Suffering from mothering burn out, "high need" toddler - Mothering Forums
Life with a Toddler > Suffering from mothering burn out, "high need" toddler
Cheekygreek's Avatar Cheekygreek 11:06 AM 07-14-2011

So I have a 5 1/2 year old girl and a 21 month old boy. My 21 month old has been high need since he was a fetus! He has had very brief periods when he has been pretty content for a few days, but that is the exception, not the norm. I can't get ANYTHING done because he is always clinging to me screaming and crying. I swear he would rather scream to communicate than use the words he already knows. I have tried all of his life to embrace his personality and not label him. I have tried to entertain him and hold him and give him what he needs without spoiling him. I'm just burnt out and I just want him to be happy!!! I weaned him about a month ago because I couldn't take it anymore. I planned to nurse him until he was two but he refused to eat or drink anything and therefore wanted to be attatched to me every half an hour. It was that way at night too. By a miracle, and A LOT of sleepless nights and tiresome days I weaned him. Now he eats and drinks quite a bit, so I got over that hurdle (although he still asks to nurse on a daily basis but doesn't freak out anymore).

I just feel like such a crappy mom because I don't have the amount of time and energy required to give quality attention to my daughter. I just feel like I'm ruining her life and my son's because I just can't add anything extra to my plate sometimes.When he is leaving me alone then I have to drag myself to give my daughter attention and that breaks my heart. I'm a clean freak, but my house is a disaster. I'm somewhat of a "granola" mom, but I'm using whatever means possible to keep my kids out of my hair even if I wouldn't have done those things before. My husband helps out a lot when he gets home from work, but sometimes that isn't until late and he is so exhausted. And to make matters worse my boy will NOT go to sleep before 11! This has been going on for a couple months now. Do I stop letting him take naps even though that is the only time of day that I get peace from the screaming? He even wakes up at night and throws temper tantrums and I don't know why. And just to clarify,he is not autistic, there is nothing medically wrong with him. He can be so sweet and happy, but he has no middle ground with him. He's either sweet and happy or whining and screaming.

I know I need to take a break and have some time with my husband to re-group, but that hasn't been possible the last few months. I can't leave my boy with anybody besides Grandma because he absolutely flips out....and I've tried many times and just spend the whole time away from him feeling guilty. This week we are finally going to be able to go on a date so I'm happy about that. I also know that I need to work on my attitude of the situation. I wouldn't change my life for anything, I love my kids more than life itself. Don't you ever just feel like you don't have anything left to give? And usually that's when one of my kids hugs me out of the blue and it makes it worth it. I guess I just desperately needed to vent!

Any suggestions for how I keep him entertained so that I can spend some quality time with my daughter?

crunchy_mommy's Avatar crunchy_mommy 03:34 PM 07-14-2011
Did I write this??? Lol!! My DS is sooo much like yours (right down to not going to sleep before 11pm!!) I am actually headed out the door so I can't write much now but I will be back, though I'm not sure how helpful I can be since I'm in the same boat! I have written many posts like yours. hug.gif
fizgig's Avatar fizgig 10:35 AM 07-15-2011

I could have written as well!  And I don't have an older sibling to deal with.  I'm sorry to say that I don't have much great advice and can mainly just offer commiseration. 


Our son has been so incredibly high needs it is killing DH and I.  Since he was born he was sick with reflux, never slept more than 45 min at a time, and had to literally be carried 24/7 and the person carrying him could never stop moving or he would scream.  Even now that is is feeling better at 2.5, he requires constant attention and I cannot get a break to even sit down let alone clean the dishes or make a sandwich.  I actually had to quit my job and am STILL not getting anything done other than running around after DS.  I love him more than life, but wow we could all use a break.


