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14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

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Coping with Depression While Raising Children | Jenessa Mullen | Chaos & Kiddos
Let’s give a big welcome to Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life} as she visits us today to share 14 tips for coping with depression while raising children. As you know from my recent post, Why Choosing Medication was the Best Move for Me, mental health and the journey towards recovering yourself and your life is very near and dear to my heart. Jenessa, thank you for sharing such a tender subject that can help so many!
Coping with Depression While Raising Children | Jenessa Mullen | Chaos & Kiddos
Hi, my name is Jenessa and I am so excited to be guest posting here at Chaos & Kiddos! I “met” Katy a few weeks ago through emails, and we discovered we had quite a bit in common. She asked me to share my story with you and talk about how I cope every day, raising my children while battling depression.

I have been battling depression since my early teen years. Sometimes I was strong and able to get through it. Sometimes I was down in a deep dark place and needed to seek help. Whatever the case, depression is a horrible battle to face. It gets even harder when you have children.

My latest battle with depression has lasted almost 4 years. 4 years of ups and downs and really, really low days. 4 years of not feeling “normal.” 4 years of feeling like a failure at everything. 4 years of still being a mom to my children, even though most days I didn’t even feel like a normal human being.

I have three children. My oldest daughter, at 14, has seen my ups and downs and although she doesn’t fully understand depression, she knows a bit about my situation. My younger daughter is 5. In the first year after she was born I was so overcome with joy that I can’t even explain how happy I felt. But not long after her first birthday, this latest battle with depression started. I like to think that she remembers how happy I was that first year, but it’s unlikely. My youngest, my son, is almost three and I have been depressed his entire life.

How do I cope with depression while raising my children? Here are a few things I have learned over the years.

1. Be there for them. I make sure that I am always there for my children. If it’s a special occasion like a birthday or graduation, or something as simple as a kiss for a boo ­boo, I’m there. Now, there are times when I would much rather stay in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep the day away. But I get up. Everyday. Because I know my children need me. I know I need to be there for them. And knowing this has got me through some dark days.

2. Make time for yourself. Now, I know I just said always be there for your children, but the other side to that is make sure you have time for yourself as well. I know. I know. It’s hard to find time when you are a mom with a houseful of kids. Believe me, this is a struggle for me. But finding time for yourself is so important. I try to remind myself that if you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be able to properly care for your children. So make time for yourself, even if it’s something as simple as reading a book when you have a minute or taking an extra few minutes in the shower.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

3. Take care of yourself. Not only is it important to make time for yourself, it is important to take care of yourself. Eat right. Get lots of sleep. Exercise. There is a lot of research out there that links eating well and exercising to feeling good. And, if this applies to you, take your medication. I can honestly say that I get very low without my medication, and, even though I was against it at first, I have accepted the fact that I do need medication to function properly, and probably will for years to come. And I make myself take it every morning, before I do anything else. You can read my story here about how I feel without my medication.

4. Get support. Whether it is a friend, your spouse, a family member, a doctor or even a bloggy friend, reach out to someone. Let them know what you are going through. Let them be a support to you and a shoulder when you need it. I am so thankful for my support team. I not only have a supportive and loving family, but I also have a best friend who knows exactly how I feel, a team of professionals (including my family doctor, my counselor and my psychiatrist) and I attend a weekly support group for women. I wouldn’t be as far as I am today without these supports.

5. Ask for help. This is a hard one for me, and probably for a lot of moms out there. I hate asking for help. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough and I can’t handle everything on my own. It makes me feel like I will never be close to “supermom”. But guess what? No one is perfect! Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. Some people need a lot of help in their lives. The point is ­ don’t be afraid to ask. If possible, share responsibilities with your spouse. Divide up the housework, the bedtime routines, or cooking meals. Ask a neighbor to watch your children while you have a nap. Ask a friend and her kids over for a playdate so you have another mom to talk to ­ and don’t worry about cleaning the house before they arrive.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

6. Be honest. I struggled a lot about being honest about my depression at first. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, let alone my doctor or my family. But opening up and being honest opened a whole new world for me. Not only did I feel like I had lifted a weight off of my shoulders, I was also able to connect with other people in similar situations and get the help that I needed. So be honest ­with your friends, your family, your spouse, your doctor and yourself. But most importantly ­ be honest with your children. Now, children don’t need to know every detail, but depending on their age, they can be told about how you are feeling and why. Younger children can understand if they are told “Mommy is sad because….” or even just “Mommy is having a sad day today.” Older children may have questions or want to talk about depression. Naming your feelings and being honest about them not only helps you understand yourself better, it also helps your children learn to express and identify their emotions, as well.

