
By Joann Fox
Mother, mamma, mom, mama, mum, mommy – no matter which way you say it, “mom” means a lot of things. She is the caregiver, doctor, psychologist, special event planner, cleaner, chore manager, baker, cook, boo-boo kisser, teacher, provider, bedtime cuddler, seamstress, artist, appointment manager, [insert one of several other mother duties here]. Mamas – if you really sit down and think about all we do for our kids and our families, we are truly amazing individuals.
But what happens when the mother juggle becomes overwhelming?
Many of us read about all the other moms out there handling their S*!t and strategies they use to keep their juggle going but what if you begin to drop those balls and don’t care about picking them back up even though they are important to you? What if you spend days or even weeks not being able to focus on any one task and then start to panic about not meeting deadlines? What if you spend multiple weekends in bed just being sad? What if your significant other or someone else close to you says “I am really worried about you”?
Sometimes it’s not about managing the juggle. Sometimes it’s about managing your own health.
Your mental health.
I’m not sure when I started to feel the way I did and to be honest, it was probably for quite some time before I really noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Any little nagging feeling was quickly dispelled by reading about how other moms are struggling with staying home with the kids or with working full-time and managing the home and its people and activities. I started to normalize the way I was feeling because every other mom on the internet seemed to be going through the same thing. Every mom I spoke to also had similar stories about the overwhelming number of things she had to get done that day, week or year. Lots of moms also had offered coping strategies to deal with the chaos – coffee, chocolate, and wine seemed to be the majority favourites. Of course for many mamas out there, just talking about the hardships of motherhood is a coping strategy (preferably over coffee, chocolate, or wine ;). I thought that this was just the way life is for a busy mom. Everything is fine because everyone else seems to be feeling the same way.
But it wasn’t fine.
I was sad – like, really, really sad. So sad that there were some weeknights and weekends that I just didn’t want to get out of bed – I couldn’t get out of bed.
I was so irritable. A smear of peanut butter left on the counter for me to wipe up would set the tone for the day as I frustratingly rattled off the 100 things that haven’t been done around the house for the last two years. Although I knew it was ridiculous to be so upset over something so tiny, I couldn’t help it. The tiniest things would make me so upset although I knew that it was ridiculous to be that upset over them.
I couldn’t focus. Tasks and assignments that should have taken me a few hours to complete were taking me days to finish and starting any new project or task was terrifying. My mind wandered endlessly between tasks and lists and projects both at work and at home that I would spend all of my time worrying about them instead of completing them.
I was forgetful. I have always been able to keep pretty good tabs on what I needed to get done but I started forgetting things after only a few minutes had passed. There were several times when I was in the shower and honestly couldn’t remember if I shampooed my hair.
I was exhausted. Even though I was getting 7-8 hours of sleep, there were more days than I could count that I would come home and didn’t have enough energy to make dinner. I was just so tired. My body was aching mentally and physically and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I didn’t care. I didn’t care if my friends invited me to go out or not. I didn’t care about baking or cooking (things I normally enjoy doing), I didn’t care about my birthday or celebrating anything or anyone. I didn’t care about me. This feeling alone (as well as my husband’s voiced concern about me) was the reason I finally decided that I needed to see my family doctor.
As I walked into my family doctor’s office, I was greeted by his friendly, cheerful smile. I immediately broke down into tears. I was so overwhelmed by all of the feelings I had been having but also ashamed. I wasn’t ashamed that I was there trying to get help but I was ashamed that it took me so long to do it. As I explained what I was feeling, he didn’t seem surprised at what I was telling him. He told me that a lot of 30-something moms come into his office on a regular basis describing the same feelings. Was it normal? No, it wasn’t normal – but I was the classic, textbook presentation of anxiety and depression. Some people in my situation might have been shocked with the diagnosis.
I was relieved.
I was so relieved that the feelings I was having had names. I was even more relieved to discuss treatment options with my doctor. I am extremely lucky to have such a great family doctor who took a generous amount of time to answer all my questions, address all my concerns, and explain different treatment options for me . We both decided on a treatment that sounded like a good start and some further appointments so he could check on my progress.
After only a couple of weeks of treatment, I could already notice a difference – subtle differences. I was getting more done and was more focused. That peanut butter smear didn’t bother me the next time it happened. I was happier and much more pleasant to be around (says my husband). I wanted to go out and be more social. I finally started my blog. I wasn’t sweating the small stuff so much.
