Months before the pandemic began, after my second baby was born, I felt a lot of feelings I hadn’t experienced after my first was born. I was constantly on edge, worried incessantly every time a member of my family left the house and then cried with relief when they returned. I snapped at my husband without warning but then sobbed when he tried to ask why. It felt like I had no off switch and was operating in overdrive, refusing help and never allowing myself rest.
Identifying postpartum and pandemic anxiety
I knew something wasn’t right and researched post-partum depression, but my symptoms didn’t seem to fit. Then I learned about post-partum anxiety. I felt relieved and immediately less alone when I saw my symptoms listed. Just as I was in the process of getting support, a new word was added to my vocabulary, Covid. Cue anxiety overdrive, sanitation obsession, fear, and the evaporation of much of my support.
As much as I felt anxious, I could now see my then three-year-old felt it too, heck everyone in the world felt it at that point. I imagined (worried in advance, my specialty) about the other side. What would it feel like when all the cancelled parties and postponed events came back? Would we rush back to normality? What would that transition be like? And how anxious would that make us all?
Telling stories about made up characters is a terrific way to get kids to understand big feelings and explore the emotion that comes along with life’s transitions. I’ve always used books to help us through changes as it takes the pressure off me explaining and allows us to talk about the feelings through the lens of a character. Moving, potty training, new sibling, daycare transition – there are books for all of it.
As I could feel anxiety around the world increasing, I asked Google what book to buy, but the internet offered me nothing. Books about anxiety were either clinical or too complicated and books about the pandemic, well they didn’t exist yet.
Josie’s Busy Calendar – A Children’s Book about self-care
and managing anxiety in a post pandemic world
It was late one night, after a day of lockdown with my baby and pre-schooler where we’d cried beside closed playgrounds, sanitized repeatedly, and cowered when other walkers looked in our direction, that I began writing about Josie.
‘Josie’s Busy Calendar’ is about anxiety and self-care. I wrote it because I needed to read it to my kids and couldn’t find it already written. I also wanted to name the feelings accurately. There’s nothing wrong with calling feelings “tummy knots” but I felt it was important to acknowledge that those types of knots are called anxiety. And they’re different from the fluttery butterflies we get before a birthday party.
Conversation about mental health with children
Teaching kids to advocate for their feelings should start as soon as they’re walking and talking. Kids deserve to understand that putting their own needs first, taking time for themselves and disappointing others in the process is ok.
Self-care is healthy, it’s productive and it’s deserved, even when the stressors are lost Lego pieces or the wrong coloured plate. Writing a book about the feeling didn’t cure my anxiety but it helped me process and it gave me another resource in my parenting toolbox to support my kids.
Anxiety is real and kids see it around them and feel it inside. Books and stories are valuable tools to teach our little ones about these feelings through emotional characters, their pets and even the black shiny wings of neighbourhood crows.
My hope in sharing my story, is that it’ll help others, of all ages, understand that making time for yourself and being gentle with yourself is a normal practice; that naming, acknowledging and honouring your feelings is wonderful and should be celebrated and respected.
Josie’s Busy Calendar is for ages 3-100. The book is available on Amazon or through your local retailer.
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!