Parenting through PMS is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done…right up there with parenting through a stomach bug. Only the stomach bug is a more socially acceptable excuse for sub-par parenting and for asking for help.
I remember when I first got my cycle back after having Audrey. I was fifteen months postpartum and I thought I was going crazy. I experienced extreme nursing aversion and I didn’t want to be around my daughter. I had a short fuse and found myself constantly yelling. I felt like a terrible mother. A few days later, my period came and it all started to make sense. The perspective that came with my bleeding time helped me offer up more compassion to myself. I also knew a little more what to expect for the next cycle and I could plan ahead to carve out more time for myself.
A few months ago at thirteen months postpartum, my cycle returned for the first time since having Coen. This time I was a little more clued in to what my body was doing. I think it naturally coincided with a time my husband was busy with work or his band and so I had a lot of alone time after the kids went to bed. That alone time was essential for my self-care.
I’m now on my third cycle postpartum and I’m definitely in PMS-mode. I’m experiencing symptoms that are new to me since my most recent pregnancy — headaches and joint pain are the most curious. I’ve also got the same fatigue, insomnia, and hunger as before. Despite these very physical symptoms, PMS is not a socially-acceptable reason to do less or outsource parenting responsibilities. I often feel pressure to continue at the same pace as before, which doesn’t honor my cyclical nature.
Parenting is hard enough as it is. When we don’t feel good physically, mentally, or emotionally, it’s even more of a challenge. My fuse is short and I’ve been much less patient with my children. This morning as I was buckling Audrey into her carseat to go to school, she asked me, “Mama, why did you yell at Coen this morning?” I have to say that given my current state (and the fact that I was up for two hours last night with Coen) I was proud of my answer. I’m claiming this as a parenting win. I responded, “Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of energy for taking care of you and your brother. Right now I’m feeling really tired and I’m having a hard time using my words. Even though I love you very much, it can feel hard to take care of two kiddos when I’m tired.” “I love you, mom,” she responded. And then I wanted to cry.
I want to be real with my kids. For me that looks like speaking up about the hard times and acknowledging them as opposed to brushing them under the rug. Of course I’m sensitive to what information is age-appropriate. (Notice I didn’t explain PMS to my daughter in that moment BUT I am really excited for the time when I get to share all this cycle wisdom with her - I hope she’ll listen!) Am I still going to end of fucking up my kids? Probably - don’t we all? The important thing is that I’m always trying to do my best; it’s just that some days my best is less than other days.
Learning about the menstrual cycle and infusing it with symbolism has helped to shift my perspective of some of the more ‘unsavory’ aspects of the cycle like PMS, cramping, and other symptoms. I view PMS as a time when my filter is thin and my truth is close to the surface. When I can be intentional and proactive about my self-care during this time, I step into my power and honor my truth. Instead of feeling weak with my headache, fatigue, and joint pain, I feel raw and strong. When I don’t make my self-care a priority, this power has a tendency to leak out in unskillful ways—like when I roared at my children. (Yes, I actually have roared at them and I have to be honest, it felt really fucking good.)
My yoga practice helps me take care of myself during this time. Because I honor the part of me that yearns to be parented, I practice child’s pose. And because my head hurts, I put a block under my head; the pressure feels good. Because I struggle to get restful sleep, I practice poses that help me feel calm and relaxed. And because I trust my body and this process, I allow myself time for intuitive movement with no agenda or explanation necessary. And that’s where I’m headed now…
I’d love to hear your experience. How does it feel for you to parent through PMS? What kinds of things help you to feel more capable during sometimes tumultuous hormonal shifts?