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I am a happy person.  Most of my life, I wake up in the morning eager to start a new day, always ready to see the positive.  And yet, a year ago today I started taking anti-depressant medication.  I was living with a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, so anxious that my heart would flutter and pound even when I sat still on the couch in the evenings.  

Motherhood is Hard

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We are farmers and spring through autumn is a super busy time for our family.  I get a lot of joy from our lifestyle that allows Mr. Man to be home with me and the kids for a big chunk of the winter and always close enough to home that we can jump in the truck and visit him out in the field or at work on some machinery in his parents workshop a mile away.  And I am also happy in my decision to stay home with my little ones at this time.  I love seeing them change and grow every day, being the person to see every one of their "firsts".  

And yet.

I had no idea that motherhood would be like this.  It is an intense and all-consuming job.  I am always thinking about my kids, planning how they will get enough sleep, figuring out ways to fill them with healthy food, balancing their many needs for exercise, learning, dancing, doing... 

Last summer was really hard.  I can't stand it when I am not doing EVERYTHING well, no matter how impossible that may be.  Being an almost-single parent while Mr. Man worked the extra long hours of harvest, I felt overwhelmed by my life.  I wanted so much to just shut the door to my workroom and do my own thing all day, with no small people to worry and care about.  

Seeking Change

I felt so ridiculous, sitting in the doctor's office, crying and trying to explain what I was feeling to this man who would never experience the crazy hormones and emotions of motherhood.  When I said it out loud, "It's just so hard with the kids, and making food, and keeping the house clean...," I almost wanted to get up and walk out because I knew that there are millions of mothers out there with MORE kids and MORE work -mothers who could take my situation and make it look easy and fun.  But I was at a point where I knew I needed to get some help and take care of myself, because it wasn't fair for my kids.  One moment I would laugh at their silliness, enjoying their childlike energy; the next I would freak out about the mess or noise that came with it.  And it wasn't fair to my husband who would often come home to a cranky and sullen wife.  I didn't want to be that person anymore!  I wanted to have patience for my kids, to create a happy place for Mr. Man to return to after his tiring farming days.  I wanted, more than anything, to enjoy the time I had with these precious kids while they were still small.

So I took the drugs the doctor prescribed.  And I felt CALM for the first time in months.  Getting my mood sorted out helped me change my perspective.  I let some things go, and spent more time enjoying my children.  I allowed myself to not hang the laundry outside, to let the weeds in the garden grow tall, to let the vacuuming go for a couple weeks.  I started asking for help, and was able to find a very lovely someone to watch my children for one morning a week while I shut myself in my workroom to create.  
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The drugs were only a short-term solution for me, mainly because my body doesn't seem to like anything unnatural and the effects don't last forever for me, and also because my problem was situational: young kids, busy farm life, trouble sleeping, crazy hormones.

Soon harvest was over, Mr. Man was home more, and there was less work to be done, which, along with the medication helped me gain a sense of control over my emotions.  I felt like I was ready to make the switch and booked myself in with a naturopath doctor, hoping to find something that might take the place of the anti-depressants I wanted to stop taking.  She helped me figure out how to slowly get off the drugs and start taking something called 5-HTP along with some melatonin to help me sleep.  

Soon I was feeling much like my normal self.  Winter was easier -slower, without the demands of outside work and food preparation and preserving.  Mr. Man made sure I had a chance to escape each week on my own, to the city for groceries and errands, and a little extra time to do some thrifting with a tasty coffee.  But I knew that summer, in all its busy-ness, would come again.  It terrified me to think that I could become that yucky person again, so I came up with My Sanity Project.  

I thought deeply about the things I NEED in order to feel calm and cared for, able to be a good mother.
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My Sanity Project

1.  Get Enough Sleep
     I am fiercely protective of my sleep!  Adequate sleep is so important for allowing me to have patience and a sense of humour.  I've been taking melatonin on and off, as needed, for the past 9 months to help regulate my sleep.  Along with that, I have bedtime routines that make Mr. Man roll his eyes: making sure I go to bed at the same time every night, reading for a few minutes before I turn out the light, having a fan for white noise, putting lotion on my feet so they don't feel crispy...  It does sound a little crazy, but doing the same things every night helps my mind and body get into sleep mode so much more easily.  

2.  Make Sure My Kids are Well-Rested
     Having well-rested children is also really helpful in keeping my sanity.  The less screaming, the better.  I am religious in keeping my children's naps, quiet times, and bedtimes, knowing how much sweeter and happier they are when they have the rest they need.

3.  Consistent Time On My Own
     Having an Dooter's afternoon nap at the same time as Yummy's quiet time gives me a little space of quiet for myself, every day.  I try to use this time doing something that gives me a bit of rest and a chance to sit down for once, and if possible, something creative like sewing, writing, or making.  Being creative renews me.
      I've also been asking friends and family to take care of my children from time to time as well, giving me time to pursue my own creativity or to spend child-free time with my husband.  I have a hard time asking for help, especially when I think it might inconvenience someone else, but I've been ignoring my pride and asking.  And my lovely family and friends have been so generous in giving their time.

4.  Let Some Things Go
     There are so many things I want to do, or feel I should do.  It is easy to look at other people's blogs or lives and feel inadequate because I am not doing the same things.  I am learning to let some of those things go for now.  This time with young kids is just a season, and one day I can take more things on.  
  • For now, my making business is much slower -I only do a couple trade shows a year and don't sell things online anymore.  
  • I used to hang every load of laundry in the summer, out on the clothesline,  but the 400 foot walk with bundles of wet clothes and a toddler isn't practical right now.  
  • My garden is a disgrace of overgrown weeds with few vegetables hiding underneath -I do what weeding and harvesting I can handle and leave the rest for now.  It is not worth my sanity to have a beautiful garden at this point.  
  • The list goes on...

5.  Get Some Exercise
     Most mornings I take the kids out for a walk down our road, pushing one or both in the stroller so I can get the exercise my body craves.  The walking helps me find sleep more easily too.

6.  Be Thankful
     Every day!  Remembering all the blessings I have helps me stay away from anxious and cranky thoughts.  I have so very much to be thankful for.
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I've been looking over the past year, thinking about how crazy I felt last summer.  I know that I could easily be that person again and I am pretty sure most moms have been there, or close to it at least.  I feel so much more calm this summer.  My post-baby hormones seem to have cooled off, and I try very hard to take care of myself so I can do the same for my family.  And above all, I have had a lot of GRACE.  



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