Advice Column-Future New Girl in Town

Dear Hailey,

My family and I are moving to another state soon, and while I am very excited, I’m a little nervous too! I have lived in the same home my whole life except for while attending school and this is the first “real” move ever. I certainly won’t miss too much about where I am now, for the most part I’m excited to start over new somewhere, where no one knows us and we can just have a fresh start. Although the excitement over takes the “fear” of change, I’m still a little apprehensive about getting established in a completely new area- but thankfully I already have my job lined up. Do you have any tips from your personal experience? We’ve been planning this move for a long time, and it’s sort of like a dream come true, but we all know that nothing and no where is perfect and I think being nervous is natural with a big life change like this. Thanks for listening!

 

Sincerely,

Future New Girl In Town

 

 

Dear New Girl,

 

As some readers who know me in person may know, I moved states during my childhood, from Washington to California. Everything was different, the weather, the culture, and just the fact that it was a new place hundreds of miles away made it kind of a scary transition. I moved again to Idaho for college, and then again when I got married, although that move was only 30 minutes from my college town. With all that, I think it’s safe to say that moving is something that I have experienced in my personal life.

 

It’s definitely different moving in adulthood versus childhood, but the uncertainty of it all doesn’t change. The fact that you need to make new friends and figure out this new place you are going to call home are the same.

 

Every town has unique activities, interesting landmarks, places to eat, you name it. I’d recommend joining a facebook group specific to that town to figure out the places that everyone loves. If its a larger town there might also be blogs and other websites that talk about cool stuff specific to the area that are worth checking out.

 

As far as meeting people goes, the first few are always the hardest. Friends of friends is how I met many of my dear friends in childhood and in adulthood. It’s actually how I met my husband! Once you make a few friends most of the hard work is over. 

 

Now as far as meeting those first few people, here are some tips. If you are religious, church activities are a great way to meet new people. When you move in to your new home, reach out to your neighbors. If this makes you nervous or you aren’t sure how to approach the situation, a baked good never hurts. Who can be upset by “I’m your neighbor and I made you this delightful treat!”.

 

I’d also recommend going to some community education classes on a topic that you are interested in. It will be a good way to expand on your hobbies and talents, and possibly meet some people that have similar interests. You can find these classes at a community college or community center. 

 

It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to start over. Try to focus on the positive aspects of moving. If things get rough, know that moving is a tough and stressful transition, and it’s normal to struggle with change. Give yourself breaks during the moving process, and maybe even treat yourself to things (activities, treats, pedicures, movies, etc.) that will help with this transition. Remember, this is a whole new chapter of your life, and that is incredibly exciting!

Hailey

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Posted in Q&A

Advice Column: Dealing with Colossal Amounts of Stress

Dear Hailey,

So. Stress. Seems I just can’t get enough. lol. I live with my dad. he does not require a lot of care, but none of us want him to be alone, and left to his own devises he would live on toast and butter and chocolate. He recently had a heart stress test; the injection since he cannot do the treadmill. The bill was three times what he paid before. Mind you, this is not just a money issue. He has enough. He refuses to go back. He will be out of heart meds in about two weeks and no amount of logic, threats of the painful deterioration he is likely facing, or pleas not to stop seeing a doctor he is firm in his decision.

My 20 year old has broken up with the mother of his child and now lives with us. We have the baby for a week and then her mom has her for a few days. He is jobless so there is no rhyme or reason to his visitation. He talks about getting a job but puts in one or two apps. It’s the holidays so no one is calling at the moment. When he doesn’t have her he disappears, often when I am at work, and stays away until he has her again.

I had a recent hospital stay with pneumonia and I am recovering slowly. I quit smoking for 23 days and then a super stressful day at work had me smoking again. Dad smokes constantly too.

My son has no drivers license and I am constantly running. I am exhausted and wanting to just cry all the time. I rarely sleep and putting a good face on is getting harder to do. I know I have to put limits on my son. I am taking him driving Sunday. Mom is just going to have to deal with the baby. Good Lord I’m tired! Oh yes, my rheumatoid arthritis has reared it’s ugly head and I am in pain. Also I gained thirty pounds in 23 days and I’m miserable. Guess I just needed to get it out. Thanks for listening.

Stressed

Dear Stressed,

You aren’t exaggerating, that is a ton of stress. Even wonder woman would be panicked if she were faced with what you have going on. Recognize that it is simply a lot to deal with. It’s ok to be overwhelmed.

