I have a 2.5 yo and a newborn. I find that when watching the toddler or doing everyone-together family activities I find myself stressed out managing everything and generally wishing I could be by myself. After the fact I’m aware that everyone had a good time, it was family bonding, etc (I’m not generally outwardly stressed, no one else’s experience is affected)

Anyone else have this? I’d love to be able enjoy time with my family instead of wishing I was somewhere else, and only enjoying it in retrospect.

If so, are there strategies for either a) dealing with the stress or b) being more in-touch with the later enjoyment, while the activity is still happening?

(I’m doing some mindfulness already so ‘try mindfulness’ is covered)

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    Welcome to Parenting.SE! I feel you and I understand what you may be going through. I'm an introverted person by nature so lots of close contact with people outside of really, only my wife drives me crazy. It looks like this question may lead to some discussion rather than driving a cause for a direct answer, which is really how this site works. Might I suggest asking for direct advice on how to cope with these feelings instead of leaving kind of open-ended? I think you might get some better advice/answers that way. Again, welcome :-) – SomeShinyObject May 5 '18 at 9:41
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    Have you identified the source of the stress you're feeling in the moment (e.g. you're a perfectionist/conflict makes you anxious/you're more comfortable handling one thing at a time/etc.)? Could you include that, as it directly affects the answer(s)? Thanks, and welcome! – anongoodnurse May 5 '18 at 15:26

Part of me laughed a little on the inside when I read this. I think parents in general experience this but feel guilty admitting it. The reality of it is that tending to infants and toddlers is like being on defcon alert. Some people genuinely love it, but I was not one of them. I did it, like you, to excess to make sure my kids always had a great time and I didn't make the mistake of choosing some meaningless personal pastime over whatever experience I could provide them... most of the time.

What you may not realize at the time is that it will very quickly become retrospect. Even if you feel the urge to run away, try to get a good laugh at the unrelenting horror of it all and just stick with it and delight in the amusements they derive from the simplest of things.

Only the truly insane wouldn't dream of other things. I wouldn't feel bad about the underlying daydream to be elsewhere. They get a lot easier when you can communicate with them and they can be trusted to play on their own. That will happen before you know it.

My personal opinion is that "mindfulness" is sort of BS. To me that sounds a little like "pretend to be something you're not" - in that some situations as a parent I found much more joy not having any idea what was going on around me and totally zoning it out. For both me and the kids. Sit in a room with a singing circle of muffin men and wheels on the bus and you may see what I mean. You'll find many situations where your absence is probably much more beneficial than your presence. And likewise, having a hobby or a detachment from reality could be the therapy you need to either find whatever zen state you need to exist in the baby/toddler time, or discover the joys in it.

In short, don't forget you. Make sure you're happy, as well as everyone in the family, and you'll probably find yourself dreaming of other things much less. I did.

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Does anyone else have this?

Are we allowed to be honest here? I hate doing things. As I said in my comment, I'm a pretty introverted guy for the most part. Even at work, dealing with people I see every day exhausts me. Throw that on top of parenting expectations for going out and having fun with family on the weekends makes me a pretty tired person most of the time. So yes, other people experience this also.

How do I cope?

I have a partner who is very understanding of this. She knows that I don't like big crowds/loud noises and is completely comfortable with letting me slip away when I need to. Your first task should be to establish that communication with someone who you frequently do these outings with, be it your partner or any other family who knows you well. Let them know that there is chance you may need to slip away to regain some sanity. You might be surprised to find out they feel the same way. In that case, you can take turns.

It also helps to be mindful of why you are going out and doing these things. Generating fond memories is a staple of any family structure. Establish the good times to help you cope in the bad times. If you can be mindful (as you stated) of that fact, it helps you mentally cope and perhaps engage yourself even more.

Finally, and this may not be helpful to you, but, I have a pretty good ability to "suck it up" as some may say. I've been through way worse than a school-age birthday party or an outing to a theme park. Keeping that fact in mind, I find it easy to just ride it out if I find I am not enjoying myself.

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Sounds very normal to me. I have one year old and a three year old, and during the last year, my own (social and other non-basic) needs were hardly met as those of my children came first. As SomeShinyObject wrote, I'm an introvert, too, and my need for downtime alone (haha, who am I kidding, my need for any downtime in sufficient quantity) was hard to get by as there was always enough stuff that needed to be done.

If this sounds familiar, try to get some time all for yourself, and remember that in a year or so, your newborn won't be a newborn anymore but a toddler, and a toddler and a preschooler will be much easier on you than a newborn and a toddler are right now. This too shall pass.

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This is very common and I have struggled with various levels of it.

Could it be Male PND? It depends on how severe you feel it. Is it a "numb" feeling or a "bored" feeling. Roughly 6 months after my Son was born I became more withdrawn from my family, I didn't laugh/smile...feel when my son giggled (kid laughter is infectious to me now). I was 'a dick' in a lot of respects, depression causes you to sort of self destruct your life, I was pushing my wife away, i was often thinking of leaving in some form or another, I would even have violent / dark thoughts towards my family. Note: some of this is from my wife's perspective as I was not present enough to notice.

