It’s been 2½ years since I became a mother. I’ve learned a lot in this time. I probably have an encyclopedia’s worth of material I could write in regards to that already. But when I look back to what my life was like shortly after having my son I make note of a few things. The first is that it’s easy to miss signs for postpartum depression and anxiety. I missed them for an entire year before I realized what was happening and got help. But that is a topic I will write on at length in another post because it deserves the acknowledgement.
The second thing I note is my coping methods for the stress of motherhood. Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Being a new mom was like climbing Everest in scuba flippers. I’m not entirely sure how I survived it, but I can give you at least one tip on what helped keep me sane.
Video games. Now, I know video games aren’t for everyone, but please hear me out. I’ve never been a big reader. It’s not a matter of ignorance but rather interest. I get distracted too easily when I read unless I’m surrounded by complete silence. So even if, as a new mother, I had had a stack of riveting novels to spend my time on, it wouldn’t have done much but frustrate me because I can’t really get into a book when I have a kiddo crying to be strapped to my breast every 45 minutes. Cluster feeding is no joke.
My dad introduced me to video games at a young age. I was probably close to 8 years old when he and I went to Toys ‘R Us (God, rest its soul) to buy a brand new Sega Genesis. It was life changing. My dad and I spent quality time together flying fighter jets, saving damsels in distress, and racing around as a little, blue hedgehog. That’s probably where I developed my love for video games.
Although I’ve been a gamer since then, there was a dry spell in my video gaming career after events in my life allowed for some personal rediscovery before I met my husband. Years later, when I finally had the opportunity to become a mom, I found that I had some downtime while experiencing pretty severe pelvic pain in my first pregnancy. My husband supported me and enabled me to stay at home to ensure a healthy pregnancy. But while I was couch-ridden through most of my third trimester, I got back into video games. At the time, I felt it was probably my last chance to enjoy some gaming before becoming a mom. Little did I know there would be more than enough time to enjoy games after having my son.
When we first brought our son home from the hospital, we had a lot to figure out. What would our new schedule look like with a creature that wanted to eat every 45 minutes? Turns out momma just becomes a milk factory at that point. When your life revolves around feeding an insatiable creature who depends on you for all movement and care, you start to get really good at multitasking. Breastfeed and eat? Check. Breastfeed and update social media? Can do! Breastfeed and Google breastfeeding questions? Of course.
But when I started feeling more like a milking heifer and less like myself I knew that I needed to find a way to distract my brain while breastfeeding. Since I had learned a few new ways to hold and balance my feeding baby, I found that I could free both of my hands. So I plugged in my game of choice and started my video game therapy. Most of the time I kept the sound very low or off. My newborn son didn’t need to know Mommy was fighting dragons while he ate peacefully.
“Most of the time I kept the sound very low or off. My newborn son didn’t need to know Mommy was fighting dragons while he ate peacefully.”
Video games can be a great stress reliever. They can also cause stress, so you have to be careful which ones you choose to play while momming. Personally, I chose three open world role playing games to focus on throughout my new-mom-journey. I started with a game I had owned for years and never had a chance to play, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Oblivion is a game from Bethesda Game Studios, released back in 2006. A first person style dungeon crawler. For some (or most) of you, that may not sound like much fun, especially since the graphics are outdated by today’s standards. But this game was nostalgic for me and just what I needed to get back into gaming. Back in 2002 I played the previous game in this series for hours a day. It was my temporary obsession. So, playing Oblivion was a fun way to experience some of my favorite gaming elements. I ended up playing all the way through Oblivion, twice, before I realized I needed another game. So, I moved on to Skyrim and then onto Fallout 4. I spent months in these worlds, relaxing and enjoying my in-game freedom. Killing monsters, looting EVERYTHING, and making gobs of gold coins. The worlds were relatively quiet and beautiful. I was alone (other than NPCs) and free to explore at my pace. I was in introvert heaven!
In the end, I learned that it’s healthy to have an outlet for stress and anxiety. Video games worked for me, but every mom and her experience are completely unique. Find what works for you and enjoy it unapologetically. Don’t let it come between you and your children or spouse, but treat it as a self-preservation, mental health break. You deserve it.