7. Let it go. (Let it go! Let it go! … are you singing, too?) Remember what I said above? No one is perfect. No one has the perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect body, the perfect kids, the perfect everything. Don’t expect that of yourself. Learn to let go of things that drag you down. Learn to let go of unrealistic expectations. Learn to let go of triggers that set you off. Learn to let go of negative people and negative relationships. Learn to let go of your insecurities. Learn to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back. Just let it go. (Let it go! Let it go! …)

8. Forgive yourself. I know part of my depression is feeling down on myself all of the time. Nothing I do is good enough? What if I’m a horrible parent? Why do I yell at the kids when I feel so low? Why can’t I be happy? One of the hardest things for me is forgiveness. Forgiving yourself, whether you made a life changing mistake or a simple mix­up, is important. You can’t be happy, or even start to work on being happy, if you can’t forgive yourself. Everyone stumbles. Everyone makes mistakes. Love yourself. Forgive yourself.

9. Understand your triggers. Maybe there are certain things that set you off? Certain things that make you feel angry or sad or worthless? It has taken me several years to recognize my feelings, and what triggers my feelings, but I know now some of the things that lead up to a panic attack, a crying spell or an out burst of anger. Once you know these triggers, do your best to avoid them, or have a plan to deal with them. This may seem like a lot of work, but take it a step at a time. A journal may help pinpoint triggers or give you a behaviour log to look back at. (An example is that being hot is a trigger for me that may lead to anger or a panic attack. I try to avoid being hot as much as possible. I dress accordingly, I use the air conditioning in the car, I leave my bedroom window open all the time, etc. I can’t always keep myself from getting too hot, but I can try to prevent it as much as possible.)

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

10. Find the positive. I am such a negative person when I am depressed. Everything is wrong. Nothing goes right. I hate this. I hate that. But one day I read a blog post (I really wish I could remember where!) that talked about finding the positive in everyday. Even the worst day has something about it that’s positive. Sometimes it’s easy to see, sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper. Some days, maybe the best you can do is basic things ­ “I have a house” “I have wonderful children” “I am alive”. But no matter how much negative is in your life ­ there is always something positive. I am a big believer in everything in life happens for a reason, and sometimes that’s the only positive I can find. I know that I will overcome my obstacles and be a better person on the other side. Find the positive in every situation. Find the positive in every day.

11. Get outside. Not only is fresh air proven to be good for coping with depression and mood disorders, it is also beneficial for the kids. So if your feeling really down, drop what you are doing and go play outside! Go for a walk. Sit on the patio. Just get outside ­ every day.

12. Tomorrow is a new day. You know that saying “one day at a time”? Well, it definitely applies here! That’s the best you can do. Take life one day at a time. If you mess up today, tomorrow is a new day to try again. And if you find one day at a time to be too hard, go hour by hour or minute by minute. You will get through. You will survive the day. Tomorrow is a fresh start. Tomorrow is a new day.
14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}

13. Love yourself. Oh, this is hard! Especially when you are already feeling so low. But by loving yourself, understanding your feelings and forgiving yourself, you can get stronger. And you are being a role model for your children. You are showing them that, even though you have flaws, even though you have made mistakes, you still love yourself. And I think that is such an important message to give to your children.

14. Remember that your children love you ­ just the way you are. Remember this. Every day. Every minute. Yeah, sure, they may be upset with you over something. Maybe you yelled at them. Maybe they had to be punished and they ran to their room screaming “I hate you!”, but you know what? They don’t. Your children love you. You. Just as you are. They will forgive you for messing up. They will forgive you if you loose your temper. They will love you ­ NO MATTER WHAT. Remember that. Every day. The love of my children is what gets me through this.

So, these are the things I try to remember every day. Battling depression is hard. Raising children is hard. Doing them at the same time can sometimes feel impossible. But you will get through it. I will get through it. And our children will get through it, too. And do you know what? They will be ok. We won’t mess them up. Just breath. And take life one day at a time.

