I did not realize what exactly made me feel so often overwhelmed by my 3 young children (a 4-year-old and 18-month-old twins), or how my actions could be impacting their behavior. I was careful from early on not to build dependence playing with me, hoping they would learn to play on their own, which was generally successful.
So I was very confused about why they usually just wanted to be held, worn, or sit on my lap instead of play. It was impacting me and making feel touched out too much of the time. I couldn’t just leave them alone without supervision to get a break, and it wasn’t good for them to have a mom with no energy or patience, either. Something needed to change.
“Everyone is losing it, so I left. They are fine when I’m not around to dump all the emotions onto.”
That’s the text (along with this selfie on the left) that I sent to a close friend when things were falling apart one day and I couldn’t take anymore. This vulnerable, honest share started a game-changing light bulb for my family. My friend has a similar family as mine and is a frequent confidante. She gets how hard it is with many little people (including twins)!
After validating me, my friend shared how setting hard limits can help make a happier home and after discussing further, I was able to realize how this change was something that I wanted for us.
My friend shared with me that if holding them was making me feel overwhelmed and checking out, I could try something new: validate their feelings, but not pick up, hold, or wear every single time. I decided to try it! It didn’t take long to realize that if I were sitting down in the same room, they still just stood there, upset and grabbing at me. :-/
I quickly agreed with my friend that, at least initially, I couldn’t sit very often. This realization brought about my new motto: validate-and-relocate. I spent most of that first day standing in the kitchen, cleaning or doing food prep. If they came after me, I would lead them back out of the kitchen and say, “No kitchen,” (a standing house rule since our kitchen is not kid-friendly). I would crouch down and hug them as long as they needed, validate their feelings, and then tell them that it was time to go play. To my surprise, they would usually initiate going to play peacefully very quickly!
I knew it was helping when, an hour after creating some space because of my own feelings of overwhelm, I found myself initiating time with them and dancing. It was clear that I had energy, desire, interest, and patience to do some major connecting and making memories with my kids! I am sure they are much happier with a patient, loving mom popping in, versus sitting on my lap while I distract myself on my phone from the overwhelming reality.
It has been a week, and it is something we are trying to all get used to, but so far it has been a life-changing tool for me to help us have a happier home life as a whole.
Caryn Paradise is mama to 4 year old Helen and 18 month old twins June and Casey.
Caryn graduated from the University of Tampa with a BA in psychology with no idea what to do with it. She enjoys reality shows, ice cream, teaching, and making people smile.
Her dream job was being a stay-at-home-mom, but it is way harder than she could have imagined.