By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
“You are a superwoman!”
“How do you do it all?”
“How can you handle being a mother and working so hard?”
This can be feedback that mothers may hear when they are performing at a high level- even over-functioning. These statements can feel like compliments, but they also beg the question- are they taking care of yourself and/or your recovery?
As we approach Mother’s Day, it is important to continue thinking about the unique needs of mothers who are struggling with Substance Use Disorders (SUD). Mothers have such a complicated role of both responsibility for their child(ren) as well as an obligation to take care of their own wellness. Therefore, it is incredibly important that parents with active SUD have an opportunity to take the time to get sober and stay in recovery. This is both for their own wellness and for the sake of their children as well.
However, recovery involves more than just “not using”. It also includes living a more balanced lifestyle, replacing the substance with proactive coping skills, addressing underlying trauma, mental health and medical issues. Getting sober while also in an active mothering role can add another layer of stress and time commitments. This can be further complicated when the children are younger and have more involved childcare needs.
Here are some suggestions of ways to balance early sobriety and motherhood:
- Ask for help! Mothers do NOT need to be superwomen all of the time and need support in parenting from their spouse, partner, loved ones and friends.
- Make sure that you are eating regularly and if you need help getting groceries or cooking, then reach out to others.
- Access virtual recovery resources from home: this has increased post-pandemic and includes self-help meetings via zoom, mother recovery support groups (i.e., SHE RECOVERS, 12-Step women’s meetings, Meetings, Women for Sobriety)
- Be sure to integrate self-care into your day when taking care of your child: take a nap, exercise, read a good book, watch a fun T.V. show, meditate, pray, etc.
- Find ways to combine self-care and childcare: get a jogging stroller so that you can walk/run with your child; do yoga stretches while they are playing in an activity center on the floor; get a seat or “pack and play” that will allow you to shower, cook, clean, etc. while they are amusing themselves; get a hammock or lawn chairs that will allow you to be outside and even breastfeed with your baby and plastic gates for a baby
- Be sure to get outside each day, especially if there is sunshine! A lack of vitamin D3 from the sun can contribute to depressed moods
- Be sure to talk on the phone to others in your sober support system each day to avoid feeling isolated from the world
- Ask a loved one to watch your child or a babysitter so that you can do something good for yourself at least once a week: therapy, mutual-help group meeting, yoga, exercise, massage, manicure, etc.
- Join a Mom’s support group such as “Mommy and Me” or library affiliated mother’s groups
- Begin to create a daily routine that can bring some predictability and stability to your days
- Get sleep!!! Sleep deprivation can lead to many mood-related issues. If you are having insomnia or constantly interrupted sleep, then it is important to find some support and solutions:
- Take a nap while your child is napping even if you have chores and other tasks to accomplish, have your partner alternate getting up to feed the baby at night
- Sleep with ear plugs and have your partner be “on call” alternate nights
- Limit electronic use before bed
- Listen to a guided relaxation before bed, turn off all electronics 1 hour before bedtime
- Go to bed first so that you are asleep before your partner comes to bed and have them be “on duty” so that you can sleep
- Have a night off and sleep at a loved one’s house so that you partner can cover for you (even one night of good sleep could help to recharge your battery)
- Do NOT drink caffeine after 4:00pm
- “Sleepytime” tea
- Consult with your physician about getting a blood test for your Thyroid or other post-partum imbalances that could lead to sleep issues
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model is able to support mothers (and others) with Substance Use Disorders in their home environment. This can be a perfect fit for mothers who want to continue to be present in their child(ren)’s lives while getting sober. It can be life changing to have trained professionals who can effectively support mothers in navigating life stressors in real time in a familiar environment.
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Institute is offering healthcare professionals an assessment based certificate that enables them to support individuals in the recovery process through this unique and innovative modality. Now is an ideal time for healthcare professionals to try something different! This certificate for IHAT providers is available in CT, MA, RI, NH, ME, VA, FL, IN and most recently Kentucky.