I love being a mum, but don’t know who I am any more

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine reassures a mum who is finding lockdown and separation anxiety tough going.

Fiona Caine
Thursday 25 February 2021 15:16 GMT
Smiling mixed race mum holding baby
Smiling mixed race mum holding baby

The problem…

“My little girl is almost 15 months and is going through a separation anxiety phase, which is very draining for me as she only wants me. She shares our bed as she’s been a terrible sleeper since birth.

“I love her more than anything but do find myself wishing she would just sleep on her own, so I can get a bit of time with my husband of an evening.

“My husband has been working from home throughout lockdown but he’s struggling with that, so loses his temper with me over very little things, as he’s so frustrated and fed up. He thinks I’m on a permanent holiday – but being a stay-at-home mum is hard too, especially when there are no baby groups, swimming lessons or anything like that.

“I love being a mum but I don’t know who I am any more, and no longer feel like ‘me’.”

Fiona says…

“It’s really hard coping with a small baby, as any mum knows – but doing it without the support of friends, family and other social groups right now, makes it much harder. I’m not surprised you feel you’re struggling. Finding a way of getting your toddler to sleep in her own bed isn’t easy – but picking her up and putting her in it as she falls asleep has got to be a start. You may still get disturbed nights for a while, but perhaps you can find ways of rewarding her if she does sleep in her own bed.

“Separation anxiety is flattering on one level, but it’s hugely draining. It often occurs with babies between the ages of 10 and 18 months and is a normal phase in a child’s development. It’s actually a healthy reaction to separation and is a sign your child is becoming more aware of the world and that they know they are dependent on you – this awareness is a step forward.

“There are various things you could try, such as leaving them with someone they know well (when possible) for a short time and building gradually to longer stints. You could also try practising short-term separations around the house – so when you want to go into another room very briefly, tell them where you’re going and tell them when you get back. That way they start to understand that Mum’s disappearance is only temporary.

“Your husband could be doing more to help with this. I know he’s working from home and that he’s struggling, but he needs to understand that you are as well and that he could help you – because you are both the parents here – rather than losing his cool and making things worse. Spending time with his daughter could help to reduce his stress levels too – another good reason for him to do so.

“If your daughter were not going through this anxiety phase, I’d suggest you left her with him for a day – so he could learn how unlike a permanent holiday childcare is. You could certainly start leaving her with him long enough to get yourself outside for your daily exercise.

“As to feeling like you again, I don’t think any of us feel ‘normal’ right now, but once it’s safe and we’re all allowed out a bit more, dress yourself up and meet friends, if only for a socially distanced coffee. Just being with people other than your husband and baby will help you rediscover who you are. Goodness alone knows when lockdown will end, but the weather is getting better and spring will soon be here – so with any luck things will start getting easier.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in