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We battled with hospitalization and ill health of a family member last year.Who / what is immaterial, suffice to say that it had been a stressful period of hospital visits, off days from work and general feeling of being down in the dumps. I had been characteristically under stress (yes –stress is my middle name). It was not as if a lot had changed and yet much had changed.
And all through we had been completely unmindful of the needs of our toddler.
Sometimes we adults end up assuming that the stress of everyday life only affects us. How would it bother the 3.5 year old? Alright it may disturb her but those may be smaller blurbs –like say change in schedule, extended day care etc. Not earth shattering, right? Especially if your toddler has been raving about the day care, playing as usual, the general signs of well-being.
And yet we had been missing most of the telltale signs of stress, anxiety showing in our toddler.
She had been spending a lot of time with extended family who are like god sent to us. They care for her like they would for their own and we are completely at peace with that.And yet one day when my toddler said that she didn’t like our home and wanted to stay with the extended family, I was in for a rude shock. Whatever happened to my little girl who hung on to her mom and dad for life?
Being at home was her solution to every problem in the world. At home she has world of toys, books and her own space. And yet nowadays she loved being at my cousin’s place, her hugs to my cousin were heartwarming and yet some times scary to the mother in me. Whatever happened to my girl? Whatever happened to her need for mommy?
It would all be temporary and she of course would want us in the next ten minutes but it did scare me.
One major factor had to her changed behavior had been the amount of shouting and screaming we had done on her lately. Both of us are in stressful jobs, there are the demands of the home, school and an ailing parent to take care of. Of late it had been just too much for us to deal with and our medium to vent out the frustration ended up being our girl. I could see our behavior reflected in the way she talked back, tried to hit us. And then there were times when she would show maturity well beyond her age, sensing the tensions beforehand. It just went on increasing and I sensed that the time to make a difference was now or else it would be too late.
My girl is 3.5, it’s her age to imbibe the surroundings, soak in and I definitely did not want her to soak in all the negativity.
It was time to change.We knew that we had to be in this together, we knew that this was for the long haul, this was not a routine two day hospital thing and yet we never knew how this would change us. We did act on these issues. Me and the husband consciously made changes, spoke to our daughter, found out time for ourselves and let go of a lot of angst. We have talked about these issues and realized that we are so lucky, people battle bigger battles every day. And of course things improving on the home front helped.
So taking stock of the year, I thought I could list a few thoughts on what worked for us.
Don’t bring work home – easiest statement to make and yet it just doesn’t work. You send minimum of 9-10 hrs at work, soak in all the negativity, stress and you just can’t shake it off and walk home. Not possible.
But what definitely is possible is to compartmentalize, draw boundaries and take a firm stand mentally. Remember at the end your work does pay your bills but it will not help you build a childhood
Take time out –for yourself first –Finally I have come to realize and accept that the house can stay dirty, laundry can pile up and the dishes undone –everything can wait. What cannot wait is a childhood. If you taking time out for yourself for half an hour will result in a better bonding with your child –do that. Remember you have to care for yourself first, before you care for others. This becomes especially important when you take care of someone who is not well. Taking care does not mean just administering care, it means showing love, compassion and most importantly hope. And that starts first with you. Show yourself some compassion.
Plan smaller escapes – When you have a patient at home, it is quite likely that you cannot plan many outings, dates with your spouse. And all these things build up in a frustration that you may bring out on your child. Don’t fret, plan smaller escapes. Yes sometimes you will want to escape, maybe just for half an hour. Do that. You and your spouse can take turns to sneak out for a movie. That ways you have someone always at home to take care and yet everybody relaxes, just a bit.
Ask and Accept help- My extended family was god sent during this time. If it was not for them, we would have crumbled. It was also made us aware that in times of need, few people offer help. And when they do, grab their hands. We felt much obliged by their help, hesitant asking most of the time. But gradually we realized that it’s a cycle, you help someone and pass it on. Next time you see a colleague / family member struggle, offer your hand.
Empathize –There is nothing more important that empathizing. Remember life is short and well nee love. A patient and a child surely need a little bit more
We managed, are managing even now. But we are better now. And as the year ended, I could only learn from the year and emerge stronger, happier and more at peace. This was the year that made us a family as a whole. I say the family that fights off something together, stays together.