It is even to the point where it has ruined my ability to meet other moms to bond with because when we go to play dates DS is just of running around the park while the other parents sit on blankets gabbing away.  Even worse, the other moms all have healthy home-made snacks, all their kids are dressed in spotless clothes, and they all look well rested.  I feel lucky that DS still HAS clothes on (he has learned to undress), I'm happy I remembered to throw a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut carrots in the bag, and I look like a zombie since I haven't slept well in like 2 years.


I am running on empty too.  I just have to remind myself that I am giving it my all, literally.  I think we are both great moms doing the best we can.


My mantra is that is will get easier as DS gets older.  Already the fact that he can run around on his own at least means that I'm not carrying him all the time.  I say it to myself a lot.  I have talked to other moms of spirited kids and they agree that, although older ages have their own challenges, things will get easier.  Not sure if that helps, but - you are doing an amazing job and it will get better!



LadyCatherine185's Avatar LadyCatherine185 11:21 AM 07-15-2011

((hugs)) mama. I don't have a whole lot of advice to offer, but was wondering if you had considered food allergies or reflux? What is his diet like? Does he eat a lot of dairy? What was he like as a baby? Both of my kids have had issues with dairy and reflux, and once those things were fixed, they were SO much happier.


Happiest Toddler on the Block was a really helpful book for me when my first was a young toddler.

tjjazzy's Avatar tjjazzy 11:59 AM 07-15-2011

i know what it's like to go somewhere and WISH my DS2 would just SIT STILL like the other kids. other boys his age are walking places with their moms or riding their trikes and i'm still locking him in a buggy to save my own sanity. he has to sit in a booster or high chair and be BUCKLED in at restaurants. all that fun stuff. what has helped immensely, though, is the preschool he goes to. holy cow. what a turnaround since he's been going there (it's a kindergarten readiness program-kids start at age 4 here-called BestStart and is right in DS1's school. i love it!) he has learned to listen much better and he has learned that there are times structure is required (he might have to be buckled at a restaurant still but he will SIT and wait for his food!! colour and talk and stuff and we can actually eat out!!) he still has trouble sitting but we're finding him much easier to reason with and deal with now that he's been forced into a structured routine at school. i keep to routines (eating, sleeping etc) at home but he's pretty much been free range. apparently he NEEDED structure all along. we'd still be going crazy with him if he'd never gone to school.

pbjmama's Avatar pbjmama 02:08 PM 07-15-2011

I know you said there is nothing medically wrong with him but then you said he is does not have autism...which made me wonder if you have considered things between normal and autism. Others have mentioned some possibilities but I wanted to include a sensory processing disorder as a possibility. My ds had some sensory issues and after receiving therapy he was a different kid. The biggest difference is that he started to SLEEP. So I was able to sleep also and our lives really turned around. The problems my ds had were not enough for a diagnosis and a few months of therapy (including me learning what I can do to help him at home) changed our world.

Cheekygreek's Avatar Cheekygreek 12:41 PM 07-16-2011

It's good to know I'm not the only one out there going through this. I checked into all the different sensory disorders and he really doesn't fit the criteria of any of them. Of course there are a few things that he does that are on the lists, but you could say the same for most toddlers (picky eater, wanting to be rocked to sleep, etc.). One of the things that has been contributing to him being especially high need lately is the fact that he is in a constant state of teething! Both of my kids were late to get there teeth, now he's getting all his molars at once! And he just starting to get an ear infection (the second one in his whole life). This accounts for how he has been the last few months and especially the last couple of weeks. As for the rest of the time, he is just challenging at times. I really don't feel like his diet is to blame either, considering that he was pretty much exclusively breastfed until a month ago. I say exclusively because he refused food and drink of almost any kind, he just wanted to nurse. And he behavior was the same back then as it is now. Now he finally eats because he has to, and he is starting to try new things which is a miracle to me! If it was a fruit or vegetable he could tell by sight and feel, and of course taste and wouldn't have anything to do with it. So I started pureeing vegetables and sneaking them in as well as continuing to offer him those foods. Now he is starting to try them a lot more. Ok, well, he is crying and clinging to my legs so I had better go!!!

pbjmama's Avatar pbjmama 07:06 PM 07-16-2011

My experience is that parents can not accurately evaluate if their children have sensory processing problems. I don't say that to be rude, it was true for me also. As I said, my ds didn't even have enough for a dx but the therapy for the issues he did have helped immensely. Also if he does have a food sensitivity or intolerance it doesn't matter if he is breastfed if you are consuming the foods that cause his reactions.