It has since been three months since I went to see my doctor for help. I feel great. Actually, I feel better than I have ever felt for as long as I can remember. At one of my follow-up appointments I told my doctor that even though the changes are subtle, I felt as though I could have benefited from treatment years ago (like – even before kids). He surprised me by saying that quite a few people that undergo treatment for anxiety and depression tell him that. In my case, I think I was so used to feeling the way I was feeling for much of my life, I just thought it was normal – until of course my feelings became overwhelmingly debilitating.
What is my point and why am I sharing my story with you?
Because I see tons of posts about needing a venti Americano, a Snickers, or a nice big glass of malbec to cap off that awful day or week a mama has had and not as many posts about needing a mental assessment by a doctor when those awful days and weeks turn into months and years.
Because although I certainly don’t want a pity party from my friends and family (most of who will have no idea that I am being treated for anxiety and depression unless they read this post), I do want to bring more attention to mama’s mental health. Moms always seem to put themselves last and when we think about taking care of ourselves, it’s usually thought of in a physical sense. Although it is true that we should be making our physical health a priority, our mental health should be a priority too.
Because you deserve to be the best “you”. If you feel that something is wrong and you are really having trouble juggling day-to-day life and coping with your feelings, get help. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. He or she can help you figure out if your feelings are normal or if there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected.
Not all bad and sad feelings need a prescription. It’s not about living a life free from trials and tribulations. It’s about living your best life and being able to cope and adapt with whatever life throws your way. Many of us don’t need help with that. Some of us do – and there is absolutely no shame in that.
Take care of yourselves mamas.
Joann is a full-time working proud mama of two. She spends most of her weekends at the rink watching her son play hockey or taking her daughter to dance and gymnastics classes. On her spare time (what’s that?), Joann loves to cook and believes most of life’s problems melt away with a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. She is passionate about her life as a mom and shares her stories at themotherjuggle.com & Facebook
You’ve seen those headlines, leading into the blog post about an awesome and capable mompreneur on the scene who juggles it all: the carpool, the snack bar, the home (or away) job, the kids, the husband or the single parenting, the downtime, the self-care, the manicures, the crafts, the pets. Maybe she even shares the tears, the wine, or the softness of falling apart in the shower where no one can see you…
People have been asking me how I do it all, in awe and wonder how I do it all, painting me as that person. But I’m here to tell you, I am nothing to be inspired by. I am nothing to aspire to.
Doing it all nearly killed me.
I am a Gemini. I am an INFP/INFJ. I love labels because I am a perfectionist whose life is a hot mess of chaos but whose brain doesn’t appreciate disorder no matter how many times her voice drips with denial. “It doesn’t matter; it’s fine.” I also have ADHD, diagnosed in adulthood during university, after years of feeling like I hadn’t quite mastered this whole “adulting” phase of life.
I am a full-time student at 36-years old, finishing an Arts degree in a second language I didn’t speak for 18 years until I actually went back to school in 2016. I am heading into a competitive after-degree program next fall with a 3.7 GPA, with plans to finish my Education degree and become a full-time elementary school teacher.
I am also a Chamber of Commerce award-winning business owner. I run a dance studio full-time, but I barely break even each year because I am also an artist and a creative and an empath with a heart too big for my own boundaries. I care too much about my students to stay focused on the bank accounts, and I try my best to ignore the bookkeeping that is a terrible mess.
I’m a mom to 9-year old twin daughters, one of whom is as roller derby princess in the throes of preteen angst and the other of whom is in a very intense pre-professional ballet programme. I also have a husband whose business is unpredictable. He is often away or works longer hours than expected. We lack the stability (and income!!) of an oilfield family but with all the stress that comes with solo parenting.
I regularly did it all, thanks to that never-ending whirring combo of perfectionist/ADHD/Gemini/creative, piling on the challenges and projects and responsibilities until my life looked the balancing chair act of the Chinese acrobatic circus I saw when I was a child.
My 2017 was already shaky. I had long-time dance teacher leave our studio in an abrupt and unprofessional manner than upset my already delicate balance of passion vs income. I was enrolled in the hardest semester of my degree. I would be subbing at Alberta Ballet every weekend for two months, and my ballerina had taken on extra rehearsals for a Christmas production with her dance school. Somehow I also had to be a mom, be a business owner (not just a teacher), be a wife, and somehow be myself.
Oh yeah: and I was 13 weeks away from taking 17 dancers and their families to Disneyland to perform in one of their holiday parades, during university finals week. Extra rehearsals, extra fundraising, organizing and liaising every aspect of a trip that would not run smoothly, with all the responsibility for its success falling squarely on me.