First off, you need to make room for YOU. From what you have mentioned it doesn’t sound like you have any room for personal self-care in your regular routine. You can’t take care of anyone else if you run yourself into the ground. Ideally, have at least one self-care activity that isn’t essential to survival. For now, focus on basic self-care. This includes eating at least moderately healthy meals, getting adequate sleep, giving yourself time to decompress, and regular exercise. After you get those worked into a consistent routine, think about an outlet for you that isn’t essential. But don’t worry about that for now.

Second, think about what you can control. You can’t force your dad to make healthier choices. You can’t make your son kick into gear and own up to his responsibilities. However, you can control how you respond to them, and how to handle your personal stress.

You mentioned that you know that you need to put limits on your son. You are absolutely right. You need to, for your sake as well as his. It is a tough line to navigate between enabling someone and taking care of them. Find what works for you and stick to it, firmly and consistently. If redefining these boundaries isn’t something you are able to on your own, consider family counseling.

Continue to do what you can to encourage your son to get a driver’s license. In the meantime, consider getting him something like a bus pass, a bike, something to give him more independence and take pressure off of you. You mentioned he disappears from time to time, so apparently he is able to find ways to get around without you. You don’t need to be his personal taxi.

If you haven’t yet looked into home health services for your dad, do so. That way he can get medical care in his own home. He may refuse, but that way you know you looked into every option. He is an adult and makes his own decisions, as heart breaking and unhealthy those choices are.

As you practice self-care, and institute healthy boundaries with your son, you will begin to feel better. If quitting smoking is something you still want to pursue, it will be much more achievable with a managed stress level. It will also be easier to eat healthier and lose the weight you gained once your stress is under control.

I realize I’ve given you a lot of things to work on, and please don’t feel that you have to approach them all at the same time. Pick one or two, and once you have mastered one pick another and work on that.

Your letter shows that you have self-awareness, that you know that you can’t continue with your current pattern. You need to start new, healthier, and more sustainable habits, but from what you have expressed I don’t have any doubt that you are able to do this. You absolutely can. I wish you luck in this journey!

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Advice Column: Pre-natal Depression and Marital Struggles

 Dear Hailey,
 
I’ve been having a difficult time with my marriage. Mainly I’ve been feeling unhappy a lot and I had tied it to postpartum depression except that it had started a couple months prior to the delivery and had been a lot of ups and downs ever since. On the worst days I want out of the marriage but then I stress about our kid, almost kids plural. On the best days I feel like it’s going to be okay but I feel like I have lost so much emotion toward my husband and I don’t know how to get it back. Thank you for this opportunity!

Depressed

 
Dear Depressed,
 
Pre-natal depression, which is also known as antenatal depression, is a very real mental health condition. Its more common that most people think, but it’s not talked about very much, and there haven’t been many efforts to bring awareness to it.
 
One fact you need to know about depression (pre-natal depression as well as other types) is that it affects everyone differently. It can dull your emotions. It can also bring out unfamiliar emotions that you haven’t experienced before. It can make you sad, resentful, and angry. It turns everything upside down.
 
Unfortunately, those we love tend to get the worst of this. With the regular hormonal waves of pregnancy, the strain pregnancy puts on your body, exhaustion, and you have the recipe for some misery. It can be hard to feel affectionate towards anyone with all of that going on.
 
If you feel your marriage could use some work, seek counseling. A mental health professional or religious leader are both good options. However, if these feelings you are having toward your husband (or lack of feelings) feel incongruent with what is going on in your marriage and household, then consider what depression does to emotions. Know that your depression could be influencing how you feel about your husband.
 
An activity you can do at home is write down a list of strengths that you see in your husband. Have him do the same for you. Remember why you fell in love and got married in the first place. Reminisce on the good times you have had together. Make sure you are having regular time alone and have a chance to connect on a husband and wife level regularly. This is one way to bring those emotions and memories back to the surface.
 
I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor and talk to them about what you have been experiencing if you have not already. Talk to your husband, let him know what is going on as well.
 
In the mean time, know that this is temporary. Practice consistent self-care, don’t feel bad about asking those in your support system for help with your child or tasks around the house.
 
Some women find that their depression is exacerbated in winter time, (or only appears in winter) which is known as seasonal affective disorder. If you suspect that this may be contributing to your depression, make sure you are getting plenty of sunlight, and regular mild exercise (nothing strenuous unless you have been doing it your entire pregnancy).
 
You can get through this, and cut yourself some slack. You have so much going on in your life right now, its enough to make anyone feel a little off and flat. I wish you luck!
 

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Advice Column: Response to Wish I was a Stay at Home Mom

How can you get over having to be a working mom/breadwinner when all you really want is to be a Stay at Home Mom?

