Toy Rotation

We’re spending a lot of time around our house cleaning and organizing. I’ve figured out that my PPD is much more tolerable when things are in their place. It’s probably to the point of compulsion, but my psychologist isn’t at all worried. It’s not interfering with my spending time with my kids or ability to do other things, so I’m not worried either. It just makes me feel better when the laundry is put away and the sink is empty. If that’s what I need to get through my day, so be it.

So when an area of the house is bothering me, it starts nagging me in my brain. I go about what I need to do, but my mind keeps going back to what’s bothering me. Peanut’s toy area, especially with her recent birthday, has been bugging me big time. Even with her no-gift party, she still got a bunch of stuff from grandparents and uncles. Not to mention the fact that Christmas was just a few months ago and a lot of stuff was added then too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful that she has family and friends that love her and want to give her gifts. It just stresses me out when all the toys are all over the living room and there’s not enough space to fit everything into her toy cabinet.

My first thought was to get rid of some toys. I’m certain that I could go through and find some stuff to get rid of, but I’m hesitant to do so at the moment. I don’t want to make any rash decisions stemming from my need to keep the house clean and regret them later. Still, I couldn’t stand the mess of her toy area, so I decided to compromise by starting a toy rotation.

If you’ve never done this, it’s wonderful. The idea is that you take all of their toys and put them into piles. However many piles you want to do. Since we really don’t have that many toys (I went through and got rid of a bunch of stuff that was too young or not in good shape before the holidays) and I only currently have one plastic tote that’s empty, I decided to do two piles. One for in the tote, one for in her play area. Then when you have the separate sets of toys, you keep one of them out for a few months, then rotate a new one in and that one out. Of course, any absolute favorites or lovies stay out all the time.

The benefits to this aren’t just keeping your house clean. I read some research a while back that showed that if there are less options for toys, children play with each toy individually for a longer period of time and they use their imagination more. It also gives the child the opportunity to play with all of their toys rather than just a few. As we were going through making the piles, I realized there were toys that I hadn’t seen out in months. They’re just sitting there taking up space.

So when I decided that I was going to start a toy rotation again, I asked Peanut if she wanted to help. I explained to her that we’d put away some toys for a while, but not get rid of them. Then when she’s tired of the toys that she has out, we’d switch them. I’m not sure if she totally understood the concept, but she was excited about the prospect of helping mommy decide which toys to put in the “in” the box pile and which ones to put in the “out” of the box pile. I also explained to her that we needed to keep the piles pretty even in size and that she’d want to put some of the toys she likes into the “in” pile because when we switched, those would be the only toys she played with. I was amazed at how well she did and how few reminders she needed.

Peanut choosing which pile to put a necklace in.

I think the process went much smoother with her involvement rather than me going through her toys and suddenly half of them are gone. I would hold up a toy and ask her “out or in?” and she would tell me which one. She also chose some toys for the “out” pile that I wouldn’t have thought she cared about right now and some for the “in” pile that I would have thought she wanted now. I was afraid that she’d put all the toys she liked into the “out” pile and then when we rotated, she’d be sad that there weren’t any toys she liked to play with inside the box, so I was happy that she distributed them evenly.

The "in" the box pile.

The "in" pile.

She even helped me put the toys into the “in” box without getting even the least bit upset. I figured she’d be sad when I took the box upstairs, but she could have cared less! I think she actually understands that she still gets the toys, just later. Or she was just distracted enough by coloring. Either way, it went smoothly!

Peanut putting her tambourine in the "in" box.

The full "in" box, minus the blocks that I just put on top of it in storage since they obviously don't fit. No, she doesn't play with Shape Up shoes, that's just the box that her Oma gave her a life-size Elmo puzzle in, so it's what we keep it in.

I forgot to take any before pictures, but here’s what her desk looks like now. It used to have two more big puzzles and lots more coloring stuff. Along with stamps.

Missing her chair because it was downstairs next to my desk when I took this.

And here is what her cabinet where we keep her toys looks like now. It used to be stuffed to the point where you couldn’t see the back wall, let alone all the toys.

Yeah, that's marker on her face. The markers were definitely put in the "in" pile. I'm so tired of those things!

I already feel much better about her toy area. It’s like a stress is just lifted off my mind. Now it’s time to tackle my desk!

How do you keep your children’s toys under control? Have you ever tried rotating toys? Have you involved your children in the process? What else do you do to keep your house under control? 

Postpartum Aggression

When I was pregnant with Peanut, I was fully prepared to deal with a severe case of postpartum depression once she entered this world. Considering my history of depression, some of which I was still dealing with during my actual pregnancy, I figured I was a shoo-in for PPD. I had extra visits scheduled with my midwife, therapy sessions pre-booked, and I surrounded myself with a great support system–particularly my wonderful husband who had not only seen me at my worst, but also studied up the symptoms of PPD because they’re not always as obvious as regular ol’ depression.

Then I totally skipped over it.

I had a minor case of the baby blues, but it passed quickly. I’ll be honest, I was partially convinced it was all my preparation. I was also partially convinced it was my new attitude as a mother. I thought that when you have a life to care for, you just can’t be that self involved. That’s not fair to the moms who do have PPD or any sort of other mental illness. It’s not self absorption. I, of all people, should know this.

So imagine my surprise when it didn’t skip over me this time.

Originally I didn’t even recognize it. I didn’t feel sad. I thought that meant I didn’t have postpartum depression. Depression = sad, right? Not necessarily. PPD can also manifest itself in anger.

