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I have always, as long as I can remember, loved kids. Playing with them made growing up much easier as I could hang out with them instead of stuck up grown-ups that I found extremely boring and intimidating. I remember taking care of my cousins, who were about 12 years younger than me, and just loving every minute of it.
But I also remember their mom, my aunt, and how she seemed so different after having them. Before she had kids she also loved all kinds of kids, but afterward, I remember seeing a change in her, and it seemed like she didn't care for them as much anymore. So when I got pregnant with my firstborn, I thought to myself, I really hope I don't become like my aunt. I hope that having a child will make me love kids even more. Well, I think I turned out just like her.
My firstborn daughter was, and is, more than a handful. Although she is only 3, I strongly suspect that she has ADHD, and I have in fact feared this since she was born. She was always extremely difficult to get to sleep, and she still wakes up at least one time every night. We have of course tried everything we can think of to help her, but it hasn't worked. So we are sleep deprived, pretty much always.
After having her I felt very overwhelmed, and not particularly happy about having a child. I was so tired. In retrospect, I probably had a case of Postpartum Depression, but it is hard to tell if it was just the sleep deprivation. This is when I first started feeling really angry. Whenever I had to put her down for a nap, it just tore me apart. I hated it. It seemed like she could only fall asleep if she was completely exhausted, and from reading baby books, I knew that this was not good and that made me feel even more frustrated and angry that I wasn't able to do this right. I had so much experience working with kids, and now when I had my own, I was a lousy mom. That is how I felt, and to some degree feel even now.
I had another girl two years after my first one, and she is much easier to take care of, and most of all, she sleeps good. I sometimes feel as though I am neglecting her though because her older sister needs so much attention.
Anyway, back to what is on my mind. Lately I have been struggling with anger. Sometimes, I feel like I can't control myself at all. And here I am, with two little children to take care of, and I want so much to be a good mother to them, and I just feel like I am failing. How do I manage my anger when my three year old hits my 1 year old for the tenth time that day, or when my three year old has been whining and not listening to anything I have said all day, it just heaps up and heaps up until I just explode. And then I feel horrible because I don't want to yell at my kids, I want them to have a good childhood, and I want to be an awesome mom.
Long story, and I don't know if there are any answers, but I am putting this out there in writing, and maybe that in itself will help a little.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Liz, and thanks for telling your story here. You are obviously a very bright and good person, who wants to be a good mother and enjoy your children.
1) First I want you to consider the possibility that there is nothing wrong with you, and there's nothing wrong with your daughter. What I mean by that is that you are both totally unique and beautiful beings, and the challenges of your relationship offer you wonderful opportunities for expansion and growth.
First, I will help you with your anger, then we'll focus on your relationship with your daughter.
Start by doing the exercises on this FAQ page. This is a very thorough process that will help you to understand and heal your emotions.
2) Now let's focus on how you can improve your relationship with your daughter. Use the positive journaling exercise in the above referenced exercises to begin shifting your focus to all of her good qualities and positive aspects. Do this daily and diligently, until you feel your perception of her starting to shift.
This visualization/imagination process will also help you tremendously. It is a kind of mental rehearsal, that is a very powerful tool for bringing about emotional and behavioral change in yourself:
1. Picture yourself, as if you were watching a movie, with your daughter in your normal daily routine, especially choose a scenario where you're likely to get angry.
2. Now (since you're the director of this movie), picture yourself cool, calm and collected. Notice a calm, relaxed posture and facial expression. Be aware that your breathing in your mental picture is relaxed, deep and even as you relate to your daughter.
3. Watch yourself as you move around and interact with her with a pleasant, easy manner. See yourself laughing and talking, or just staying quiet but having a good time, unruffled by anything she may do.
4. Keep working at this until you can picture all of this easily, with no anxiety or discomfort either in the mental picture or in your body. There's nothing to be scared of, you're just imagining this!
Now you're going to take that image inside yourself and become it. Here's how it works:
1. Imagine that you are actually in the situation with your daughter, not picturing yourself from the outside.
2. Focus on your breathing, keeping it deep, even and relaxed. Breathe into your belly, not your chest, as you imagine yourself in the actual situation that provokes your anger and frustration.
3. Notice how your daughter responds to you as you remain relaxed and enjoying yourself. Imagine her being more relaxed and cooperative in direct response to your relaxed, easy state.
4. Be aware of your relaxed muscles and pleasant facial expression as you move easily and naturally through the entire scenario. Imagine yourself feeling a loving connection with your daughter, and enjoying her company.
5. Imagine yourself being that awesome mom you want to be.
This is a powerful and highly effective set of tools, Liz. The more you use them, the better they will work for you. If you don't use them, of course, they do nothing for you.
Make up your mind to be that awesome mom you want to be, and don't let anything stop you. These tools will help you connect with the good and amazing person you are inside, and bring her forth in your life on a consistent basis.
My very best to you,
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