Sincerely,

Wish I was a stay at home mom

 

 

Dear Wish,

As mothers, we do what is right for our kids. I’m currently a working mom myself, and it can feel absolutely heart wrenching to drop my sweet boy off at daycare. But for our family, it is what is right for us and (at least for the time being) it’s what needs to happen.

The first step to coming to terms with your situation is to make the time you have with your children high quality. That means different things to different families, but make the most of the time you have with your kids. Whether it’s playing games, cuddling and talking, or going to the zoo, figure out what it is for you and your children, and make it a regular part of your routine.

If you aren’t sure where to start to make your time with your children more quality, here are a few miscellaneous tips to making the time with your children more quality:

Don’t feel bad about saying no to things that will limit your time with your kids.  Limit screen time for everyone, yourself included. Most importantly, make a meaningful connection with each of your children each day. It doesn’t need to be a daily drawn out heart to heart, but make sure you connect on some level.

Find a childcare arrangement you are happy with. If you are absolutely content and comfortable with the set up, you will feel less regretful about your time away from them. Keep in mind that no one is as good for your kids as you, but you can still find quality care that your children enjoy.

Know what you are working for. If you remember everyday at your job that you are working to clothe and feed your children, to pay the rent, and to keep the lights on, it will give you purpose. There is a reason you are spending time away from your children.

If after all of this you are still finding yourself feeling regretful, you have a few steps to consider. I don’t know your specific situation, so I will lay out a few different scenarios and some options you have. If you are in a relationship or married, talk to your significant other. Make sure they are aware of your feelings. See if there is budgeting that can be done, cuts you can make to spending, or if you can possibly work less hours. See if you can do some of your work from home. Look into the possibility of longer shifts, to free up more hours at a time. Depending on your discipline, look into some possible work from home opportunities (but be very wary of scams). If you are a single mom, see if there is budgeting that you can do to be able to scale back on hours, and consider the above options that are applicable to you.

Good luck in finding an arrangement that works for you and your family, something that you feel at peace with.

Hailey

 

Do you have a question of your own? Head over here and submit it! 

Posted in Q&A

Advice Column: Will My Anxiety Return After Pregnancy?

Dear Hailey,

If you had anxiety and depression prior to getting pregnant and breastfeeding and then those things went away with the hormone changes from pregnancy and breastfeeding, are you destined to get back all of the yucky feelings when you wean and your hormones go back to ‘normal’? How does one keep that from happening?

Sincerely,

Concerned

 

Dear Concerned,

Hormones and pregnancy are very unpredictable. Some women find their hair is a different texture or color after pregnancy. I myself had adult acne that cleared up during pregnancy and never returned even after we weaned from breast feeding. And many women experience mood changes like you are describing. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that these changes are permanent.

However, there are a few things you can do to encourage these positive changes you have experienced to stick around.

1. Find a good supplement
2. Start taking vitamin D
3. Start an exercise regiment
4. Buy a happy light
5. Consider getting testing done-If your hormones are severely out of whack it could absolutely be affecting your moods. Pregnancy could have brought them to normal levels.

And most importantly:

6. Practice adequate self care. Make sure you are getting enough sleep (Well, as much as is possible, babies often have their own ideas). Take a break if you find yourself getting overwhelmed. Have a hobby that is your own, and separate from your children.

 

If you find yourself experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety or depression, please contact your doctor. I wish you luck.

 

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Response to Worried New Mom

Dear Hailey,

Is he “adjusting to fatherhood” or is it abuse? Basically, the crux of my question for advice is that people minimise family violence but it’s also likely to escalate while a woman is pregnant and just after a baby is born. I was told that my husband was just adjusting to being a dad, and my support network had all but broken down.

 

Worried New Mom

*The original question was much longer, but much of the content in the original question posed was removed due to its personally identifying nature. Most personally identifying questions are answered privately, but this is a very important topic that needs to be addressed.

 

Dear Worried,

It is absolutely true that everyone goes through adjustment periods when big life changes occur. Individuals with any type of mental illness often do experience an increase in their symptoms when they experience big changes. However, it is never acceptable or normal no matter the circumstances for someone you love to be abusive in any form.

The facts that you are mentioning sound like your husband was trying to break down all of your contact to others in the outside world. You already had a limited support system, and even though he didn’t have a job, he wanted to support the family. I can respect a husbands desire to support his family, but the fact that he didn’t have a job and wanted you to leave yours expresses that he was being very controlling and not logical.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of gas lighting, but it is a form of mental abuse where the perpetrator convinces you that your perceptions are incorrect, and this causes you to question your own judgement. After all of this, you start to wonder if you are crazy. It sounds like your family may have piled on to this by telling you that your husband was just adjusting and that you were overreacting.