But I could do this. I could survive this. I am a survivor, and I thrive under stress, and I could do this. I just had to get to December 17th with a strict regimen of university/teach, university/teach, university/drive the ballerina, university/teach, university/drive the ballerina/teach, drive the ballerina/teach, Disneyland rehearsals. Somewhere in that Monday to Friday mess was homework and studio administration.
On Thanksgiving weekend though, a mere 5 weeks in…our friend died. She died horrifically and tragically and instantly and unexpectedly. I say “our friend” because the pain was not mine alone. So many of us, so many of you reading were devastated by Steffi’s death. It broke me into a thousand pieces at a time when I could barely get through my responsibilities in one piece. I cried day and night, never having lost a friend, never having lost a dear family member. Never having lost someone close, I didn’t understand the pain. The never-ending, 24-hour pain.
Then four short days later, one of my dance moms died from breast cancer. And I lost it. I lost everything. I broke more than I’d ever broken before. A few years ago, I had someone tell people that I’d gone crazy. That I had a mental breakdown. Back then, it was all mean and petty lies. This time though? It was really real. On that day, on Wednesday, October 11, I broke down in my car and then on my dad’s couch. I went to my doctor. She took me out of school and recommended I take time off of work. She prescribed sleeping pills, Valium, and an increased anti-depressant. I used our Employee/Family Assistance Program (EFAP) to find a local counselor to help me for free. And I started to my road to recovery.
But it didn’t end there. Rock bottom had a basement, and underground plumbing and the hot fires of hell to still reach first. Between October 11 and December 16, I endured more personal pain than ever. I had people blame me for things beyond my control at my studio and call me some of the worst things that I can’t even write out here. I found out that being an empath means having connections to spiritual energy, and my dead friend was everywhere I looked. Disneyland was killing me. School was killing me. Parenting was killing me. Marriage wasn’t killing me because I didn’t even have time to realize I was married. I’m not a crafty person, but I was stress crafting at Michael’s, gluing rhinestones onto document folders and laminating homemade luggage tags for 47 people.
And on November 30, I spent 3 hours wrapped up on my couch hyperventilating through a panic attack that should’ve taken me to the ER, but instead left me wishing the blanket I was clutching would suffocate me. I spent the next week leading up to Disneyland wishing a truck or a moose or an airplane would hit me and put me out of my misery while I ironed logos onto t-shirts. I created things to control because I couldn’t control myself. Travel-wise, everything that could go wrong with our Disneyland trip was going wrong. I would close my eyes while driving on the backroads to get home, seeing how long I could keep my car in a straight line before survival instincts forced my eyes open again.
I spent the week before Disneyland in a haze, but somehow we got on the plane made it to our hotel. And we danced down Main Street USA in a fury of ponytails and red lipstick and the most Christmas magic I have ever known. I missed out on seeing my own daughter in the parade though; I was on the wrong side of the road. I cried my eyes out over it because I saw all my other dancers completely but missed my own girl, and it was just so par for the course in 2017 to come this far and miss her. But I was proud of my dancers. All of them worked so hard and they sparkled. They were amazing.
And then, it was over.
I was exhausted. I was holding my surface tension up with Disney magic while the storm inside me rolled with Valium, dark humour and a thin string of hope. The last 72-hours of my marathon began our flight landed. Between 3 am on Thursday and 5 pm on Saturday, I wrote three final exams and taught 4.5 hours of dance at Alberta Ballet. I nearly fell asleep on the Yellowhead highway three times and allowed myself to use my doctor’s personal cell number as a lifeline. I coordinated my ballerina’s stage rehearsals and three performances despite her utter exhaustion. And then I stopped.
So after going to bed at 6 pm last night, here I am. I’ve rambled for 1400 words so that I can tell you this:
Do not think that you can do it all.
Do not think that you SHOULD do it all.
Do not think that you NEED to do it all.
You don’t. It’s not good. It’s not healthy. I’m here to tell you that you can’t do it all. You won’t. And that’s okay. It’s really, really okay. If you lose yourself trying to be everything to everyone, you won’t have anything left of you. I’d rather be alive than be everything.
We understand when people eat poorly and don’t exercise and end up with diabetes and heart problems. We understand when athletes overtrain and end up ruining their careers with injuries. But we don’t realize that we average women can ruin ourselves just by keeping up. It might not kill you the way my brain wanted a car to crash into me at 110km/h, but it will kill your soul and your spirit. There’s a reason that minimalism is trendy right now: there is too much expectation.
