Being a mom to small humans is not for kids. In all honesty mothering two toddlers 18 months apart was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. They are now a little bigger and attend nursery school in the mornings and this has made life a lot easier, but before that they were home with me ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I was privileged to have the opportunity to stay home with them, something I know many moms long for, and are not able to do. I was grateful. But that did not mean that it was easy. To be honest on many days I fantasised about my past life as an efficient, organised therapist.
There were days when I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, or scream or run out the door the moment my husband arrived home from long days at work. On those days I realised that I had to bring things back to absolute basics. What could I do to calm down? To not yell like a banshee? To stop the waves of overwhelm from crashing over my head? I realised that my wellbeing, physical and emotional, was essential to the wellbeing of my kids. If I wasn’t ok, then it was going to be really hard for them to be ok. This concept is something we refer to as co-regualtion. Then something from my past life as a therapist popped into my head.
For many years I worked in the field of addiction. One of the areas we spent a lot of time on was relapse prevention, helping our clients to identify the triggers that were likely to make them to want to drink or use. When these feelings came up, we encouraged them to ask themselves what was driving this craving. Was it something that could be addressed in a healthy way? We taught the acronym HALT, to help them think through what it was, that was causing their discomfort.
But what does this have to do with you as a mom? Well, asking these same questions helped me figure out exactly what I could do to get a bad mom day back on track. So next time you feel like you are about to completely lose it, ask yourself “Am I Hungry, Am I Angry or Anxious? Am I Lonely? Am I Tired?”
Lets look at each of these individually and what you can do when they arise
As moms we spend many hours a day either breastfeeding, preparing snacks, cajoling children to eat said snacks and then crawling under high chairs cleaning up those same snacks. And then we eat leftover toast crusts. We use the phrase hangry in our house, for when low blood sugar leads to emotional outburst. My husband and my boys are definitely highly susceptible to this condition, but when I was breastfeeding, I remember these fierce attacks of hunger that would come over me, and with them this strange sense of rage.
So how do you fix this one?
EAT. Obviously that is the answer but it’s not always as straightforward as that. Maybe there is nothing in the house, maybe you’ve been trying to get to the shops all morning but it’s just one of those days when that’s been impossible. I would really encourage you to think about how you can stop hanger from taking over.
When you are feeding your kids their organic, pureed veggies which you so lovingly prepared, please sit with them and feed yourself!
Keep easy to eat nutritious snacks in the house for those days when you just haven’t been able to get out:
Yes I know this is not always easy and it takes a little while to get into the habit, but it has saved my sanity on many occasions. No more (ok fewer) desperate trips to the shops with two fractious children at 4 in the afternoon. On the weekend I sit down and write down what we will be eating for the week, including snacks (peanut butter and apples, nuts, bananas, cereal bars etc) and then try and do the grocery shopping accordingly. Grocery shopping on your own can become such a luxury when you are a full time mom. Late Sunday afternoon became one of my favourite times to do it because my husband got to spend some quality boy time with the kids and I could leisurely browse the frozen food aisle and sing along to the music blasting out the speakers in peace.
Cook extra and freeze it
For those days when things have really gone pear shaped, having extra food in the freezer takes away the stress.
For more ideas on how to structure your day to create more time, more energy, and more joy in your motherhood check out my FREE work book, Less time on Laundry more time on life. You can download it here.
Without doubt our emotional state as a mom will affect our kids. Whether that is because those sensitive little beings pick up on it, or because we inadvertently take out our frustrations on them because they are easy targets.
To be able to figure out what is going on with you, you need to check in with yourself.
1. Take a moment and just notice what your body is feeling. Is your heart racing? Does your stomach feel knotted? Is your breathing shallow? Take a few, deep steadying breaths. Give yourself some soothing deep pressure by pushing your palms together.
2. Now ask, what is going on in my mind? Do your thoughts keep going back to an argument you had with your husband just before he left, like a tongue to a sore tooth? Try not to judge your thoughts, or allow yourself to go down a rabbit hole of rumination. Just notice the thoughts passing through your mind, like they are clouds passing in the sky above you.
3. Then ask yourself from 1-10, how anxious or angry am I right now? You might actually realise that you are only sitting at a 5. You might think, I have been in far more stressful situations than this before, it’s going to be ok. Or perhaps not. Proceed to the next step.
4. Ask yourself “is there anything I can do or decide right now that can reduce my anger or anxiety?” A text to your husband to say “can we make time to talk this weekend?” Could you quickly send that email you have been avoiding? If there is really very little you can do, schedule a specific time in the day to worry. Every time anxious thoughts arise, remind yourself that these thoughts will have a time to have free rein later.
When waves of anxiety are flooding my overloaded system, there is nothing in the world that works quite as well as nature and movement. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that these two things work magic in regulating our sensory systems. Strap that fractious baby to you, or put them in a pram, get the scooter or toddler bike out and go for a walk. Noisy kids are a lot easier to deal with outside than inside, and I can promise you that everyone will feel better!
Being a mom can be really, really lonely sometimes. You are constantly with your little people but you can’t remember your last adult conversation. So what can you do when you realise this is the issue at hand?
Phone a friend
Or text, or voice note. Sometimes just saying to someone else “I am having such a bad day, you won’t believe what just happened!” can help you feel validated. You will likely get back an “I’m so sorry! I totally get those days too!”
Prevention is better than cure. To stave off loneliness, try and find ways to shore up your support systems.
Find your tribe
I’ll be writing an article on this in the upcoming weeks but it is essential to find your tribe. Other moms who get it. Moms who don’t judge. Moms where there is enough overlap in your interests and parenting styles that you can be yourself. Make a regular day to meet up so you have something to look forward to. Join an exercise class where you can bring your kids along (I loved “Buggy bootcamp”) Go to a baby bible class. Join a moms and tots group.
Ask yourself “Am I tired?” Haha that’s a joke, you’re a mom of littles, of course you’re tired. Most likely you are still having broken sleep. You are in sensory overload from all the touching and talking and crying and toys everywhere. Is there any chance you can have a nap when your kids are napping? (Please don’t throw things at your screen, the advice sleep when your baby sleeps made me want to scream when my newborn was sleeping in 20 minute snatches!) If sleeping when they sleep really isn’t an option, can you just give yourself permission to at least rest. All those things you have told yourself you absolutely have to do today? Can any of them wait?
On the really bad days, give yourself permission to break the rules, guilt free! Here comes a sacrilegious suggestion: plonk your toddler in front of the tv. Yes I did just say that. Is unlimited screen time known to be bad for toddlers? Yes. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about 30 minutes of screen time on those days when the baby has had their shots and won’t stop crying, and the toddler has been fighting with you about everything and you haven’t slept for what feels like days. Your mental health matters! Tomorrow, things will be easier and you can get the kids out to do something fun, or make a cool craft, but today? Turn on paw patrol, snuggle that baby who only wants to feed and give yourself a break!
If you have found this article helpful, and for more ideas on how to structure your day to create more time, more energy, and more joy in your motherhood check out my FREE work book, Less time on Laundry more time on life. You can download it here.
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