I'm not sure if you reevaluated and it turned out you just needed to vent (which is fine and welcome here) or if you would be willing to question the things you have ruled out before. Either way, I hope you get some answers and rest soon.

psychic's Avatar psychic 03:22 AM 08-22-2012



I can't believe i found this topic!

I'm a portuguese mum (so apologyze for my bad written english) that is getting into the limit!


My boy is 3 yrs old and he's driving me crazy!  I mean, how (more) guilty can i be?! I love him more than my own life... but i can not stand more tantrums... more "NO's", sometimes i feel i'm speaking to a wall! it drives me insane!


I have to say that i have beat him... please please don't judge me on that! i do not cope with this AT ALL ...never in my life i thought i would do such a thing to my children!


PLEASE help me! 




Snapdragon's Avatar Snapdragon 04:21 PM 08-22-2012

I think you need to find a babysitter and let go of the guilt if ds is unhappy about it. As long as he is safe and well cared for and the babysiter can handle it- but maybe no babysitter will handle it?

Dh and I are burnt out too and we have one not high needs 2 yr old. We are burnt out because we also have no help so we do it all ourselves. We finally saw a counselor the other night to get some help with our new life as parents and being burnt out and she said- absolutely get a babysitter, put him in preschool a couple days a week if you want- find some other childcare so I and my husband can get much needed rest and together time. So I pass that along to you! IT took someone else saying it for me to finally want to go for it. We had been talking about it for so long but I never found anyone cause I was still too unsure to leabve ds- but now I see we just need the break, dh and I need the fun couple time together- and we will all be happier for it. so I think you just need to find someone to help you if you can fford it- and go for it. good luck!

luckiest's Avatar luckiest 08:20 AM 08-23-2012

I'm in a similar boat, minus having an older child.  I suggest getting your hands on a copy of Raising Your Spirited Child - it has been immensely helpful to us. 


In response to the above post about getting a sitter and letting go of guilt, the reason that we don't leave DS with anyone other than Grandma is that, even when left with her, he is affected for *days* afterwards.  It ends up not being worth the two hour break because it means his clinginess will be compounded once we return.  He doesn't respond that way when he's with DH alone, so I get breaks by myself on weekends and date nights will have to wait.  Fortunately DH and I are great, so that's okay.


Anyway, that book does address things like sensory processing and sleep issues.  I've also contemplated taking away DS's nap, because he also doesn't go to sleep before 11, but I need that time during the day to recharge.  I'm very introverted, and I get so, so, so drained by interacting with DS all day.  If I don't get that time by myself, I have nothing left of myself.  


I do think it's worth looking into food sensitivities and maybe evaluation for SPD - those things can certainly go along with being spirited.  


Your DD is 5.5 - is she in school or have some kind of regular out of home activities going on?  I know that with my DS, the more I try to fight his demands, the stronger they get.  If I can manage to prioritize giving him LOTS of attention, then he's more at ease when I actually do need to step away.  I can either have days where all day long he's clingy and upset and I can't get anything done because I'm fighting him off of me, or I can zero in on him and give him undivided attention, then I'm able to step away for 5, 10, maybe 15 minutes at a time while he plays and I can get more done in those windows than all day otherwise.  So that's why I'm wondering if DD ever goes to school or MDO or anything that would allow you to give more focused attention on DS.  Then maybe when DD is home, DS will be more centered and "full" and allow you to focus in on her for a bit. 


That said, we do use screen time too often.  Always thought I'd be a no TV parent...oh well.