There are days when a fussy baby or a whiny toddler can cause even the most patient mother lose her cool. Maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day, maybe your child continues to repeat a certain behavior that irks you, or potty-training and picky eating have you feeling peeved. After the birth of my second son, I found myself becoming frustrated with my preschooler over small behaviors that never used to bother me. Looking back, I realize that lack of sleep, postpartum baby blues, and the transition of going from one child to two likely contributed to my mood swings. At the time, I knew I wasn’t feeling like myself and I hated snapping at my preschooler over little things. I chose to start an anti-depressant (after speaking with my OBGYN, pharmacist, and mom friends), but I also identified behaviors that most often caused me to lose my temper, in hopes of regaining my sanity and once-peaceful household. If you’re a mom who is struggling with feeling frazzled, you’re not alone! Hopefully you can find inspiration in the strategies I rely on when I’m running ragged. Because let’s face it, sometimes you just plain don’t feel like pretending to be Lightning McQueen, you’ve asked your preschooler to put on socks 8 times, the baby is teething, you’re already 5 minutes late for the doctor’s appointment and OMG….is that pee on the kitchen floor??
Make Chores Into A Game
I’ve discovered that loading laundry into the washing machine becomes exciting to a 3-year-old when he pretends to be a front loader. The same goes for helping dad plant a tree in the backyard. An imaginary excavator is infinitely more interesting than digging a hole with a regular old shovel. When I was on vacation with my college bestie, I watched one of her methods for encouraging her kids to complete a task and I have shamelessly copied it. To combat a messy playroom filled with toys, I say to my son, “I bet I can pick up more toys than you!”. He loves it when I make clean-up into a game instead of a chore. I use a similar tactic before bath time. “Would you rather walk to the bathroom like a bear, penguin, or a crab?” Get those creative juices flowing. One time I even let my son pick up all his toys using a pair of tongs. Thank you, Pinterest, for the idea! It took forever, but he had fun (and a bonus for the extra practice with motor skills).
Wake Up Before Your Kids
This one is tough for me. I prefer to sleep as long as humanly possible. What sleep-deprived mom doesn’t? But I have found that when I wake up a few minutes before my kids, I’m more productive that day and often in a better mood. Whether I use that time to drink coffee, read a devotion, scroll through my Facebook feed, or throw in a load of laundry, I enjoy this couple minutes of quiet time as I prepare for my day. Otherwise, I am awakened by the soothing rhythm of a 3-year-old jumping on my head and then I blearily wander into the kitchen to fix breakfast while my little babe howls to get out of his crib. I know I will never be a morning person, but waking up a little earlier is worth it if I can start my day with less stress.
Walking is one of my go-to remedies for crabbiness. Besides improving my mood and receiving my daily dose of Vitamin D, I want to show my kids the importance of taking a break from screen time, tablets, and all things technology to appreciate nature. Thank goodness we live within walking distance of a park and near several miles of walking trails! One of our neighbors joked about seeing me pulling my 3-year-old uphill in a wagon while wearing my infant in a carrier. This person was likely not accustomed to witnessing the desperation of a mother who has been cooped up in the house with a crying baby and a preschooler who asks 13,000 questions per day. We are serious about our walks!
The other day, I was with my husband and kids at Lowe’s. We were looking at bathroom fixtures. The baby was fussing and my preschooler was running up and down the aisles wildly. I tried to focus on the faucets. I looked up, and my 3-year-old had somehow snagged an abandoned cart and climbed into the bottom part. Great. I could feel myself becoming irritated. I gave the baby to my husband and offered to take my preschooler to the restroom for a potty break. As we headed to the back of the store, we practiced silly voices and silly walking. After washing our hands, we used the hand dryer and my son put his head under the dryer to feel the warm air blowing his hair. We both laughed so hard! Laughing together is a fantastic stress-reliever, even if you’re laughing about something ridiculous like your child putting his head under the hand dryer at Lowe’s.
When all else fails, I eat disturbingly large amounts of peanut butter M&Ms while my kids are napping. When you see the entire roll of toilet paper your 2-year-old has joyously unfurled and you feel like screaming, stuff a piece of frosted cookie cake in your mouth and smile. It works wonders. If you prefer less-fattening alternatives, indulge in a warm bubble bath and a glass of wine or relax with your favorite DVR shows after the kids go down for bed.
We all have bad days and go through challenging seasons with our kids! However you choose to combat your crabbiness, identify those situations that trigger your meltdowns and be aware of your actions and attitudes.
How do you relax when life with kids gets chaotic?