The first six months of being a mom were unexpectedly the hardest six months of my life. A spiral of anxiety and insomnia sent me into an ever deeper pit of exhaustion and hopelessness, and as my ability to function deteriorated so did my perspective. Benign questions and comments felt like vicious attacks, a friends indifference felt like deliberate sabotage, pictures of happy families on Facebook were there to demoralize and judge.
Overcoming this pain and chaos in such a weakened state was all but impossible, so to cope I fell into avoiding the problem by spending time online shopping. By focusing on which set of fitted sheets to buy for the crib, which mobile would engage my daughters attention, which washcloths would be the softest, I was able to shut out the panic.
The hit of dopamine that flooded my brain every time I clicked the checkout button or received a box in the mail kept me going for a long time, but the build up of stuff, piles of toys, gear, accessories that are a normal (but avoidable) part of being a parent ultimately added to my already unsustainable levels of anxiety.
Eventually, I was able to begin the recovery process. Managing my anxiety and insomnia went a long way towards reducing my desire to consume. I still get that rush of dopamine when I buy something, but thankfully I don’t need it to keep myself sane. So rather than buying toys I’ve been ‘finding’ them.
Sometimes it’s as easy as emptying out one of the many boxes in our basement and in the process of donating or disposing of unnecessary items, finding one of my old toys. From outside, Pine cones, acorn hats, and wild flowers are popular temporary toys. Any old box or magazine can be transformed into something magical. The real treasure chest, though, is the kitchen.
Once I moved all of the sharp or poisonous objects and choking hazards out of the way we realized that the kitchen is full of toys. Who hasn’t played the upside down bowl drum? Or worn the tea towel cape? Stacking, banging, rolling, twisting; kitchen gadgets are providing hours of shopping not required entertainment, but Es favourite is our plastic knife. I give her the bakeware buddy, a small cutting board and few vegetable pieces and she’s happy for fifteen minutes (It’s not much, but I’ll take what I can get!).
Of course we’ll eventually have to buy more toys, but for now we’re happy with our ‘found’ toys.