Mommy Meltdown: Keeping Your Cool with the Kids
As a mom, whether working or at home full time, you may occasionally feel like you are living close to the edge of insanity. We can easily become overwhelmed by the multiple responsibilities and details of life that sit surely on our shoulders.
Overworked, overtired, overcommitted and just plain overwhelmed: these are the main causes of the mom style meltdowns and tantrums. These explosions happen to the best of us and will manifest in different ways depending on your personality. Some of us scream and yell. Some of us break down and cry.Often it is all the little events of a single day that bring you to the breaking point. You lose your cool all over the place.
It happened to me yesterday. I had one. I did. I started to cry and yell at the same time. It happened around 6:00 PM, at the end of a long day with my little bundles of love. Lets start at the beginning.
6:00 A.M. I awaken to a quiet house. I am surprisingly enthusiastic. I slept for an entire 5 hours uninterrupted for the first time in month. I review in my mind what I want to accomplish on this day, and what I want to avoid. I want my daughters to experience a kind, loving and patient mom who speaks encouraging words and is fun to be around and keeps her cool in the day's challenges, which will surely come.
I am doing well so far. I haven't yelled or broken a single one of the big ten. I have had only good, positive thoughts. I haven't given anyone a dirty look or threatened an early bedtime for misbehavior. Now if I can just drag myself out of bed...
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By 8:00 A.M. there has been more mayhem and drama in my kitchen than on the set of Grey's Anatomy. While I was busy making breakfast, my 3-year-old found a bulk sized box of bread crumbs and proceeded to prepare herself like a chicken headed for the fryer. My 7-year-old is in the bathroom making very convincing vomiting noises in an attempt to stay home from school. My toddler really did puke, with precise aim at my last clean shirt. She is fine now. She has moved on to dancing on the coffee table.This is only the beginning. As the day goes by, I break up countless sibling arguments, mop up spills from tea parties and various types of accidents. I retrieve my darling Labrabor from my cranky neighbor's yard before the animal control van takes her away. I cover the kids eyes when their sweet kitty catches a cute little furry creature in the backyard. I manage several loads of laundry and endless snacks.
So what pushed me over the edge? Polly Pocket lost a shoe. Have you seen these things? They are about 2 centimeters long. This particular shoe was lost somewhere in our family room which looks like a tornado recently swept by. If I could have found the shoe, the CIA would have recruited me to find Bin Laden. Oh wait, I can't serve my country. I don't have a babysitter.
Here are the main contributors to Mommy Meltdowns (ommiting the blatantly obvious):
- Lack of sleep.
- Lack of time to yourself.
- Absence of structure in your daily life.
- Lack of support from family, friends or lazy husband.
Please Note : I am not in any way suggesting that my husband is lazy, but I have heard rumors about these men who sit dosing off on the couch until they are awakened by the sounds of a delighted toddler launching himself from the back of the couch fully intending to land mercilessly feet first in the one place it will really hurt daddy.
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Consider the effect your meltdown has on your children. Put yourself in their shoes. They are witnessing the person they trust the most, their leader, the person who appears to control most of what happens in their life lose control.
If mommy isn't in control, who is? Some children will answer by taking responsibility and comforting you. Some will decide to throw a tantrum themselves thinking, "Hey, it works for mom."
How to Deal (options to hiding):
- Call a friend for support.
- Learn deep breathing and other relaxation techniques
- Change your thoughts. Focus on how mature and grown-up and totally in control you really are. Think positive thoughts about yourself and your children. Do not daydream about escaping. Daydream about your children and all the joy they have brought into your life.
- Say out loud: "I am in control," "I am keeping my cool," "Serenity Now." (scratch that last one)
- Distract yourself with an episode of your favorite prime time TV show by watching it online.
If you are really in need of support long term, consider seeing a therapist. Think of how quiet their office will be. Your therapist will let you speak without interruption. Your therapist will actually listen to you (unlike the little charmers you left at home with dad).
I am not proud of it. I could claim that they drove me to it, but ultimately I am responsible for my behavior no matter what my children do to torture me. I cried. Through my tears I yelled things like: "You can't keep behaving like this! You- let your sister out of that hamper NOW! You- stop throwing your crackers on the floor and mashing them into the carpet!" And no mommy tantrum would be complete without the well loved line: "I am not your maid!"
Tantrums by adults serve the same purpose as with toddlers. They are an attempt to manipulate those around you into doing what you want. They are a way to get your point across and get attention with the hopes of gaining control over a situation.
So when your child is relentlessly begging for ice cream five minutes before dinner and the thought of her screaming terrifies you; when your husband can't find something that you put away and you don't at the moment remember where; when things (and kids) are pressing in on you continuously from every direction and you really want to run and hide and get away from it all...
Run, hide and get away from it all. Take a deep breath. Gain your composure and remind yourself that you are the adult. You are in control (at least a little). Your child will not die if she can't have ice cream before dinner. Sure, she may scream, but the sound will be very faint from the closet you are hiding in.
When you are ready to face the world again remember:
- You are strong. You pushed those babies out. You can handle their antics.
- Grown ups don't need to throw tantrums. It is immature. We need to learn to use our inside voice and stay calm.
- Learn how to say no to extra commitments. You will really enjoy this one eventually.
- Your children are not your enemies. Work together to establish behavior guidelines which everyone can experience success in achieving.
"Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the urgent things to crowd out the important." -Charles E. Hummel
So how did my day end? By 7:30 P.M. I was snuggled up on the couch with my little girls reading Sneetches and Other Stories and giggling together at poor Mrs. McCave and her way too many sons named Dave. That story puts things in perspective!
When you do throw a tantrum, as I did myself just yesterday, forgive yourself. Apologize to all who were present. Stop beating yourself up about it. Feeling like the worst mom in the world only makes you act like the worst mom in the world. Let it go. Start over. You will have another chance to keep your cool tomorrow, bright and early.
"Nothing can stop the [mom] with the right mental attitude." -Thomas Jefferson
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