I think its well worth going to your GP and asking for the CBT depression form. It's a quick form you fill in to gauge your mental state, like a mental check up, I borrowed one of my wife's, who was recovering from female PND and I got a very bad score which was a surprise to me (but not my wife). Men CAN get PND and depression is very common in SW developers & creatives (I notice your both, I consider myself both too).

Is it trouble being present, in general I realised after CBT and getting into mindfulness that I was often 'somewhere else' even before my PND. The only place I was ever truly present was with my computer, in a 'semi-meditative' coding state. Many people find themselves happier in work because we can reach a form of mediation (totally focused on a task). But this would overflow into my personal life; my mind would 'escape' to work constantly, including time with the kids, dog walks, car drives, I was always wondering what I would be doing 'later'. In contradiction at work I could easily get distracted by FB/Twitter etc.

This is still something I struggle with but after listening to various podcasts that mention it and reading various books (e.g. Waking Up by Sam Harris), I have been determined to take Meditation more seriously. As real meditation / mindfulness is all about training your brain to pay attention to the present. Making yourself happier through enjoying the present moment more fully. For this I can highly recommend Headspace and other meditation apps. Especially with kids it can be hard to spend time trying to be mindful, having an app/allotted time can be invaluable. You will fall out of the habit a lot but the core lesson is to equip yourself with the tools to recognise when you are getting distracted :)

Are kids just boring sometimes? This is the most common thing a parent will experience, and I bet even the most experienced mediator will think this sometimes. It can be hard to understand how its possible to play "making tea" for hours. You can write this off as normal, and you would probably be in the majority. But personally I am increasingly seeing this as a trapping of modern life. With Music players, books, social media, apps, games, phones, etc. We are not used to doing very little and this comes back to the stuff above. I have uninstalled SM on my phone and I try harder to "not look for distractions" this has helped a lot, but to really enjoy the moments I have two suggestions:

  1. Really throw yourself into their game. Either be the creator of the game, or just really commit to being "tea receiver". This can be impossible for some people, for others, like me, its a binary choice, if i dont go all in, I can barely participate at all
  2. Really notice them (basically mindfulness), take the time to appreciate how utterly amazed they are by something as simple as a puddle/grass/tea-set. It can be sort of meditative in itself to just sort of wonder what its like to see the world with new eyes, wonder how playing with water and cups can enthral a conscious mind for hours. Wonder what they are learning etc.

It can be easy to read that and think I really have it cracked lol but believe me I look back retrospectively and see someone who was not present vs someone who was more often. But its an important step to notice. And if you follow the path you will end up more content by noticing it and querying it.

Try and work on it, I am definitely happier from starting this journey even though I know I will never complete it or even travel it as far as others I am trying to emulate :p

Finally whether you feel it is depression or not, this is well worth a read, I found it quite eye opening: http://cbtsanfrancisco.com/cbt-is-for-hackers/

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After the fact I’m aware that everyone had a good time, it was family bonding, etc

Remember, part of the reason other people were able to enjoy that was because you were handling the logistics and emotional labor of making sure everything that needed to be done was done. You were working, so it's not unreasonable for you to not feel like you were enjoying yourself.

Are there other responsible adults in the picture at these get-togethers? Try to delegate some responsibility when you feel you need a break to enjoy yourself for a bit. "Spouse/SO, I need a break. Can you watch Junior for a bit?"

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It seems normal to want a break from the stress.

More important is managing the stress. You talk about your desire to manage what goes on during the events. If you can get yourself to stop that, and let things be, you probably will find yourself enjoying the family time more.

Obviously, if kids act out rudely, or disrupt others, you want to keep a handle on that, but kids want to and should be allowed to play, be silly and explore life. Having them be well-regimented robots, or not, won't make you look like a champion or failure parent, so don't be too invested in having perfectly orderly kids.

When I split from my ex-, and even before, to a certain extent, she tried to manage the behavior a lot more. Once we split and the kids got older than kindergarten/toddler, when they played, or had friends over, I made the conscious choice not to try and control the noise or activity level (too much). Same goes for a certain amount of conflict between the kids.

My ex- would comment on how stressful having sleepovers or birthday parties were. My experience was that they were noisy, but not stressful because I wasn't worried about trying to contain that part. Find your own personal "zen," would be my advice.

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  • Thanks; for clarity, when I say manage I don’t mean “get everyone in line”, I mean “get everyone in the car/on the train/in the bike carrier, to the zoo/event, fed, and home” – buildsucceeded May 9 '18 at 16:22
  • But yes, letting things play themselves out is probably going to be helpful regardless – buildsucceeded May 9 '18 at 16:23
  • Thanks for the clarification. The comparison to my ex- is less apt, in that light. Every annual summer vacation, for my family (five kids) always started with embarking on our 13 hour drive, crammed into a car, with my dad (who did not deal with frustration well) seething because we hit the road an hour or so later than he wanted. Maybe make sure you don't have tight timeframes would be more applicable. Also have times where you go and do something, somewhere, as a family that has not much structure to it. Go to a park, bring picnic stuff, but make it a random "free" day, for the most part. – PoloHoleSet May 9 '18 at 16:39
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    Yeah, I think the good parallel to my situation is ‘managing the fun’, like, I’m good at not being annoyed if plans change, but I’ll be super stressed out making sure that everyone has what they need, to a degree that (obvs) isn’t helpful to me or anyone. – buildsucceeded May 9 '18 at 18:51

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