Dear Mama, people say that the days are long but the years are short. But I know that it doesn’t make the sleepless nights, crying babies, and your never-ending to-do list any easier. The struggle is real. I know because I have been there.
Soon after my second child was born, I experienced something I was afraid to share with anyone. My son would wake up to nurse up to six times a night, and I was exhausted. During the day, my 3-year-old daughter would crave some quality time with me, and I would struggle to play with her joyfully and wholeheartedly. I simply didn’t have the patience to deal with her needs and occasional tantrums. And I saw a side of me that I never knew was there.
“It’s time to take a bath now.”
“I don’t want to take a bath!” she cried, sprawled out on the floor in protest.
“Why won’t you take a bath?!” I shouted, pounding my fist on the countertop, so hard that I could feel the blood throbbing through my veins.
My little ones froze as they watched me collapse to the ground in utter dismay at how I had reacted.
Who had I become?
Why am I so angry?
The days truly felt like years, especially when my husband had to work late, and all of the bedtime battles fell on me. My family would offer to help, but I worried that asking for help would make me a burden, so I only asked when I really couldn’t manage. I remember nights when my son would cry inconsolably for hours, and I just felt so helpless. Was it colic? Exhaustion? Discomfort? I couldn’t figure it out, and I just cried along with him.
In my darkest moments, I remember thinking that maybe my family would be better off without me.
They wouldn’t have to deal with my outbursts of anger or my ever-changing mood. My husband wouldn’t have to wonder why I wasn’t talking to him, and maybe the kids could even get a new, better mom, someone who wouldn’t traumatise them with anger outbursts. After all, they were still young. They wouldn’t even remember me if I disappeared now.
And then one day, I had the courage to talk to my husband about the complicated knot of emotions I couldn’t seem to control. And he asked me a question I’ll never forget, “How do you know you won’t get better?”
I didn’t know how to answer that but instead decided to seek help. I got connected to a therapist I still see today, even though my son is now almost 2 years old. She’s helped me understand the changes that my body experienced from childbirth, the trauma from my past that amplifies the struggles in the present, and most importantly, reminded me of two truths:
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to ask for help.
So mama, if you resonate with anything I’ve said, know that you’re not alone. Reach out to family, friends, a support group in Singapore or even a therapist or counsellor who can walk with you through your struggles. Hire a babysitter and make time to do things you love. Trust me, it’s worth it. And take heart knowing that it will get better, if you take steps today to overcome your struggles.
And if you’re not a mama but you know one who may be struggling, reach out. Offer specific ways you can help. Give her space to just breathe, vent or cry without judging or giving advice.
You’ll never know how a simple act of kindness and love may just save her life.
If you are struggling and considering harming yourself or your child, put your child in a safe place (or with another caregiver) and immediately call the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 24-hour hotline (1-800-221-4444). SOS is the only suicide prevention centre in Singapore. This secular non-profit organization provides confidential emotional support to people who have difficulty coping during a crisis, who are thinking of suicide, or affected by suicide.