As a SAHM, I sometimes get so absorbed into caring for my kids that I forget to care for myself. It wasn’t until both my kids started going to school that I learned to take things easier.
While sending my son, Breyen, to school, I met one of his classmates’ mum, S. S is a young mother of two boys. Her elder is Breyen’s classmate and her younger is less than one year old. I see S almost every day at Breyen’s school, and we usually chat for a while as we wait for the boys to be done.
This day, S looked exhausted. As we chatted, S shared she found her elder boy to be increasingly challenging to handle. He would make loud noises when his baby brother was sleeping and wake the baby as a result. When instructed to do something, the elder boy would almost instantly forget what he was told and do the opposite.
As S shared, I could sense her frustration. I could also see myself in her. Two and a half years ago, I was feeling the same way. I was upset that my elder child didn’t seem to want to follow instructions while I was trying to manage my younger child who was still a baby.
“It’s really not easy,” I told S. “I can totally empathise with you. Things were like that for me when both my kids were younger too.”
“When things get tough with the kids, we get upset with them. We discipline them and then when the kids cry, we get upset with ourselves and wonder if we have gone overboard while disciplining. And then we get totally exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. We want to run away from everything but we know that we can’t.”
S’s eyes started to well up. “Sometimes, I just don’t know what to do. The elder one was so good until recently. I don’t know what happened to him,” she said.
“You know,” I said, “Sometimes the kids don’t do it on purpose. They reach an age where they are learning boundaries so it feels like they are pushing our buttons and pushing limits. The thing is, at their age, their emotions are more developed than their cognitive abilities. So sometimes when they want to communicate something but we don’t get what they say, they act up.”
I explained to S that I studied human development when I was doing my degree in social work and remembered reading that.
“This is why I don’t like the term ‘Terrible Twos’ or ‘Terrible Threes’. It’s not that the kids want to act up. They are still learning to control their emotions,” I continued. “It gets frustrating for them because we don’t seem to get what they say, and we get frustrated because we think they are being difficult.”
“But of course, I’m not saying that we don’t discipline them. We still have to when the occasion calls for it. What will make a difference is how we reconcile with them and explain things to them. It will take a lot of repetition at our boys’ age, but eventually, they will get it,” I said.
I could see S softening up, tears still in her eyes.
“You know, try to give yourself guiltless breaks. When your husband is home, let him know that you need some time to yourself. Whether it’s having tea or coffee by yourself at the nearest cafe for one hour, or simply walking around the supermarket by yourself for 30 minutes, it will work magic for you,” I shared.
“The important thing is not to feel guilty about leaving the kids with your husband. He will have his bonding time with the kids while you take your break. Only when you take care of yourself, then you can take better care of your kids. I used to feel so frustrated at times, when both my kids were younger. I would just leave the kids with my husband and go to the supermarket alone. When I come back from my walk, I feel better and ready to go again.”
S looked at me and said, “Thanks for sharing. I really needed that. Sometimes it gets so hard and I don’t know what to do. I feel bad if I leave the kids at home but I feel frustrated. I’ll have to learn to take short breaks.”
S really reminded me of how I was like when both Phoebie and Breyen were younger – frustrated, helpless and exhausted. I had to deliberately plan time for husBenKoh to take over just so that I could go on my short breaks to recharge myself.
It wasn’t easy leaving the kids at first. I felt bad and I felt worried.
Slowly, I learnt to let go of my needless guilt. I reminded myself that I wasn’t leaving the kids with a stranger but with their Papa. Their Papa is my partner in parenting and he too, needs time to be with the kids.
Now that both my kids are in school, I get my mini breaks every day and I feel like I can manage better.
SAHMs, allow yourself guiltless breaks. You derseve them and you need them. Don’t feel bad when you go on breaks. These breaks are how you recharge, and when you are recharged, you can take better care of your kids.