For me, the best way I can describe it is sudden, intense rage. Sadly, it was mostly directed at Peanut. That meant that it was immediately followed my crippling guilt. Both of these feelings are signs of PPD. Feelings of sadness or depression aren’t necessarily required for PPD. Though I think I would have had more sad feelings if I didn’t decide to encapsulate my placenta, which at the time was more for the milk supply benefits than the PPD benefits. I had no idea how much it would help me mentally that I made that decision. I definitely notice a difference in what I can handle on days that I forget to take my pill (just one because I decided to do the raw method).

Without the obvious signs of depression, I didn’t recognize it as such. Instead I was just convinced I had a tyrant for a child and a short temper. It was reasonable enough to think those things considering a new baby puts everyone on edge, but this assumption doesn’t solve anything. It turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peanut being defiant, though really in retrospect not any more so than she was before Twig was born, and me knowing it was coming and exploding in anger when it did. I was screaming all of the time. One day a hanger fell down in her closet and I asked her to bring it to me so I could hang a shirt on it, but she ignored me and started trying to put it back where it went. I started screaming at her. She was trying to fix it and I yelled at her for it. Then and there I knew that this couldn’t be normal.

I started asking on Twitter and it was quickly confirmed that this was indeed PPD. It wasn’t normal. I didn’t have to just keep dealing with it. Somehow, that alone helped me immensely. Just to realize that it wasn’t Peanut’s fault, but my own thing I needed to deal with. I started seeing my therapist again and that’s helped too. I’ve also realized what I need to do to keep myself mentally at my best, which includes, for me, a clean house. Not knowing where things are and having clean clothes and needing to clean the toilet nagging at the back of my mind is too much for me. So my house is back to it’s pre-Twig level of cleanliness and I’m happy for it. Yeah, I could spend more time relaxing or playing if I weren’t cleaning, but it’s what I need to do to stay happy. I think acknowledging what I need in my life to be happy is very helpful.

All in all, the postpartum aggression (as I like to call it) seems to be leveling out. I’ve been taking my placenta pills religiously because days when I miss it are definitely harder, but even those days aren’t explosive like they used to be. I still feel awful that Peanut was at the center of so much of the aggression, but the more I talk about it in therapy, the more I realize it wasn’t actually her or anything she did. I still love my first daughter as much as I did before I had my second and she hasn’t changed. She just got the short stick by being the person who I’m around the most. Luckily our relationship seems to be back to where it’s supposed to be at and we’re both better off.

I guess the end message is that postpartum depression isn’t just depression. If you’re feeling anything that’s doesn’t feel normal, talk to someone. It could be happiness to the point that it’s effecting your life in a negative way and still be PPD for all I know. Don’t let people or yourself tell you of course you’re emotional because you just had a baby. Even if it does turn out to be the baby blues, there’s no harm in talking to someone. Only in our society are women so isolated during the time when they need support the most.

Did you have postpartum depression? Did you experience anger and guilt as symptoms of your PPD? How were your other children or loved ones effected? What did you do that helped you cope? 

After Everyone Leaves

One of my first days all by myself with two children. Carrying them both in from the car sleeping.

All throughout the first week postpartum, I kept thinking how easy it was in comparison to what I thought it was going to be like. I was staying on top of things, my physical healing was much easier this time around, and emotionally I was feeling fantastic given all the hormones adjusting in my body. My husband was home, so he could help with Peanut. My friends and family were coming over and graciously offering to do housework for us. Twig was sleeping the majority of the day and surprisingly well at night (beyond the first night where she was awake for 5 hours in the night, she only woke a few times for an hour or so). I was getting to shower. My house was more messy, but not a catastrophe. Even Peanut, who wasn’t handling her world changing so dramatically well at all, was something I was able to handle.

Then everyone left.

My husband went back to work. People, for the most part, stopped coming over to visit. My in-laws went out of town and my mother went back to work. It’s like all my help was pulled out from under me all at once. Kaboom! Everyone’s gone.

But isn’t that how it works in our society? In other cultures, it’s normal to “baby” the mother, but in ours the focus is immediately shifted from the pregnant mom to the newborn, leaving little to no attention to the newly postpartum mother (thanks to Best of Babes for linking the article on Facebook). During a very difficult time in her life, both emotionally and physically, no one has much interest in her. Everyone wants to hold the baby, just occasionally asking the mom how she’s doing without any real interest.

Of course this is a more severe case than most of us experience. I had some wonderful people who came to visit and brought me dinner, cleaned my house, and just sat and talked with me. I am very thankful of all of the lovely people in my life. Just the act of listening does so much for a new mother.

But that’s just it, I’m still newly a mom of two. I’m still figuring out how to balance two children at once, one who is incredibly needy because she’s so new to this world and one who is incredibly needy because her world is now so new to her. I’m still trying to heal myself, especially in terms of my emotional health, which appears to be spiraling downward as time goes on (more on that in another post and don’t worry, I’m getting help). My house is becoming a bigger and bigger mess by the day, which just adds to these difficulties. Yet no one shows interest any more.

People have offered to come help, but I never take them up on it. I don’t know if it’s just me or a reflection of our society, but I find it very difficult to say “Yes, come do my dishes for me.” When people show up at my house and just start doing my dishes I even feel guilty. I don’t know why I’m so unwilling to actually ask for help either. I keep thinking of all the people who have offered and would happily come over and play with Peanut or vacuum my living room, but I can’t get myself to call. For some reason, the idea of calling actually makes me feel a little teary-eyed. That’s probably just the PPD though.

I honestly don’t even know the purpose of this post. My brain isn’t functioning fully at the moment, which makes sense. I guess I just wished that our society took care of new moms better. I wish people realized that it’s not just hard for the first couple of weeks, but rather for the first couple of months (if not more). I wish people cared more about the family as a whole rather than just the new baby.

I’ll leave you all with this great post from Code Name: Mama about things you can do for parents of a newborn.