I’ve been reading your Advice Smackdowns for a while, and love your advice. I now find myself needing a smackdown of my own. I work in a school as a speech pathologist, so I work the teacher calendar. Great, you’d think. Home all summer with my kids. Well, this summer is more of a nightmare so far. Our first week off was bliss, but this week I have been crying every day and am spinning into some type of weird mommy depression.
I have a 3 year old daughter and a 5 month old son. My daughter is amazing. So sweet and smart and such a joy, but she is also a 3 year old, and can be a jerk, like all three year olds. The baby is pretty happy and easy. The only real issue with him is that he sucks at taking naps. He cries and needs to be bounced to sleep, so when the baby needs to nap, my daughter is told to leave us alone and be quiet. That’s only an issue occasionally.
Our problem is that my daughter has been throwing tantrums constantly the past week. She is hitting, kicking, spitting, screaming (at her dad and me), over simple things like being told not to climb on the furniture, that we can’t play outside because it’s too hot for baby, asking if she needs to use potty. (She is now refusing to go potty, too. She was not trained before, but about a month ago she started going about 3-5 times each day, home or school, and was doing well. Now she has no interest and throws tantrums when potty is mentioned.) I have tried Daniel Tiger songs and episodes that deal with being mad, use your words, calming down, not getting what you want, saying sorry (she loves Daniel Tiger) and we’ve talked about it. She seems to get it and is remorseful, but it keeps happening. I’ve tried ignoring, distracting, giving positive suggestions rather than saying No (not saying “don’t do that” but instead saying “why don’t you play with your kitchen”). Nothing is working.
This summer is certainly different than our last one, but we still go many of the same places (library, museum, farm, spend time with grandparents/cousins). We didn’t play outside a ton last year because of the heat in the afternoon, so not getting outside with baby isn’t terribly different. I am finding myself dreading every day when I get up. People have suggested one day of daycare each week to give myself a break, but our center requires a 3 day minimum and doesn’t charge us if we opt out for all summer. We can’t afford 3 days all summer. I know she’s just exhibiting typical 3 year old behavior, so I don’t think any further intervention is needed (tell me if I’m wrong and should be concerned). I also know there is a lot going on here and a lot of changes in life and schedule, but, what can I do so we are not miserable all summer? Please don’t say I just have to wait it out.
DAYCARE IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION!
Find a babysitter, a mother’s helper, a high school kid or college student home for the summer. Get on SitterCity.com or Care.com or NextDoor.com and post an ad for what you need. Yes, you’re a bit behind the eight ball now that it’s July but from experience, you’ll still probably be able to find SOMEONE. A nanny looking to make up hours while her primary family is at the beach, or who was let go for the summer and hasn’t found a new gig. A student who only took a part-time job and is looking to pick up a little pocket money. A family with a full-time sitter who is willing to nanny-share one or two mornings a week.
Your daughter sounds absolutely beyond typical for her age. Especially adding in a new baby and a new schedule and summer routine and all that. I’m not concerned about her.
You are not failing at Summertime Fun.
But I am concerned about you. Your son is five months, which puts you still well in the Watch Zone for postpartum depression. You used the word “mommy depression” and are blaming situational issues for your feelings, which include dreading each new day and crying every day for at least a week. That, unfortunately, does not sound typical. Have you told people in real life how you’re REALLY feeling? Does your partner know you’re crying every day and how much you’re struggling to cope emotionally?
I agree that a break will be massively helpful for you. As someone who has never really taken to full-time SAHM-ing, you need to give yourself permission to recognize that the summertime transition is a big one for YOU too. And that “full-time summer home with the kids” might not ever really be as good or ideal in reality as it sounds in theory. While the struggle this summer could be postpartum-related (or just the natural learning curve of dealing with two kids who are both at very high-maintenance ages), you might discover that teaching summer school or working freelance enough to keep the kids in daycare part-time is more your speed. And that’s OKAY TOO.
As for this summer, though, right now, you do need to find a better way to cope than crying and dreading each day. I would highly recommend opening up about this to your partner and OB as soon as possible. Even though there are legit situational issues that are contributing to how you feel, there’s something about the overwhelming force of your feelings (and how quickly you went from “bliss” to how you feel now) that suggests a deeper struggle. It’s okay. It’s not your fault. You are not failing at Summertime Fun 2016.
But also YES, please get out there and find a childcare arrangement that works. Usually, paying one person hourly to help with two kids is usually a WAY better deal financially than two daycare enrollments, so it’s possible that you can afford two or even three mornings/afternoons a week. (Particularly if you go with a “mother’s helper” type arrangement with a neighborhood kid whom you’re not asking to drive or do laundry or anything other than “keep them out of my hair for the next three hours.”) Enlist help from your family if you find the process overwhelming. (And maybe ask the grandparents if the next visit can be a drop-off arrangement?)
And once you have some childcare help, I also want you to give yourself permission to spend that time however the hell you want. If getting caught up on housework or running errands feels good, do that. But if you just want to go out and eat some lunch alone or read a book or watch TV, do THAT. Don’t cave to pressure to do something “productive.” You definitely need and deserve a little break, so take one without guilt.