Everyone occasionally has days from Hell. Days when you want to pull your hair out, or scream. We’ve all had moments we’ve been driven to the edge by our kids. Moments we’ve wanted to hide in the bathroom or anywhere else we can be alone. Moments we’ve had trouble recognizing ourselves in the mirror. We’ve all had moments that we’ve been ashamed of our parenting, of how we screamed with rage, or threatened, or grabbed our kids, or really really wanted to smack them, then felt like we really really suck at parenting because of the fear we saw in their eyes.
The truth is that parental meltdowns are far more common than we think, even among parents who seem to have it all. With the fatigue, doubts, and kids who seem to have perfected the act of pushing our buttons, it’s next to impossible to keep up the charade of being super-competent parents.
Speaking of “mother rage” in 1998, Anne Lamott had this to say: “All mothers have it. No one talks about it. That only makes it worse.” She continued, “If you need to yell, children are going to give you something to yell about. There’s no reasoning with them. If you get into a disagreement with a regular person, you slog through it; listen to the other person’s position, needs, problems; and somehow you arrive at something that is maybe not perfect, but you don’t actually feel like smacking them. But because we are so tired sometimes, when a disagreement starts with our child, we can only flail miserably through time and space and the holes in between; and then we blow our top.”
The not-so-great moments in parenting are rarely spoken about, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Here are a few things to remember when parenting gets tough.
1 | Everyone else is not doing better than you are
When parenting gets tough, we tend to think that everyone else is doing a better job. Truth is, everyone has their nightmare days, even when they look like they’ve perfected this parenting thing. Everyone has days they want to take a break from parenting, even if just for a few minutes.
2 | Connect with your kid after your explosion
Everyone loses it occasionally, but what really counts is what you do after your explosion. During the calm after the storm, connect with your kid. Explain. Apologize. It’s hard for kids to understand when we don’t explain why we “acted mean,” so it’s important to talk about it, without laying the blame at the feet of our kids. Even though our kids know exactly which buttons to push, we alone are responsible for our emotions. There’s an upside to parental meltdowns – they provide an opportunity to teach kids about emotions. Yes, everyone gets upset, but there are ways to repair the damage caused.
3 | Get a friend you can compare “worst parent scenarios” with
People tend to talk more about the positive aspects of parenting than the negative and frustrating moments. Kids can be creative, interesting, artistic and intelligent angels. They can also be sneaky, spiteful, and downright mean little trolls. Next time you’re with one of your trusted parent friends, open up about the less-angelic image of your kid. You’ll be surprised about the things she’ll tell you about hers (if she’s honest). Sharing about tough parenting situations makes it easier to accept the not-so-great moments.
4 | Find a place to hide
Everyone needs a place to hide when things get tough. The bathroom seems to be a favorite spot, but you can even leave the house if you are able to. Go swimming. Go read a book. Put up a “Do Not Disturb sign.” Take a walk. Just leave.
5 | Get support
Sometimes it helps to have someone to whom you can say, “I can’t handle this, can you take over?” It’s not giving up or giving in, it’s getting support.
6 | Remember that being “mean” is part of parenting
Being “mean” is part of being a parent, unless of course if you’re “mean” everyday, which might indicate you require some sort of professional help. Fortunately, kids rarely hold grudges, so the “mean” parent episodes are pretty short-lived.
7 | Banish the shame
One of the hardest things about parental meltdowns is the shame, the shame of not being a “good-enough” parent. It’s the shame of failing at parenting. The thing to remember is that having a meltdown does not make you less of a parent. It simply means that you’re real.
When things get really tough, keep in mind that what goes around, comes around. When you have grandchildren, it will be payback time!