Also, with your mention of physical illness, it is important to note that it is very common for extreme experiences such as abuse to manifest themselves in a physical form such as illness (Or exacerbate an existing illness). I am obviously removed from this situation, so I don’t know how bad things are for you. Only you can make that judgment. I am not sure from your question if this situation is currently happening, but if it is I advise you to remove yourself as soon as possible. Trust your judgement, if you feel unsafe and know what you are experiencing is abuse, don’t listen to what others say. Connect yourself with your local resources, and I would recommend seeking counseling to work through your experiences. I wish you luck.

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Response to Anxious Mama

Dear Hailey,

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with getting divorced and having the ex partner use your anxiety for an excuse as to why you shouldn’t be allowed as much custody? Having to prove that the anxiety is caused by the ex partner and not parenting, when they are unwilling to see or hear this.*

Anxious Mama

*Personally identifying portions of this question were removed to protect the identity of this individual.

Dear Anxious,

While it is deplorable and unfair of him to use your anxiety against you in a custody battle, your best option would be take steps to protect yourself in that area so he can’t use it against you. If you are not already attending counseling regularly, find a highly recommended and licensed professional. Many agencies offer sliding fee scales that can make counseling affordable even without insurance or with minimal coverage. If you are unsure of where to look for affordable options, I would call your local branch of the state office and they can give you recommendations. (Here in Idaho it is called the Department of Health and Welfare, but every state has their own designations).

Once you have been seeing the counselor for a little while (Or if you are already seeing one, you can do it now), I would ask them if they would be willing, (with your help) to write a letter stating that you are attending counseling regularly, listing the goals you are working towards, and progress that has been made. I have written letters for clients at my previous job and also for clients at my current place of employment for similar reasons. If you are keeping your appointments, and working towards the goals you and your counselor have set, I guarantee they will have no issues with writing a letter for you. You can take that letter with you to court as proof of your efforts and progress. If you are taking active steps to improve your ability to cope with your anxiety, he won’t be able to use it against you.

As far as getting your point across, you can start practicing what you need to say, or writing down what needs to be said. Write down some bullet points. There is something about being put on the spot can make it hard to remember what we need to say, so there is no shame in taking notes with you. Make sure that you state the facts. The calmer you can remain in court, the better it is for you, especially if he shows rage. It is perfectly acceptable to be emotional, but don’t sink to his level and become volatile. If you don’t have a lawyer, contact your local legal aid office and they should be able to help you out. It is difficult now, but you are doing the right thing. You can do this. You can find the strength to do what you need to for you and your children. I wish you luck.

Hailey

 

Posted in Q&A

Advice Column: One Overwhelmed Mama

 

Dear Hailey,

I need some help/advice! My husband helps with cooking and cleaning, but doesn’t help me with our baby (well, not very much at least). He seems to think out son (who is 7.5 months old) prefers me, and so I believe part of it is he’s nervous to be solely responsible for the baby. But it is EXHAUSTING to constantly watch our son and never get a moment to myself. How can I help foster their relationship, and broach this topic with my husband without offending him or making him think I’m not grateful for what he DOES help me with?

One Overwhelmed Mama

 

 

Dear Overwhelmed,

The shift into parenthood requires many adjustments as a married couple. There’s a whole new set of duties, and you should know that you aren’t alone in trying to find an appropriate balance. Many couples struggle with similar feelings, and feel overwhelmed as well. There are two ways you can approach this. You can choose to use both of them, or one of them, whatever you are comfortable with.

 

First before you approach it, think about timing. Even when talking with the nicest most patient people on the planet, timing is incredibly important when it comes to approaching difficult topics. Choose an evening when he is well rested, and in a good mood. Not right when he gets home from work, but when he has had a few minutes to settle in, and relax.

 

You can approach the situation directly. State that you appreciate all he does, but you are getting burnt out, and need some time to yourself (Use your own words to describe what you are going through). The old rule of using “I” statements is always a good one to hold to. Try to make it more about what you are feeling, and what you need versus what he is not doing. Some examples would be “I’m feeling really exhausted”, “I need help”, or “Sometimes I need time away from the baby” instead of, “You aren’t helping out” or, “You don’t do enough”. This makes the conversation less confrontational, and more to the point.

 

The other solution is to directly delegate when you need a moment to yourself, or if you would rather take on a household task than a baby duty. Directly ask your husband to bathe the baby, calm him, feed him, etc. I personally recommend having a direct conversation as described above, as well as directly asking for help with certain tasks. If he is uncomfortable or unsure on how to carry out certain tasks with the baby, offer to show him how you do it or help him. Also schedule activities outside of your home such as a work out, walk, or a meal with friends that will allow you to have time to remember the other roles in your life other than motherhood.

