Menu

Being a toddler mom can cause anxiety—but here’s what you can do

Moms need to know that the early toddler years are tough and that they don’t need to endure them alone. 

Being a toddler mom can cause anxiety—but here’s what you can do

When you have a newborn, especially if it’s your first baby, no one expects it to be easy.


During those early (and frequent) pediatric newborn visits and postpartum ob-gyn visits, you are screened for postpartum depression and anxiety. Friends and family offer food, support and babysitting services. Everyone assumes that you have been up all night, so you are forgiven for any regrettable actions taken while in a sleep-deprived haze. You are surrounded with support.

But when that baby becomes a toddler, expectations change. Doctors stop asking about depression and anxiety. Loved ones don’t check in as often, and offers of food and babysitting dry up. Many people assume (mostly incorrectly) that you are “finally” sleeping. Popular sentiment has it that once you’re out of the infant phase, you’re out of the woods.

FEATURED VIDEO

I’m not quite sure where this assumption comes from, because as any mother of a toddler will tell you, the woods get thornier as your kids get older.

Anxiety, in particular, often grows with your child. When you have an infant, you have complete control over that child’s every move. The child can’t walk or talk and can only eat breast milk or formula. Parenting expectations are clear (feed the kid, bathe the kid, let the kid sleep.) When children become mobile and start eating solids and then eventually walking and talking, they are considerably more difficult to control and parenting tasks are no longer as clear-cut.

Loss of control and unclear expectations can serve as fodder for anxiety. Many moms of toddlers find themselves feeling overwhelmed and without adequate support to help them manage it.

If you’re one of these moms, here are some tips from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you cope.

1. Allow yourself to feel anxious.

It’s OK to be worried and stressed. It doesn’t mean you aren’t happy to be a mother or appreciative of what you have. Not acknowledging your anxiety or pressuring yourself to “snap out of it” will only make the anxiety worse.

2. Schedule worry time.

Try scheduling some “worry time” into your day. Devote that time to worrying about everything that’s bothering you. You can write the worries down in a journal or say the worries out loud.

If any of the worries lend themselves to problem solving, think through how you will solve the problem (i.e. you worry about your child’s cough, which inspires you to make a doctor’s appointment for him.) If you have a worry outside of your “worry time” (which, of course, you will) acknowledge that worry and recognize that you will spend more time with it when worry time comes around.

3. Make time for yourself.

When I suggest that my stressed mom patients regularly do things to care for themselves (like take a walk, get a manicure, binge watch a show, etc.), they often tell me they consider doing such things to be “selfish”—another widely held belief about mothers that isn’t reflective of reality.

If you want to effectively take care of your kids, you have to take care of yourself. Even taking 15 minutes out of your day to do something for yourself can boost your energy and mood and give you stamina for the toddler dramas of the day.

4. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness exercises can help you learn to focus more effectively on the present moment and recognize that your anxious thoughts are just thoughts, not truths. There are a number of mindfulness apps that make practice easy. Calm and Headspace are two apps that are popular among my patients.

5. Watch out for avoidance.

Often, when we’re anxious about something, we avoid the thing(s) that trigger the anxiety. But this can become problematic when you’re a parent and have obligations you have to meet. For example, a mom who avoids driving because she’s afraid of a car accident faces a real challenge when her toddler has to be dropped off at daycare on a busy street.

It’s important to try to face your fears, rather than allowing avoidance to keep you from doing what you need (and want) to do. Furthermore, parents who avoid things often have kids who avoid things, since kids tend to model their behaviors on those of their parents. Instead of avoiding, model effective coping for your kids by letting them witness you facing your fears head-on.

6. Beware the Internet.

So many moms turn to the Internet when they have anxiety about something. But the Internet can be an unreliable (and even dangerous) source of information, as many websites contain unverified and inaccurate information. Make sure you stick to reputable websites if you’re seeking advice, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your pediatrician or your own doctor with questions about your health or your child’s health.

7. Ask for help.

Many moms with whom I work took a long time to come to me, believing that they were supposed to “soldier through” the toddler years. This is another idea whose origins are unclear and whose merits are lacking. Moms need to know that the early years are tough and that they don’t need to endure them alone.

Seeking help from a therapist, support group, religious leader, or even like-minded friends and family members can be extremely beneficial for moms.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News