It had been 9 days. Nine days of snotty notes, phlegm filled coughs and clingy, whiny children. Worse still, I was sick and it was my fifth day battling this awful bug. All moms know there is no such thing as a sick day. Moms are expected to just chug some medicine and get right back to nursing others and extending comfort like any good nurse does. In the midst of all the coughing and sneezing, I had also managed to throw a birthday party for my husband.
By the time Monday rolled around, I was utterly exhausted and we were still sick. We hadn’t been out of the house in 9 days and let me tell you that cabin fever is a real thing. We were all sick of being sick and boy was it starting to affect my attitude.
From the moment my feet hit the floor, my toddler was under my feet following me around like a dog waiting for scraps to fall to the floor. I felt myself get irritated that I couldn’t even walk without feeling like I was going to trip over him. Normally pretty self-sufficient, he couldn’t suddenly couldn’t do anything for himself. His mood crescendoed with a full on melt down when it was time for me to feed little brother.
Then there was my infant who had already spent the better part of 5 days refusing to be put down and crying at every opportunity. The whining was so bad I felt like I could hear it even when he had stopped. Consistent baby cries are enough to make anyone feel like they’re going mad. I began to feel my blood boil. I just wanted to rest. The mess of the party was still looking at me and I had two babies that were requiring every ounce of energy I had. I literally wanted to walk out the door and run for the hills. And ugh, did my kids know it! I was downright grouchy. My words whipped around the room like a scorpion’s tail. It’s one of those moments you pray no one ever sees. It reminded me of something someone said to me once.
“If your pastor were to ring your doorbell right now, would your attitude change?”
Ugh! Of course it would. I don’t even think it would have to be my pastor. But the answer tells you that you are totally capable of changing your attitude. You are in total control of how you behave. If you could straiten up your attitude in a moment’s notice it tells you that this crabby, ornery mood is totally on you! That’s right – it’s up to you. Believe me when I say, I fail at this more than I care to admit. It is moments like this that douse me with buckets of mom guilt afterwards.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you are in a bad mood, you’re kids also seem to have the roughest, most emotionally charged day? That’s because you set the tone in your house. It’s true. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but girlfriend, it’s true. Your kids look to you to see how they should behave and they emulate what they see. If you are resistant and angry, they pick up on it. Worse, they mirror it.
The good news is that you can reset your attitude. It takes some determination, but more than anything it takes your will. You have to decide to change your attitude. Here are some things that have helped me in the past.
Take a Time Out
Stop. Just stop right in the middle of that fire-breathing sentence and pull yourself together. Listen to what you just said and how awful it sounded. Walk away from your kids for a second if you have to, but take a moment from spitting venom and cool down. It’s not easy to admit, but the truth is, toddlers aren’t the only ones who have meltdowns! If you need to, phone a friend. Sometimes distraction or talking with a supportive person is enough to change our attitude.
Go strait up zen and breathe in and out meditation style. Listen to your breath. Let your heart rate fall. If you need to, talk to yourself. Pray. Mediate. It’s up to you. Because I’m a Christian, I often call out the enemy and rebuke him out loud. I recognize that I’m in a battle with an enemy who wants to steal my joy (John 10:10) and devour me (1 Peter 5:8). Compose yourself and decide not to act like that.
If there is one thing that I learned with my psychology degree, it’s that hurting people hurt other people. When we are hurting or depleted inside, it rears it’s ugly head in the form of lashing out. Normally there are rational explanations for our mood. Maybe we are running on a few hours of sleep. Maybe our kids aren’t feeling well. Maybe we’re just all a little tired of being cooped up in the house. It sometimes helps to get to the bottom of why we’re so moody. And if it’s your kids’ behavior that set you off, consider they are hurting or frustrated about something too. This is the place where reason and compassion meet. Gain some perspective and remember you control what happens next. You have a great life and you have so many things for which to be happy and grateful.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”- Maya Angelou
If you’re anything like me, you had grand plans for your day that suddenly feel like they have been hijacked. You must realize that that is a symptom of needing to be in control. Your plans. Your way. Things don’t always go the way we planned and we must accept that. Be willing to let housework go for a day. It’s never ending anyway. I promise you, there would be housework tomorrow even if you worked today. No load of laundry is as important as loving your child.
Reprioritize and remove unnecessary commitments. So many times our moodiness comes from a place of being overwhelmed and frustrated. Take a good hard look at what you have on your plate. Remove unnecessary things that are weighing you down and reorder what you do have, spreading them out into manageable chunks. Delegate tasks to your husband. Most people don’t help, because they don’t know they’re needed.
That brings us to the next crucial thing. Ask for help. That friend, parent, in-law, sibling or neighbor who always says, “let me know if you need something,” is the one you need to call. People don’t go around offering help if they don’t mean it. If they offer, it’s because they truly don’t mind. Swallow your pride and ask for help. No one is going to think any less of you. If you are truly struggling you need to call on the people that love you for help. Sometimes just having some support changes everything.
This is the hard part. Letting it go. Once emotions are settled and the moment has passed, we are quick to feel guilt and condemn ourselves. Identifying regrets is a healthy way to stop ourselves from making the same mistake, but it can become unhealthy if we wallow in self-pity and condemn ourselves. That’s because over time, we believe what we say about ourselves. If you constantly tell yourself you’re a failure and a bad mother, you’ll start to believe it. Don’t give into that. Part of self-care and self-love is forgiving yourself. Allow yourself to be human, including making mistakes. This life is about progress, not perfection. Hold yourself accountable. Apologize if necessary. Commit to change. Move forward.
It is awful that are children see us at some of our worst moments. But even in our adult-sized tantrum we can show our children how to regain self-control. Don’t be hard on yourself, mama. You got this!