14 Tips for Coping with Depression while Raising Children: Guest Blogger Jenessa from Mothering {In Real Life}
If you would like to read more about my journey through depression, come visit me at Mothering {In Real Life}. If you would like to talk more about depression, or even what coping mechanisms you use in your parenting struggles, please feel welcome to comment below. Or you can email me at
jenessamullen@outlook.com. I would love to talk with you and hear your stories.
Thank you, Katy, for allowing me this opportunity to guest post on your blog.
I have enjoyed my time here at Chaos & Kiddos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenessa Mullen is an Early Childhood Educator and mother of three, living in small town, Nova Scotia. She blogs about her children, parenting struggles and her battle with depression at Mothering {In Real Life}. You can say hello to Jenessa on social media, or send her an email at jenessamullen@outlook.com.

 
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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Echo

    August 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    This is a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing your coping skills with us!

  2. Liv

    August 6, 2014 at 2:39 am

    You should feel very positive about this blog post – these are great tips not just for moms struggling with depression. Your willingness to talk about such a stigmatizing subject is surely helping others. Thank you on their behalf.

  3. Katelyn F

    August 6, 2014 at 9:49 am

    What a great and powerful piece! I haven’t dealt with depression in my life but many, many people are.

  4. Jennifer

    August 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing a difficult truth with the blogging world. It is so helpful for so many. I wish you the best with your ups and downs. Just breathe indeed. Best advice.

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Thank you for the show of support and words of encouragement to Jenessa, Jennifer. XOXO

  5. Giveaways 4 Mom

    August 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    This is a great post. I suffer from depression and when it flares up it can be bad. Thanks so much for sharing these tips. Depression is real and it is definitely a topic that needs to be addressed. #TurnUpTuesday

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Absolutely. Mental illness is so often overlooked. With the tragic death of Robin Williams, I am hoping there will be a renewed energy to address this challenge that so many people face alone. We need better support systems and ways to help people journey towards healing.

  6. Bridget

    August 7, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I know I can use each and every one of them. In my life.

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:38 am

      That’s great to hear Bridget. When depression rears its ugly head, we need all of the support and help we can get. I’m thrilled to hear these tips encouraged you. Stay strong!

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  20. Christine Gallagher

    December 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

    What a wonderful post, I have a few family papers I need to write, this would a great subject, I love the encouragement statements you added in between, great job!

    • Katy Blevins

      December 12, 2014 at 10:32 am

      Thank you Christine! Jenessa did a great job sharing candidly and offering tangible advice/encouragement. Good luck with your papers!

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Schedule One-On-One Time With Your Child

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Now that I am almost 2 years into living on my own (holy cow?! for real?!), it occurred to me that my twins were never, ever, getting any one-on-one time with me. When I was married, solo time wasn’t especially frequent, but I did make an effort to split them up to make sure they got to go on an errand with Mom or run to the hardware store with Dad every now and again. Now that it’s just me, it’s always the three of us, together wherever we go, all day, every day.

As a mother of multiples, I know full well that individual time with a parent is hugely important to their emotional wellness. They are intrinsically born into a life of sharing and existing in the presence of their siblings. From the moment of conception, they are two.

They are taught early on to be patient and wait their turn purely out of necessity and routine. Decision-making is always a team effort and line leader/who goes first almost always sparks opportunities for frustration. One-on-one time allows them much needed independence, a chance to share and enjoy their individual interests, and develop their own voice.

So I instated Mommy Date Night. Here’s how I did (do) it.

