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Why I Went to Therapy with My 3 Year Old

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I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been so jealous of women who enjoy being with their kids. They are excited to come home from work, look forward to the weekend or relish those sweet moments of reading books before bed.

I don’t spend time with women who pretend that motherhood is perfect or easy, but for many women, I can tell that, between the tantrums and hard times, there are moments of love, connection and sweetness.

Before very recently I almost never felt that with Marshall.

The moment they put him in my arms after he was born, I felt overwhelmed by him, and as the years went on that overwhelm turned into resentment, confusion and anger.

For a while I thought that working less or having less financial pressure would help, so I majorly scaled back my business and spent more time with him. I still felt this untouchable distance.

I thought it was because his behavior was so out of control. We would spend months working on a certain issue like biting or bedtime, and it would get better, but he still didn’t feel like family.

It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Most nights I’d fall into bed crying because I could tell Marshall was lonely, scared and suffering. He couldn’t feel me, and I couldn’t feel him.

I knew I was a loving, caring woman. Why wasn’t this translating to motherhood?    

In February I hit rock bottom when I noticed how I was dreading going home to be with the kids after working during the day. This wasn’t what I wanted my life to be like! I wanted my kids to have a better, happier mother.

That month we signed up with a child psychologist to go to play therapy together once a week for 6 months.

The first time we walked into her office, I felt wiped out, resentful and more like his babysitter than his mother. I was embarrassed to show up in that energy, but I knew if I wasn’t real, we were never going to grow.

We showed up every week and played with trucks, play-doh, marbles, dolls and dinosaurs. We would talk about a few things here and there, but mostly we just played. The therapist would join in, talk to Marshall, talk to me, and point out how Marshall was communicating through his play.

For the first couple sessions, I didn’t feel like anything was happening and like it was a total waste of time and money. But Marshall started asking me excitedly when therapy was and told me how much he loved it, so I stuck with it.

After three months, I started feeling a shift. I felt less like a babysitter and more like his mom. He started to hold my hand more and sit in my lap when he was overwhelmed. The therapist kept pointing out all the ways he was starting to go to me for more comfort, safety and direction. He was starting to rely on me, and I was starting to trust myself.

My friends and family started mentioning how much things seemed to have shifted between us. How we just fit together better.

After six months, my relationship with Marshall was totally different. Just in time for our cross country move. I was elated! So proud of him for learning to trust me and even prouder of myself for following my gut, making the time and not settling for a subpar relationship with my son.

Marshall is still a normal toddler and has more spirited behavior than the average kid, but we have those moments of sweetness now like when I lie in bed with him at night and can say good night without him freaking out, or how he reaches for my hand when we walk to school.

Those little things are now like a phone line to our bond where before there was very little there to connect to.

I also love how Marshall told everyone that we were going to therapy with a proud look on his face. No embarrassment, no taboo, just something important we do to take care of ourselves.  We aren’t in therapy right now, but I’m so happy to know that we can go back together anytime to work out any challenges between us. My mother always told me that we go to doctors to take care of our bodies, and it’s just as important to go to therapy to take care of our emotions. I’m happy that I’m teaching my kids the same lesson.

To this day, I can’t say for sure what our therapist did. To me it often felt like we weren’t doing anything. There was no aha moment or sudden shift. But I have to say, for the first time ever, Marshall and I feel like we belong to each other.

I’m telling you this because there is often so much shame associated with not enjoying motherhood or not having a strong connection with your child. If you can relate to my story, you are not alone. Some of us just need some help finding that belongingness and I found working with a therapist in person so profoundly helpful. If you feel like you want support in this area, just google “child play therapy + your city” or call you insurance company for a list of names they cover. If you need to pay out of pocket, I promise it’s worth the investment.

If you want names of people in San Francisco or Boston, I have some great recos, just send me email at info@sarahjenks.com.  

Life isn’t meant to be easy all the time, man has motherhood taught me that, but we all deserve a few heart explosions here and there and a deep sense of belonging. I’m so grateful for the professionals who can help us gain access to those feelings.

Love,
Sarah  


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