Drowning in Motherhood: Three Survival Skills

by Sharron on February 1, 2011

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A family member used the phrase “drowning in motherhood” last week to describe her life with a newborn and a toddler. I remember so many days just a few years ago of my own fierce determination mixed with immeasurable joy and overwhelming exhaustion that left me drowning in motherhood.

As a former lifeguard and 8-1/2 year veteran of motherhood, I compiled my top three survival skills to share with new moms who may find themselves in over their heads.

Survival Skill #1: Relax and Submit to Your New Reality

I recently researched an indoor swimming facility for my three young girls to escape this long, dreary winter. I learned that the swim instructors teach a “rollover” technique to children as young as four months. When a submerged child rolls into their back instead of kicking and fighting for the surface, the air in their lungs creates enough buoyancy to bring their head above water.

Motherhood is like that, too. When we learn to relax and give in a little, the stress and struggle of mothering eases up. Maybe the house is a mess and you’ve served canned soup and grilled cheese for the third time this week. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of mothering. Sit back, put your feet up and catch your breath.

Survival Skill #2: Find Your Life Preserver

Getting your head above water is only the first step; now you need some help staying afloat. When you first become a mom, it’s common and so easy to become isolated from your former world. Your past relationships and lifestyle may not fit any longer; and that’s okay. But motherhood is a lot more difficult if you put yourself in solitary confinement.

You’ve got to reach out and find new connections to help you through this part of your journey. Consider joining a play group, striking up a conversation with other moms at the park, or enrolling your little ones in a cooperative preschool or Mother’s Time Out program. You will learn so much about parenting and child development, and hopefully, you will start lasting friendships based on the commonality of motherhood.

If you are parenting with a spouse or partner, tether yourself together during this time. Losing your connection to the person you love most is not only possible, it’s common during the first year of parenting. It’s true that your relationship will never be the same, but with a lot of work and communication, you will build yourselves an unsinkable lifeboat.

Survival Secret #3: Count Your Blessings

How many times have you exclaimed, “Thank God!” after pulling through a harrowing experience? It may sound cliché, but learning to appreciate what you have each day will give you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.

Last week, I received the staggering news that a friend’s 12-year-old daughter had died suddenly after a mild illness. It is a tragedy like this that causes you to shift your priorities. In my case, it reminded me of the first few weeks after my second baby was born. I was struggling to care for a 2-year-old and a newborn. And then came a phone call that changed my life forever. A teenage family member was hospitalized in the intensive care unit because of kidney failure.

From that moment on, I cherished the dark, quiet hours at night when I fed and rocked my baby girl. I was still tired, but no longer frustrated or overwhelmed. I understood then, and now, that I am blessed and make sure my children know every day how much they are loved. After many surgeries and weeks in the hospital, my family member survived. The lesson I learned from her struggle remains.

My second daughter is now six years old. She crawled into my bed last weekend in the wee hours of the night. She was feverish and wanted to sleep with me. I snuggled close to her and listened while she drifted off to sleep. I took a deep breath and whispered a prayer of gratitude. And when – two hours later – my two-year-old daughter padded in wordlessly and climbed into bed on the other side of me, I repeated the ritual.

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Sharron (10 Posts)

Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 7. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. She blogs at http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

sara February 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

Great article..thanks! That term “drowning in motherhood” rang true for me too a few years ago. I’ve been leading Personal Renewal Groups based on Renee Trudeau’s book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal (www.reneetrudeau.com) for several years now and I can tell you it’s been the best life preserver I’ve ever found. I understand those feelings of resentment and extreme fatigue, but practicing the principles in the book, and having the support system from the Personal Renewal Groups is what helps mothers enjoy the beauty of motherhood on a daily basis. Your three survival skills are great.

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Sharron February 2, 2011 at 7:37 am

Thank you, Sara. I just checked out Renee’s web site and it looks like such a great resource. One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a new mom is the solitude. I wish I had experienced one of your renewal groups years ago!

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Jiorgia February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thank you, I needed to hear these words today. I, too, am a mother of a newborn and 2 year old. It can be so overwhelming some days.

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Emma February 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

What a wonderful post… thank you! Nice to be reminded of how lucky we are. :) I agree that when you stop worrying so much about what it SHOULD be or what other people are telling you OUGHT to happen, and just let it be what it IS, mothering is sooo much easier. After I accepted that my daughter just was not a child who was going to sleep for long stretches at night (she will be two soon and still wakes to nurse every two or three hours), it stopped bothering me, and now I, too, take those quiet moments to breathe in her baby hair smell and listen to her small sleepy sounds. So sweet, and so fleeting.

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Chrystal @ Happy Mothering February 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I love the description “drowning in motherhood.” It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. Thanks for the tips!

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Sharron February 2, 2011 at 7:48 am

This was a nice surprise this morning. I needed your words of encouragement, as I’m “weathering a storm” of motherhood here. All three girls and myself are in a different stage of illness. We have been iced in for two days and my husband’s overnight business trip is now going on four nights because he can’t fly home. Deep breath… We have electricity, food and neighbors. We will survive. But I do long for the connection of another adult right now!

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April February 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

This made my heart swell!

I know exactly where you’re coming from. At this point I have just one – an 18 month old beautiful girl – but I have to remember to take things as they come and be grateful for the moment.

At a tiny three weeks old, when my daughter cried because she was hungry (again), my husband would try to gently wake me. He always looked so concerned that I hadn’t gotten enough rest . . . but one look at that little bitty hungry girl, and my heart always just melted. I forgot about exhaustion, and I ate up the moments I had with her so close to my heart.

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Amie February 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm

What truer words. I remember when my daughter was just about 12 months old, feeling so isolated and lonely. I was not practicing #3, counting my blessings, and instead focusing only on the bad times and feelings. I, thankfully, fueled my isolative feelings into finding some more mommy groups and reconnecting with old friends. These days I find music is a great companion, as my days have become very busy to be able to have lunch with a friend, and my daughter is starting preschool. We created a CD for children called Baby in Bliss, to remind our little ones who they are inside like peace, compassion, and love, and I find myself listening to it when I am forgetting who I am. Thank you, Sharron, for posting and I hope we moms can support each other.

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Magic and Mayhem February 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Number three is always on my mind. My four kids can be so overwhelming but I have two friends who lost their daughters, and it’s something that never stops reminding me of how lucky we are in the midst of any craziness. :)

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