  • Connected with their favorite babysitter. I knew I had to bring in the “big dogs” if I was going to convince one of them to stay behind without a massive meltdown, so I reached out to their very favorite babysitter. I knew she would understand the challenge and would go above and beyond to make sure the one left behind was just as excited to have one-on-one time with her. We set a recurring night and a set price to help my budget. She started to gather ideas for fun projects that would captivate them quickly.
  • Researched local free and/or family-friendly low cost options. We all know life as a single mom does not come with an endless supply of moolah, so I wanted to keep our evenings out as low cost as possible, especially since child care was already involved. I checked with friends and hopped onto city websites to see what was out there. Here are a few ideas I stumbled upon:
    • (The Obvious) Playgrounds
    • Beach/Nature Walks
    • Library
    • Pet Store
    • Pottery Painting (with free studio fee coupons)
    • Milkshakes or Ice Cream
    • Picnics
    • Museums
  • Let them take the lead and make the decisions. This is by far their favorite part. I usually have three available options in hand. I let them select our final destination. They also get to choose every song we listen to in the car. When we take a walk, they pick the direction. When we go to the library, they pick the books. It’s their time, their way. They feel like little princes.
  • Ask lots of questions. I have learned more about my sons in the past 4 weeks of doing our Mommy Dates than I have in the past year. When we’re out and about, we talk. A lot. I’ve actually noticed they chitter chatter much more when it’s just the two of us. They have stuff to say! I ask about their favorite colors, favorite animals, what they want to be when they grow up, what they love most about their family…anything to spark a conversation. We’ve talked about fears, dreams and monsters. They are more grateful and hold my hand tighter and cuddle closer.

I know I originally began these Mommy Dates for them. They needed that one-on-one time desperately. I’m realizing now that I needed it too. Monday nights have become the highlight of my week. Stress immediately dissipates and I bask in the amazingness of my kids. I am being reminded of those unbelievable, most tender moments of being a parent, watching your children explore the world. It is the perfect therapy for the busy working mom.

There is nothing better than hearing your child say “Mommy, you know what? It’s Monday! That means it’s Mommy Date Day. And it’s my turn!” or “Mommy, I love this day. I love my time with you. Thank you, Mommy.”

 

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Purposeful Parenting

The Corporate Captive: An Update on My Transition to Work At Home Life

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I’m about six months into my transition from full time corporate work to a new, full time work at home routine. I’ve been busily focusing my energies on Modern Femme™ Movement and our upcoming May convention (join us!), also expanding my services with The Hampton Roads Creative, which will soon transition to a special new project that I’ll share with you very soon!

I’d love to tell you that this transition has been an easy one and that I’ve got a perfect routine now, am the epitome of self-care and wellness, but…well, that would be a lie. Truth be told, I’ve been facing some pretty big demons during this season of my life. I didn’t even recognize them at first, until the tell tale signs of stress and anxiety reared their ugly heads.

I never realized how much ten years of corporate work impacted how my brain approaches the work day. I never realized how much I intrinsically measured my worth by how many hours I was working each day. Suddenly, with this new found freedom to set my own schedule, I encountered guilt and an unfair expectation that I still needed to fill the hours of 8AM – 5PM with full time work.

Why did I feel guilty? I think there was (is) a part of me that feels like I need to prove or legitimize my decision to leave the steady paycheck of the corporate world. As a single mom, that leap of faith put not just my finances at risk, but the lives of my children. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and I see now that I’m wearing the guilt of that decision unjustly. I rationalized my transition to full time entrepreneurship by acknowledging that I had way too much work to do and needed those hours to focus my energies on my business. That part was true…but not quite as literally as I began to take it. Suddenly, if I did not work every second of 8AM – 5PM, I felt like I was slacking off, not working hard enough, and that my departure from my corporate job was no longer justified because I now had “free time.” Free time to do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean the house, go to the gym, run errands. Somehow those didn’t qualify as worthy work-related tasks.

I found myself in the same cycle I was in as a corporate captive. The alarm would go off extra early, I’d rush the kids to daycare, work like crazy until 5:15PM, race to get them from daycare and then come home with grumpy kids to plan a later dinner and a soon-to-follow bedtime. Then back to the grind, just for extra measure, to prove I was busy. Prove to whom? Myself?

It wasn’t until Somer (and a few other trusted members of my Modern Femme™ tribe) called me out on my captivity that I realized I wasn’t being fair to myself (or to my kids or boyfriend). I needed to hear that self-care is part of my job as a mom and that grocery shopping, resting, going to the gym, running errands, cleaning, prepping for dinner, laundry…those were all worthy tasks I was completing during the day so that I had more time with my kids at night and on the weekends. Wasn’t that why I made the leap to work from home full time? To remove the burden of the corporate schedule, pressure to perform and anxious accessibility that never let me “turn off” and focus on my family? Wasn’t that decision a life-changing move? And yet, here I was…in the same cycle as I was before. Just sitting in my home office instead of a business one.

That realization prompted me to make some pretty hefty changes. I’d be lying if I said I have this all figured out now and life’s a breeze. Nope. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around this and shed the guilty conscious. But I’m getting better.

