Whenever I have a “mean mom” day, I think of you, mama. I know you would understand.
For a long time I thought I was the only one.
The only one who sat on the sofa and scrolled through Instagram, ignoring the chaos unfolding at the kitchen table as the kids ate cereal for dinner (again).
The only one who sometimes wished fervently that my littles didn’t want to snuggle and hug and be right near me 24/7/365.
The only one who messed everything up and my hurt tiny people’s feelings because I was just grumpy and tired and done.
But now I know I’m not alone–and it feels so good to not be alone in the struggle.
Bad days are part of this motherhood thing.
Bad days are normal.
So that’s why, whenever I have a “mean mom” day, I think of you. Partly because I want to give you some solidarity. (You’ve got it. I’m here with you, mama!)
And partly because I want to give you some of my hard-earned tools to help you hold everything together.
Tonight wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t doing my best.
Steve was working an evening shift, which left me home solo with our kiddos at the crankiest part of the day, and I just wasn’t in the mood to parent. Or, like, move.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
I was kind of over “adulting” for the day, and I could see myself in danger of sliding downhill: down toward that version of myself that rushes everyone through pajama-ing and snaps at them when they goof off in the hall and guiltily-but-desperately skips teeth-brushing time because can everybody just get in their beds right now?! (Including me?!)
So I pulled out some of my best tools to rescue the day. I hope they’ll help you save your bad days, too.
Own Up to Your Attitude
While I don’t advocate giving in to a bad attitude, I do think it’s good to let my kids know that I’m struggling to have a good one.
Kids understand being frustrated, over-tired, hungry, or even just plain cranky, so I’m not shy about telling them when I’m feeling one (or all) of those things.
I have even been known to put myself in “time out” for “being too crabby”! I just set my littlest ones up somewhere safe, and retreat to my room for a few minutes to compose myself.
I have asked my older kids to go play upstairs while I cook, explaining that I was in a bad mood and didn’t want to be impatient or snap at them.
While I don’t love admitting that I’m not in top super-mom form 24/7, I do want to help my kids understand that:
- They aren’t the cause of my bad mood (I am in charge of my own feelings),
- It’s okay to feel feelings, and
- Being in a bad mood is not an excuse to treat the people you love poorly.
Put Down Your Phone
I have a tendency to use my phone to numb my feelings—especially feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and lack of control. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.
Obviously, this is probably the worst possible thing I could do for myself:
The massive influx of information I can consume in just a few minutes on social media always serves to heighten the chaos in my mind–not calm it.
I’m definitely not in control–of my kids or myself–when I’ve got my nose clued to a screen.
Well, I’ve got four very cute people who would be happy to hug me, kiss me, tell me a joke or have a conversation. It might not be the adult conversation I crave, but if I can lean in and let them love me? I feel a whole lot more like myself again.
So if you’re like me and find yourself reaching for your phone when the clock is moving too slowly toward bedtime, give your brain some (relative) quiet and your heart space to connect: try putting the screens down–or turning them off.
If the idea of letting go of the social media safety net gives you anxiety, I get it.
I like to combat that anxiety and stress with the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s quick (it only takes 4 breaths!) and you can do it anywhere: in a noisy car, standing in front of the kitchen sink, in the middle of a PTA meeting. It always surprises me how quickly my body and brain respond to this one!
There are some nights when we just need our kids to be in bed at bedtime on. the. dot.
As a part-time solo-parent (my husband works weird hours at the Emergency Department), I feel this regularly. Mama clocks out at 8, no ifs, ands, or buts.
But you know who’s really not motivated to go to bed? Kids.
And I, for one, am not at my best when I’m in a hurry.
So instead of barking orders and hurrying them through their goofing off or dawdling, I calmly redirect when they get off course–AND I skip some stuff in the daily routine:
- Sometimes I don’t make them finish their chores.
- Some nights we don’t do showers or baths.
- Sometimes I let them go to bed in their school clothes. (For some reason, they love this. Kids are weird.)
- Some nights I don’t cook a real dinner. (Cereal or pizza for dinner one night is better than a cranky mom!)
You know what happens?
We’re all happier.
I’m calmer, they’re not getting yelled at, aaaaand everybody gets to bed on time.
Do What Feeds Your Soul
When you’re falling apart and just being the worst, it is easy to fall into self-shame and mom-guilt.
I know better than this.
Why can’t I just get OVER it and CONNECT with them?
A good mom would NEVER act like this.
I am screwing my kids up forever.
You know what?
Good moms do sometimes act like this. Good moms are human.
And shame doesn’t help anybody.
What we really need in these moments is a huge helping of grace and love.
So… what about being a mother feeds your soul?
How can you tap in to that tonight?
For me, it’s the quiet things, like feeling them snuggled close to me.
Some nights I just give up adulting. We cast off responsibility and cuddle up for a movie on a school night.
Whatever it is for you–pushing babies in a stroller or playing tag in the back yard, giving little ones a bubble bath or listening to the older ones read aloud–crowd all the “shoulds” and shame out, and replace it with fifteen minutes of something really good.
Take a Minute Alone with Each Kid at Bedtime
I find it especially important to my mama-heart to connect one-on-one with my kids on days when I’ve been snippy, tired, or burnt-out.
I also find it incredibly hard to find the energy to do this. With four kids fluttering around me, vying for attention, I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of need I’m facing. The best way for me to tackle this is face-to-face, without distractions.
So one by one I sing a song or stroke their hair.
Kneel by their bed and smile and tell them I love them.
Let them tell me whatever thought sparks to life in their brain. Really listen to their voices and respond.
And, if necessary, apologize for my behavior, thank them for their patience, and promise to try to do better in the morning.
Because remember, one mean mom day doesn’t wipe away all the good ones–and “tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet.”