How To Cope When You’re Just Not Coping

Jeez, don’t ask me!!

Actually and seriously, I do have something to say on the subject of not coping, an area I have plenty of experience in.

This post is brought to you by all the people who’ve ever said to me and other mums of kids with additional needs kids/twins, triplets and more/ FIFO husbands/babies and toddlets etc etc

‘I don’t know how you cope?’

We don’t!!

Not every day, we just don’t. But we learn to cope with the not coping, without causing serious damage to ourselves or the kids.

My speciality seems to be falling at the final fence; I manage OK until JUST before my husband comes home… and then fall apart… sometimes whilst he’s on the actual plane, doing that long 14 hour flight from Dubai into Sydney.

That happened the last time he came home. I was a weeping, gibbering wreck all the Saturday. When he got home at 11pm, we were all asleep, thank goodness.

So this is the last week of his time away, again. It’s a five-day countdown to Saturday night.

These past few months have been hard as both hubby and I have been to Scotland during his time off.

We’ve only seen each other for three and a half weeks out of the past four months. FFS.

So little time and the reasons for hubby’s trip home are sad: his dad is very ill.

There are plenty of reasons for not coping all the time.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on coping when not coping:

1. Name Those Feelings

It’s the old know thyself scenario. As ever.

In my case I’ve got a new sensation, terrible loneliness.   Which no chatters to friends or phone calls to sisters can soothe.

This is a deep loneliness for my partner and co-pilot as parent. Not much can be done about it, but at least it’s named.

2. How’s the stress showing?

In my case, I had a couple of losing my temper situations… not pleasant and quite scary.

I shouted so loud I hurt my throat and I kicked a rubbish bin in sheer temper and frustration – and broke it. Oh the shame, the embarassment.

But if I scared myself, how do the kids feel?

I’m their one and only blood relative in the southern hemisphere. I needed to NOT lose my temper… so I wept instead at the weekend when one son threw his magnificent tantrum.

Actually weeping is better, and it’s fine to cry when worn out and distraught.

3. Reduce the load

I’ve let the twin’s teachers know that if no homework is done, it’s not the end of the world. Just reducing expectation helps me a lot.

Ditto with my oldest son’s teachers. I often help him with homework as most of it is far too hard for him: not this week.

The dinners have been… errr…. quite crap… Indian takeaway, pizza, McDonalds…. pasta and tomato sauce tonight (wholemeal – small victory!).

And… whilst the kids eat a pretty processed diet for a few nights, I’m actually eating really well: healthy, fresh food plus lots of dark chocolate and green tea.

4. Ask For Help

And if you’re not good at this, practise, practise, practise.  I have been asking people to help with picks and drops and with playdates for twins. People like to help.

Sometimes having many issues and lots of family dysfunction can have a silver lining; there are lots of friendly recovery meetings on all over Sydney which I can go to and they’re free. I’ll be at a few this week.

And I’d booked a psych appointment for this week after having felt such a mess last time we were at the final hurdle.

5. Plan Some Fun Stuff

I’m meeting my good mate Benison O’Reilly on Friday at the Gidget Ladies Luncheon. This annual event is a fundraiser for Gidget, the NSW body which raises awareness about perinatal anxiety and deoression. It’s always an emotional event, and will most definitely be this year. But all for a good cause, and it’ll be great to catch up with Benison.

And we can feel proud of ourselves too. We co-wrote Beyond The Baby Blues with Cathie Knox, who is CEO of the Gidget Foundation. It’ll be a pleasure to see Cathie, and it’s always inspirational to hear her speak. She and her husband, obstetrician Vijay Roach, are passionate advocates for mental health for mums and dads.

Then there’s the pub get-together for Digital Parents on Saturday. Who’d like to mind my twinnies so I can go?

See, I said I was better at asking for help!

And I’m remembering that mindfulness works, so does gratitude and there’s so much to be grateful for.

This blog is great therapy for me and my often-addled mind. But the therapy is usually in getting completely absorbed in reviewing photos, writing about lovely Sydney places and feeling satisfied when a post is posted.