I now have a no phone, computer, social media rule after 5PM and on weekends. NONE. Nada. Off. Cold turkey. Let me tell you – that’s not easy. But once you do it, it’s incredibly liberating. You know when I felt true (deserved!) guilt? When I told my kids I was shutting off my phones and they looked at me with shock and excitement that they had me all to themselves. Oh what love and special moments I had been missing out on! They were missing me still! I did not make the decision to dive into my business full time so that my family could continue to struggle for quality time. No. I made that decision so that I could take my life back and freely pour myself into my kids and my passions.

If I’ve learned anything from this transition, it’s to be grateful for the community of women I have had the opportunity to build as my support system in all of these big life changes. Placing those women in a trusted position of accountability has enabled me to recognize errors in judgement and when I’m veering off course. Their gentle nudges back towards that which is most important to me, my family, have been truly invaluable. I’m still a work in progress. But I’m free. And I’m surrounded by people that love me, celebrate my decision to follow my heart and my dreams, and continue to challenge me to hold true to why I made that first leap of faith.

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Purposeful Parenting

Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs

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Money Tips for Working Moms

I don’t know about you but the end of the year brings two thoughts…well, three thoughts for me. One, CHRISTMAS!!!!! Two, fresh start on January 1st! And three, holy cow, what’s my money situation? Taxes are coming.

A big, big thank you to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments for taking the time to develop these year-end money tips for working moms and female entrepreneurs!

Money Tips for Working Moms

2 Tips for Female Business Owners / Entrepreneurs:

Keep Your Future in Mind with the Right Retirement Account for Your Needs

  • Look into the different plans available to business owners, such as a 401(k) for Small Business, a self-employed 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA.  You may need to appoint a plan administrator- someone who takes care of administrative responsibilities and ensures the plan is operating according to the Plan Document.  Learn more about these different types of accounts here.  
  • Contribute to your account. The deadline for depositing employer profit-sharing contributions for the current calendar year is generally the business’ tax-filing deadline, plus extensions (for unincorporated businesses, this date is usually April 15 of the following year, plus any extensions).

Business Succession

  • If you own a business, have you considered how best to plan for the future?  If you plan to keep it in the family, consider creating a structure that makes it easier to transfer the business’s assets to other family members, such as a family limited partnership or a family limited liability company.
  • There are many options; your attorney or tax adviser can help you select one that is appropriate for you in light of your specific situation.

4 Tips for Single Moms:

Get Involved in Your Family’s Finances

  • It’s important to have a full picture of the family financial situation. At minimum, know what accounts you have and with whom. That includes banks and investing accounts, life insurance, mortgages, and loans. Having a handle on this information is an important foundation as you plan for the future, and can bring greater peace of mind.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes! Yes! Yes! I am still getting a grip on my finances after the divorce. I realize now how little I knew before and how problematic that can be.)

Money Tips for Working Moms

Save for Retirement

    • Retirement is not a destination but a journey, and it’s never too early – or too late – to start putting away savings for the future.  Along the way, there are myriad opportunities to get off the path—and back on it.  And at virtually any turn in the road, there are possibilities to speed up your progress.
      • Make it a goal to save 15% or more of your income each year. If that’s not reachable today, make sure to make it a priority to carve out what you can. Even smaller amounts will add up over time.
      • Aim to have no more than 50% of your take-home pay go toward your “must-have” expenses.

Try to Save Three to Six Months of Essential Expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Look for Growth Potential from your Investments

  • Knowing your financial personality can help you determine the right mix of stocks, bonds and short-term investments that match how comfortable you are with risk, and have the growth potential to meet your life’s needs, be that when you want to retire or when you want to send kids to college.
  • If you’re not sure where to start, read up online, or reach out to a professional.  There’s never a fee to come into Fidelity to talk to a financial planner, but we do recommend you reevaluate twice a year. Just like you take care of your physical health by visiting the doctor and dentist, think of this as taking care of your financial health, which is vitally important as well.

Protect your Legacy

  • In order to ensure that what you’ve accumulated is distributed to your children, family and causes you care about most, it is important to name beneficiaries and create a will and health care proxy. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about the ‘what it’s,’ but it’s important to be prepared for the unknown. Do you really want someone else making these decisions for you?

 

 

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