Coping with brain drain after having a baby

Marin graduated from law school seven months pregnant and gave birth to her first child in July. She expected the shift from student to stay-at-home mom to be a transition, but she didn’t expect the mental adjustment it would require.

“I went from constantly being intellectually stimulated and busy in law school – definitely setting my own time and pace – to being not really intellectually stimulated and just physically so tired all the time,” she said. “I had no idea what kind of a strain it would be on me.”

After years building confidence through educational accomplishment, Marin found her self-esteem crumbling as she struggled with things that seemed to be a breeze for other women. How much she knew about law was completely irrelevant when it came to breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding was so hard for me for about three months,” she said. “I put a big black X on our calendar. I was like, ‘If it still hurts by this day, that’s the day I’m stopping.’ But it got easier and easier — or maybe I got tougher and tougher.”

Marin describes motherhood by saying it “rocked my world.” The lifestyle change was so immediate and so dramatic, she had no choice but to hang on for the ride and build a new life for herself.

Marin decided to apply the problem-solving and multitasking skills she used in her education into her new role as a mother. Rather than accept loneliness and feeling drained, she began to gather information and do a little bit of research.

Here are some other tricks Marin tried to ease her way into motherhood:

  • Get some perspective.

“My mom has seen all of her kids from babyhood to adulthood,” Marin said. “When I would complain about it all, about how I was so tired, like, ‘He had to sleep with us all night long and I couldn’t even put him back in his crib,’ she would say, ‘Oh, I miss the days when I could sleep with my baby in the bed.’ Having a new baby was a golden time for her, and being able to have that perspective really did help me think.”

  • Share your experiences.

Marin said she wasn’t shy about picking up the phone and calling family whenever she needed help.

“Advice from other women was always really important to me, not because I couldn’t have gotten by without it, but just because a lot of experiences are the same, and it’s just nice to share common things,” she said. “It’s definitely reassuring.

  • Find your rhythm.

By sleeping when her son slept and giving up keeping a day planner Marin was able to more easily adjust to life with a new baby.

“Not scheduling out my time was unsual for me, but it works,” she said.

  • Seek out stimulation.

One of the most difficult aspects of switching from student to mother was the lack of mental engagement Marin could get. In school, she was used to being fed new information all the time, but at home, she had to be proactive about getting it. She joined a book club, started taking trips to the library, became a volunteer teacher at an elementary school and began blogging to keep her mind busy.

“I realized I’m in charge of feeding my brain,” she said. “It doesn’t come to you anymore. You have to reach out and look for it, but there’s so much out there that once I changed my outlook, it wasn’t bad at all.”

Although the transition from law school to motherhood was a very difficult period of adjustment, Marin has found that seeing everything through the experience of her son, Charlie, has made her life richer.

“Last Christmas felt like my first Christmas as well as his, just realizing it’s his first time seeing snow,” she said. “This summer is the first time he’s played in the sprinklers. You see things that are normal or predictable for you with a fresh set of eyes.”

If you’re feeling the need for something a little more enthralling than the latest Baby Einstein, try joining Good Reads, on online book club where you can chat, track and discover books.

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The mother of all single parent support

Being from the Midwest, Jodi was raised with the notion that marriage was supposed to be forever, so when the word “divorce” was uttered between she and her husband, it was like the death of a dream.

“In the old days, people would stay together for the kids, and these days they don’t,” she said. “When I got divorced, I had so many fears, and it was such an emotional roller coaster. I was afraid I would never find love again, that I wouldn’t make it on my own, or that I wasn’t strong enough to raise a boy by myself.”

Jodi’s son was five at the time of her divorce, and she decided to put all the energy she’d been giving to her marriage into raising her child. She knew that she had to make sure that he felt safe and that he knew he didn’t cause the divorce and was not responsible to fix it. She reached out to a therapist, and the she decided to reach out to other single parents.

“I needed advice on how I would juggle my life, a home life, homework, work and finances as a newly single person,” she said. “The first place I went was the internet, but I could hardly find anything.”

Frustrated at the lack of community for single parents, Jodi decided to take matters into her own hands. She came up with the idea for an internet resource for others like her… thanks to one of those unexpected moments of brilliance in the shower.

“I got out of the shower and bought the domain name MakingLemonade.com, which has always been a phrase that kind of dictates how I live my life,” she said. “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade and share it with people.”

Jodi quickly became known as a single parenting expert through the network and support system she created. But as much as she was helping other parents, she was learning how to help her own son transition through the divorce and get used to visitation.

Perhaps the thing that helped Jodi come into her own as a single parent was learning to parent with confidence. She learned to be both the nurturer and the disciplinarian, she learned how to listen and how to dictate, and she also learned how capable she is as a human being and a parent.

Check out Making Lemonade, Jodi Seidler’s comprehensive support resource for single moms and dads.

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