 

Whether your husband is the sole breadwinner for your family, or if you work, you still deserve and need time to yourself. It’s ok to ask him to take the baby night shift sometimes no matter the situation if your son is still waking up at night. It can be a tough conversation to have, but important for your sanity, and your ability to continue to provide your son with the care he needs. I wish you luck!

Hailey

 

 

Posted in Q&A

How to Tell Your Child That Their Pet has Died

 

Dear Hailey,

I need advice on how to handle a tough situation. My 5 year old daughter has SPD (and I believe anxiety as well) and I have very bad anxiety (that I am working on managing better). We are currently out of town visiting my family (we left early Thursday morning and will be returning Saturday the 8th laaaate at night) and have a pet sitter staying at our house watching our dog, cats and guinea pig. I got a series of calls and messages from the sitter today about our piggie seeming “off” which eventually led up to the news that he had passed away.

I have decided to wait to tell my daughter until we get home because I do not want it to ruin her trip but I am dreading it. I hid in the guest room and cried for over an hour tonight about it all. I don’t know how to handle telling her. Her beta fish died this past fall and it was the most horrible experience. Do you have any suggestions on how to break it to her to be less jarring? She gets sooo emotional (much like me) and I want to make sure I’m doing it the “right” way. Thanks in advance.

Anxious

 

Dear Anxious,

It is important to note that children at the age of 5 have a basic understanding of death. For the most part, they understand that death is permanent, that it is final. However, this can make it more difficult to have a conversation regarding the death of a pet. Every child is unique as far as what they understand at each age. Their own experiences as well as their development affects this.

While it may seem easier now, alternate stories about what happened to her guinea pig could ultimately backfire, for example if you told her it ran away, she may want to look for it, or if it “went to a farm” she may want to visit it at the farm. Some distrust towards you could develop if she discovers the truth at a later date.

If you are religious (or believe in heaven or any form of an afterlife) a great place to start would be to talk to her about your beliefs for what happens after someon dies. It sounds like the guinea pig wasn’t doing very well, so let her know that he is free from pain now.

It is essential that you make sure that you approach this directly, and make sure she knows that it is no one’s fault, especially not hers. The danger in approaching these topics vaguely or using euphemisms like “going to sleep” or “went away” will confuse her and possibly make them think they are to blame. Or worse, they might make her worried about going to sleep, or scared whenever she or someone else goes on a trip.

Allow her to grieve in her own way. If she wants to bury her pet and have a small funeral, that’s fine. If she wants to draw a picture, write a song, that is acceptable too. If she doesn’t want to do any of that, that is just fine as well.

And in regards to anxiety you suspect in your daughter, show her through your own actions how to manage anxiety. Children learn most of what they know from the behavior we model. We can’t teach something we don’t know, so as you learn healthy behaviors that work for you, teach them to your daughter.

Trust your instincts as a mother with how you approach this difficult conversation. You know what she needs, you are familiar with her understanding of the world, and her emotions. I wish you luck!

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Self-Care Ideas (Other than taking a bath)

 

Dear Hailey,

Can you give ideas for self-care for exhausted mommas besides the typical take a hot bath or get a pedicure. Sometimes I don’t know what to do for myself but am feeling burnt out.

Exhausted

 

Dear Exhausted,

Self-care is essential, and that’s awesome that you recognize the importance of it. Not everyone likes baths, and if you don’t like them they certainly aren’t going to be a good self-care activity. And let’s face it, is it really relaxing to take a bath when our kids are either in the bathroom with us or banging on the door? Not really.

Self-care, like everything else, is very individual. Think for a second, do you have any hobbies or activities that you do on your own? Or did you have an interest before your children came along that fell by the wayside? It is essential that you have something outside of our role as mothers. This is especially essential for stay at home moms, who spend their entire day with their children. (A noble endeavor but exhausting!)

Finding a self-care activity that harnesses creative energy is always a bonus, because you get time for yourself, and you create something. If you aren’t interested in that, physical activity is another option. It doesn’t have to be as intense as training for a marathon, it can even just be a walk around the block. Even though it seems counterintuitive, regular physical activity can increase your energy level over time (once you get over the initial exhaustion when your body is adjusting).

I also wrote a post a few months ago with ideas for self-care activities. (Read that here). There are some traditional activities, (including taking a bath) as well as more creative ideas. Good luck!

Hailey

Posted in Q&A