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Mama Drama: Mad Mama

Dear Mama Drama:

I struggle with a low tolerance for frustration with my children when I am tired or not feeling well. Most of the time I handle things well and other times – seemingly out the blue – I just lose it with them. I feel like a good parent most of the time, but feel so guilty when I get impatient and angry with them.

~Explosive Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Explosive:

Thank you for being open about your struggles. Please know you are not alone and that all moms (and dads) have these moments. Most of us don’t talk about them because, like you, we feel guilty about them. I encourage you to be gentle with yourself, acknowledging the difficulties and taking time to care for yourself.

Being aware that you don’t want to respond in this way toward your children is an important first step.  Making a plan for how you want to react the next time that situation arises is the next.

Plan ahead for the times of day or week that you often find yourself tired and overwhelmed. Ask for support from your husband, partner, neighbors, friends, or other support people in your life. And ask your kids for help. It is great modeling for us to tell our kids, “Mom is really tired now and I’m feeling grumpy. I need your help. You can help me by doing what I ask right away and making friendly choices while you play with your brother.”

Knowing that those moments are part of life, raise your awareness about your thinking when they come up. Remember to keep the frustrating behavior in perspective, no one is going to die if they don’t brush their teeth this second, there are dirty clothes on the floor, or the toys didn’t get put away. Frustrating? Yes. Life threatening? No. Try to keep your response at the same level as the offense and remind yourself of this when you find yourself on the verge of exploding.

Breathe. Seems simple, yes, but so often we forget to do it. Breathe before you respond. Breathe when you find yourself spinning off into negative thinking. Breathe when you are tired and feeling overwhelmed. Deep into the belly, slow and steady. Stay focused on the breathing until you’re calm enough to think rationally.

Take time for yourself. We often feel overwhelmed for a very good reason. We are! Parenting is a full time job, 24-7, and it is easy to lose our perspective.  Exercise, take a hot bath, walk with a friend, enjoy your favorite book, movie, or television program. Find what fills your cup and plan it into your life on a regular basis.

Find some new strategies. Books, videos, websites, tapes/cds on parenting are all great resources. My favorites are from the Love and Logic series and books by Dr. Sears. Other ideas are  How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too by Sal Severe, Ph.D. (always makes me laugh and feel a bit less cranky) and Humor, Play, and Laughter – Stress Proofing Life with Your Kids by Joseph Michelli, Ph.D. And of course you can always peek back at previous Mama Drama columns for ideas, too. 🙂

Use visual cues for yourself. I have a quote on my wall that I turn to when I feel the way you have described. I use it to remind myself with gentleness of my purpose as a parent, “Remember you are not managing an inconvenience, you are raising a human being.” You can also put phrases you want to practice saying on sticky notes and put them wherever you need them most such as the car, kitchen, bathroom, etc.

Sometimes parenting does feel like an inconvenience, but it’s important to remind ourselves how much we love these little people who make us so crazy and insane and that our time with them is limited and precious, even when we think we can’t stand another minute. I once said to my sons when I was frazzled beyond reason, “I’m at the end of my rope!” My darling preschooler replied in earnest with his big brown eyes, “Climb back up, Mama, climb back up!” Of course he was absolutely right and that is exactly what I had to do. None of us our perfect, but being reflective and making choices to support ourselves and our children allows us to improve every day.

Hang in there, be gentle with yourself and your kids, and breathe.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

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  1. I find usually when I get frustrated with my kids, its more about me actually and not them. Im tired, rushed or hungry (=low blood sugar) and cannot handle the situation like I usually can. Step away and take care of what you need to take care of and dont take it out on the kids. You will thank yourself later.

  2. Great perspective, thanks!

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