But it’s good to use it for a wee emotional splurge too. Thanks for reading.

Your tips on coping when you’re not coping would be much appreciated too, and helpful to people reading. Thank you.

How are you coping today?



Linking up with Essentially Jess today for IBOT – pop on over for some great real-life reading.

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Posted on: July 23, 2013


  • Reply July 23, 2013


    Sorry about your foot xx

    My husband is away 4-5 nights a week and I relate to your points. I do easy meals at least 3 of those nights (pizza hut, fish fingers etc) and I do whatever I need to so I make it through. Cutting corners, often using the dryer even if not raining, watching movies with my girls because I am too tired to make us do something less passive xx

    • Reply July 23, 2013

      Seana Smith

      Thanks Deb, it’s TV on first thing this morning for twins… slack, slack… but makes it easier to get the big boys out to the bus early. Next week my hubby will be making breakfasts for the kids, he’s a whizz with poached eggs, being slack this week is OK. God enough is my mantra… or at least an attempt at good enough.

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    Lydia C. Lee

    I’m good at cutting corners, and building in fun but the loneliness, that no one can really take away – well, you hit it on the head!! I also end up going to bed really late, which doesn’t help…and watch a lot of bad tv…good luck and hang in there…

    • Reply July 23, 2013

      Seana Smith

      Ah yes, I have been watching TV shows late at night in bed – silly! Must get a grip and do an early night tonight.

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    I find it is the loneliness that gets to me too. At least I don’t have little children to deal with but no amount of twitter or FB can make up for going to bed alone. All I can say is, I know how you are feeling and I wish I could wave a wand and make it better for you. Health problems are so draining on the whole family as well !!!
    Sending heaps of love, hugs and positive energy !

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    My wife describes it as controlled falling – good post.

    • Reply July 24, 2013


      I love this term ‘controlled falling’ – maybe also ‘controlled failing’ – a great post Seana. I always say I subscribe to ‘good enough’ but you know I beat myself up when I’m not ‘good enough’…..kathy

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    Thank you for naming the not-coping! For me (a control freak with sky-high expectations), it’s so-o-o scary to feel that I’m getting close to not coping.

    A key for me is reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day. After almost 9 years of parenting experience, I now know that I rarely completely fail to cope for more than a few hours (except for that one month-long period back in 2009… but there were several extenuating circumstances and I actually CHOSE to not cope. Not a recommended course of action, by the way.)
    Another key is lowering expectations: as others have mentioned, easier meals, skipping the cleaning, more TV, getting help with the kids, getting someone to look after me (a massage, therapy, even if I can’t afford it).
    Moaning to a sympathetic friend, one who will put it all into perspective for me, also helps.

    What’s harder for me to deal with is the guilt and shame that go along with only just coping.

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    That is tough, I am not sure how I would go without my husband for so much time! I am sorry that you are struggling but it sounds like you have some great plans in place. Are you getting another Au pair, that might help too. Big hugs and I hope you get to plan some fun time!

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    For me, the realisation that it’s entirely possible to feel lonely even when the house is full of people, was a big one. I don’t tend to cope well when my husband is away. My way of coping is just to be kind to myself, and try not to schedule too much, and don’t be ashamed to have a good old cry every now and then if it makes you feel better!

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    Geez, that is really, really tough. You have some great strategies there. Nothing makes you feel better than getting out and having some fun. Also, I am a new found fan of asking for help. You just have to some times and you feel so much better for it.
    Sending a hug your way.

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    Mums Take Five

    Well said. I always reply when people say that stuff to me. I cope cos i need to and the kids need me to i dont have options or people to call so i put my big shoulders on and get on with it.

