How to Take Care Of Your Mental Health While Parenting

This podcast will focus on how to take care of you when the going gets tough during parenthood. There are many “shoulds” we are told to do while parenting- but we aren’t often reminded to take care of our own mental health. Of course, as it turns out, when we take care of ourselves, it’s easier to take care of others! We talk about taking breaks, paying attention to triggers, protecting the “couplehood” if you are in a marriage or long term relationship and getting your children involved with the mental health the solution of the family.

Guest Expert: Kate Rope

We often get a great deal of advice about how to raise our children but don’t always hear the best ways we can take care of ourselves and stay sane WHILE raising our children. Who can you turn to when things aren’t going smoothly? How can you talk about it when you are struggling? How do you cope with anger or exhaustion or frustration and avoid becoming the one who does EVERYTHING even when you have nothing left? Today we are going to speak to my friend and colleague, Kate Rope for the answers to these questions.

KATE ROPE is an award-winning freelance journalist and author of Strong as a Mother: How to Be Happy, Healthy and (Most Importantly) Sane From Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU! She writes about mental health and parenting for The New York TimesThe Washington PostTime and many other publications. She is currently co-creating an audio documentary about medical research during the Vietnam War with Alan Alda. It will be released by Audible in Fall 2020. You can find her work at katerope.com.

Important Messages:

  • Motherhood is seen as so magical and portrayed as so- but it’s a life-changing experience and any life-changing experience is also incredibly hard.
  • We need to partial out what’s “a fun outing” and what’s actually “self care.”
  • Society needs to be supporting parents. Need better childcare, for example. There’s a cultural situation- until we have more supports, you have one thing you CAN do- and that’s taking care of you.
  • In the beginning, it’s something small. As you get older, you may be able to do more.
  • Self-care is what makes you feel good, calm and centered and then making that a part of your everyday. Bike ride, journaling, exercising, meditation.
  • Think about college and high school- what “took you away” when you had the time?
  • Do the things during pregnancy that you want to incorporate into your life so they are harder take out when the baby comes. Or if you adopted or have a small child, find small ways to work it in. Can you do it simultaneously? Can you, for example, get the laundry done and write in your journal at the same time?
  • Recognize your triggers. For example, noise might be a trigger. So self-care might make sure you need to carve out some quiet.
  • Recognize your needs. You will be a better parent if they are served.
  • How can you work within the to-do list without adding on another should?
  • We all need to be able to say when things are too much- and we need a break. “Reset.” This can be a reminder- it might needing space.
  • Present the problem to kids- and then they can be part of the solution. Kids can know how to help their parents. You are modeling it for kids as well. Show your kids that taking care of yourself is important.
  • How do you find your people? Need your support team. Pay attention to who you interact with that make you feel a little stronger, a little lighter. Vs. Guilty or bad. Who do you have in your life that you want more of or less of? Some online mom groups can be terrible or wonderful.
  • One Bad Mother.
  • Drop a truth to test out your audience- are the potential friends supportive and real or not?
  • Do you need to follow a predictable script—can’t deviate from it- showing everything is perfect and nothing is wrong?
  • Put out a little truth about who you are- who raises the flag higher and who just walks by?
  • Don’t forget about date nights. What are the ways you connected prior to kids? Incorporate that.
  • Steal small moments- even just a quick ice cream.
  • Talk about things other than simply the children the whole time.
  • Returning to sex after bringing a baby in your life is challenging. Get messages that if you are not having sex, you aren’t connected. But this might not be a reality right after having a baby or when you are an exhausted parent. What are some intimate ways to connect that aren’t sex? Back rubs, cuddling, massages. Sex doesn’t need to be the goal. Plan a sex night- some recommend- it takes the pressure off specific moments.
  • Can grandparents take care of the kids?
  • Modeling healthy relationships when you show that couple time is important. Prioritizing couple time.
  • Bedtimes- how is that influencing couple time?
  • When in planning phases of your parenthood (adoption or pregnancy)- how are we going to break this parenting thing down?
  • Mothers often become the keeper of all the knowledge. Give each partner- zones of responsibility. You can switch- but this can help with share labor.
  • Nonviolent communication- “I have a need…it makes me feel…could you help me..by…
  • Own your needs. Instead of “you made me feel” or “I’m always…” “You’re always” move to “I’ve been feeling…”
  • Let’s do a swap- a say this not that section, when it comes to the anger we were just discussing.
    • You pissed me off. “I’m feeling really angry because…”
    • You never clean the dishes in the sink. “I feel like I keep being the one who is cleaning the dishes. Can I get some help?”
    • I’m always the one waking up with the kids on the weekends. “I’m feeling really tired…I think the reason is…on weekends I feel like I’m the one who is getting up with the kids. I feel like that’s the pattern. What can we do to change that?” (Have the person become part of the solution- don’t lump them in with the problem. Don’t be accusatory or make blanket statements. Don’t attribute it to their character. Puts them on defensive.)
    • My name is called 50 times per day- I never get a moment off the clock! “I feel like my name is being called 50 times a day and I’m not getting a break- could you help me?”
  • Allow the other parent to parent!
  • Your mental health is important. It’s worth taking the time to figure out how to support it.
  • You really matter!

Notable Quotables:

  • “We have this narrative of motherhood that is portrayed as so beautiful and blissful and magical. But it’s a life-changing experience and it would be crazy to think any life-changing experience wouldn’t also be incredibly hard.”
  • “Self-care is figuring out what makes you feel good, centered and calm and making that an everyday or every-week art of your life.”
  • “Let’s start thinking about self-care not as a particular act but as a way of relating to yourself and prioritizing yourself.”
  • Recognize that your needs are as important as your children’s needs and you will better meet their needs when you can meet yours.”
  • “If there was only one way to parent, we’d all know it by now.”
  • “Allow the other parent to parent!”
  • “Your mental health is important. It’s worth taking the time to figure out how to support it. That is what’s best for everybody.”

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