Keeping up will kill you.
My brain and I have a long road to recovery ahead of us, but at least I know now that I am not all the things. I have a lot of appointments and rest in the next three weeks of Christmas break, and I’m terrified of what the downtime will do to my mind. I’m terrified of the silence that won’t be drowned out by the busyness. I am scared of what my therapists and doctor will ask me to learn and unlearn. It’s unfamiliar and new, and it means letting go of my expectations of myself.
But I don’t want to be everything anymore. I just want to be me.
Magz Dickert is a bit of an overachiever. She is the owner of Expressions Dance Studio in Onoway, AB and used to blog furiously and inappropriately at MagzDLife. She has too many pregnant cats on her acreage, gets distracted by shiny things, and hates glitter with her entire soul. She puts 40,000km on her car each year but refuses to use a travel mug for her coffee when she’s on the road. Oh, and she freaking loves Lilo & Stitch. Like, freaking.
You’ve seen the commercials where it says depression hurts and then they show people lying in bed and not doing anything or sitting around the house joyless. Those commercials resonated with me when I first saw them one million years ago, because they’re right, getting stuff done when you’re depressed is hard. I’ve had clinical depression (major depressive disorder) with some equally fun mental illnesses for about 18 years and it’s annoying having this stupid illness but I try to not make it a focus of my life. Just like any other illness you put up, shut up and get on with getting stuff done. I’ve got a great family, insanely amazing husband and a supportive Dr. that has always been an advocate for making sure that I’m on the right meds and doing what I need to be better.
There are many, I call them, annoyances with clinical depression but my Achilles heel is the heaviness and the inability to get stuff done when I get a flare-up. Anyone with clinical depression will tell you that the weight you feel is exhausting. Getting the most basic thing accomplished is an absolute nightmare. It takes forever to do anything because it feels like you’re wearing a lead vest, like the one when you get an x-ray, except this lead vest is 1,000 pounds. When you realize that it’s 4pm and you’ve not even been able to put the dishwasher on despite several attempts throughout the day (you’ve managed empty the dishwasher, but only got the top rack filled) there’s the guilt and the disappointment and feeling of utter uselessness.
Having a job when you have a depressive flare-up can be a real killer on your self-esteem. You’re part of a team and want to accomplish everything. When you’re your normal self you’re the typing cat gif getting kids forms filled out and remembering to take them to soccer. Letting your team down isn’t an option because you’re a go-getter, a hard worker and then…. fizzle…you’re staring out the window, staring at your computer screen checking Facebook for the millionth time that day and accomplishing absolutely nothing. The guilt creeps in again. You’re going to get fired, demoted, your co-workers think you’re lazy and bizarrly you justify this! They’re right, you’re late with your work and it’s half-assed at best because your ability to concentrate is at zero.
Me on a good day via GIPHY
Those are the days you wish your depression was something actually people can physically see, like a flu. If you were sniffling and coughing if would be easy for people to see that you weren’t feeling it, you’d be excused from working and it would be ok. Feeling depressed, although has a very physical component to it, can’t be seen like boogers, and you want to press on, move along, get shit done and not let it take over your day/week. The irony isn’t lost on me. I don’t want my depression to take over my life but sometimes it does.
I’m not pretending to have a solution because I don’t. Depression sucks and it’s complicated. I do know that there are things I can do to prepare for a flare-up or try to prevent one. Stress is a major factor in a depression flare up for me, and I’ve had to take a good long look at my career and make the difficult decision to take a step back & slow my life down. I try to make sure that I’m not taking on too much that would cause too much stress, but sometimes life is stressful, especially as a working mom… so I’m working on figuring that out.
In the meantime here are some things I try to do to keep my brain in order or at least survive a depressive episode:
This is my account of my life with my depression flare-ups and is absolutely not the same as everyone else. Things that I do to help myself might not work for you because no depression is the same. Make your own lists (all the lists) and know your own limits. Make some tough choices and re-evaluate your values around what’s important to you and what your triggers might be. Try to be kind to yourself, because it’s not just physically exhausting living through a bad patch of depression, it’s tormenting you emotionally too.
If you have any other tips or tricks that you do to get you through a bad patch, let us know! I’d be particularly interested in any and all tricks!
Author: Erin is a mother of 2 and lives in Lethbridge, Alberta and is a reluctant maker of supper (why every night?!!?!) and is thankful that the meds work because they don’t for everyone.