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    Asking for help is a big one Seana, we all need it sometimes. John has worked nightshift since before Bella was born, usually 6 nights a week. Not at all the same, but not having someone there in the middle of the night can be the worst.
    Great to hear that you’re getting out, and I’m so glad that you spoke to the teachers. One person can only spread themselves around so much!
    Take care, big virtual hugs.
    Lisa xx

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    great tips Seana. You really do do an amazng job. I think I would be a complete basket case if I was in the same situation

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    Oh hun, you do so well and it would be weird if you were coping, in fact weird if any of us were coping well with what we do on an average day. But I do like the weeping instead of getting angry, I have to try that because I can loss it easily and then I scare my sensitive boy. I will remember that, better for them to see me upset than angry, I needed to read this today. Although I am coping, but only because I asked for help and it arrived, in the form of my precious mumma xxx

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    JodiGibson (

    Great tips Seana. Although we don’t have special needs kids sometimes things fall apart completely and as a recovering perfectionist I need to remind myself that it is okay when things do and to just let the little things slide. As long as we are fed, warm and clean – sometimes the basics are just enough.

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    Wendy Parks

    I really valued reading your post. Some grate advice and your honesty is refreshing and relate-able! I often feel I”m not coping but two things that work for me – chocolate and doing something that I really for me, whether it’s having a hot chocolate, watching a movie, baking muffins or reading a book.
    Hope you and hubby get to spend some quality time together soon xx

  • Reply July 23, 2013

    Née Say

    Oh, I think in your circumstances not coping is a perfectly acceptable form of coping!!! You raise some great points there & I hope you are good at following your own advice. Take care of yourself xxx

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    I tend to fall apart just before my hubby gets back from being away as well – I think it’s the anticipation and a sense of relief knowing that someone else will be there to help share the load. I agree with all your points. When I’m flying solo, I get back to basics – we switch into survival mode and I always plan for some fun, special times with the kids – that keeps us all sane. Enjoy your time together when he gets home.

  • Reply July 23, 2013


    Hey Seana

    Oh I so relate to this. I have not be coping at all lately. I’ve had to scale back all my usual activities and accept a lot of help from my family, medical team (GP and psych) and preschool.

    I am coming on Saturday afternoon for drinks though so looking forward to catching up with everyone.


    PS I wish I could get into mindfullness!

  • Reply July 25, 2013


    Only a few more days to go now lovely. I love your openness and honesty here. Thanks for sharing there is some great advice here

  • Reply July 26, 2013


    I was nodding the whole way through this, Seana.
    Having dealt with 2 sickies this week – then me copping it on top of that – last night I just had to tell my husband, he had to look after the boys. So important in claiming those feelings. Just started learning the importance of it, myself.
    Hope you see some better days soon x

  • Reply July 27, 2013

    Annabel Candy

    Ha! I don’t think many people would be coping with all that going on… and yet you are. Thank goodness you have so many good suppoort networks and are not afraid to use them.. .I think that asking for help or even just knowing you need help is so important. Victory too you there Seana.

    I also think it’s okay to be angry – just another emotion and one you should feel free to feel – shame about the broken bin though but as outlets for anger what a good place to take it out on!

    Maybe we should all spend more time kicking rubbish bins when we feel rubbish. They just need to start making sturdier bins to cope with to cope with our angst.

    • Reply July 27, 2013

      Seana Smith

      Hi nnabel, I seriously have bought a punch bag. Have been meaning to for years in fact, good for teens to punch aggression out on… but I need it myself more than them sometimes. Not a pretty look but it’s the truth of it.

  • Reply July 27, 2013


    You’re so honest, Seana and it’s very refreshing because we all have those moments where we end up being so disappointed in our own behaviour. But we’re not super-human and we’re not machines and we can’t expect to be on an even keel all the time. I wrote Alfie’s teacher a note telling her he didn’t get the week’s homework done. I used to get all worked up about it – now I just send in notes! I’m so sorry to hear about your FIL xx

  • Reply July 29, 2013

    Desire Empire

    Sorry to hear it’s been such a rough week. I like the idea of asking for help and organising something fun with friends. A always say a girl needs her girlfriends much more than she needs her husband, but when it comes to raising kids, it must be so very hard with a fifo. Here’s to finding a solution soon. Perhaps an older live out mother’s help would do the trick.


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