We’ve all been there. A really, really long day. The children haven’t been listening or they have been fighting or crying non-stop.
And we haven’t had a chance to take care of ourselves.
The little things that poke at our patience start to add up. We start to question what we’re doing wrong. We start to wonder why things are not going more smoothly for us. We try so hard to make everyone happy.
And then we burst. Explode. Screams begin. Tears fall.
Anger takes over.
What I’ve learned as a mother these past almost eight years is that those moments of bursting — of melting down — and then feeling disappointed in ourselves can become a vicious cycle if we’re not careful.
The harder we try at being the best parent we can be the more disappointed we are when our children aren’t perfect. And that’s when rage erupts for many really well-intentioned parents.
Parenting meltdowns are caused by one thing: parenting on empty.
When we haven’t taken even five minutes for ourselves, our fuel runs out. Motivation wanes. Exhaustion takes over.
Taking care of ourselves isn’t easy — not when we can barely escape the house, not when we can’t get even a few minutes of a break, not when the closest support network is hundreds of miles away, as is the case for so many families these days.
But taking care of ourselves is essential, and it’s the only way we can hope to raise children who learn to cope with the world around them without yelling and screaming.
Here’s how I learned to avoid mommy meltdowns:
Get up early: When there is no time for ourselves we have to create time for ourselves. Experiment with what works but even if you aren’t an early riser, experiment with it for a week or two. Get up at least 15 minutes before your children and do something wonderful for yourself — even if you just sit in the quiet for a few minutes drinking coffee.
Learn to avoid power struggles: For as long as there have been families, parents have been arguing with their kids about everything under the sun. Eat your veggies. Wear a coat. Take a shower. By simply letting go of some of these power struggles you are giving power to the idea that matters most — trusting your child. And this encourages them to learn from their mistakes by suffering natural consequences.
Don’t react too soon: You’re angry. Something bad just went down, and you want to hurry and teach this lesson. But there is more harm in lashing out in anger than slowing down and using rational, intentional word choices and consequences. Figuring out how to cope with your own anger and frustration first without taking it out on your child is the most important thing you need to learn as a parent. And this is how we want our children to respond, too.
When you find yourself in the middle of a really challenging moment as a parent, what do you do to calm down?