Friday, January 20, 2012

Confessions of a Stressed-Out Mom

Being a mom is hard work, no matter who you are or your life circumstances. Sometimes I get so bogged down by the challenges that I forget to enjoy the good things that motherhood has brought to my life. So in the interest of transparency and a desire to make you all feel better about your Crappy Mom moments, I will share with you my confessions.

I have been a rotten mom for the last three-ish weeks. Really rotten. The kind of rotten that is eating away at my conscience and I'm pretty sure is giving me an ulcer. And I can't find a way to get out of this pattern. My kids have been gross and I've been even worse. My home has become a cacaphony of screaming, crying and non-stop arguing and most surfaces are covered in some manner of nose slime and bitter, angry tears. I can't seem to shut off my snap-response reaction; someone acts out, I yell and the cycle continues until I can hardly even look at them. The anger I feel is blinding and makes me feel so incredibly guilty. I love them, more than anything in the world, so why am I being so immature in the way I'm handling things?

My daughter is just now starting to implement some classic passive-aggressive revenge. For example: T is potty trained and completely capable of informing her caregivers when she needs to use the bathroom. But for the past few weeks she's been punishing me for sending her back to daycare after a lovely three weeks at home with her momma. She is pooping and peeing her pants all the time, informing me after the accident that she needs to go potty. She does it at home, at school and everywhere in between. I've been good about not yelling at her when the incidents occur but I do express my wishes that she inform me Prior to peeing all over the stairs. What makes me crazy is the little look that she casts my way - the one that says "Ha-ha, I win and there's nothing you can do about it." And heaven help me, she's right. She's also at that lovely stage where she cannot be brought out in public. You know what I'm talking about, every child goes through this stage, some more than once.

And my big boy has entered a phase of constant arguing. Everything I say is wrong. My driving is wrong. The way I'm pouring the milk is wrong. I'm doing the laundry wrong. I can't tell time correctly. I know nothing. In fact, it's amazing I survive each day with my complete lack of knowledge. If he keeps this up, he just may be ready for law school by the third grade. And I will certainly be driven to an early grave. Of course, I know better than to engage in an argument with a four-year-old. While he is capable of understanding bits of rationale, he still lives in the wonderfully narcissitic world of childhood. And while he enjoys knowing that he is always right, I can't stop myself from arguing and I can't figure out how to tune out the constant barrage of his version of You Suck.

Because I'm a reasonably intelligent woman, I've been trying to change the tone in our home by making more time for stories, snuggling, family fun and otherwise enjoyable activities. But no matter what I do, the big ones end up arguing and try as I might, my lap simply isn't big enough for three kids. I end up exasperated and give up easily. That's not the mom I want to be; it's not the mom I want my children to recall from their childhood. I find myself having to apologize almost nightly for my nastiness and it breaks my heart when G's response is simply a smile and "It's ok, mom." T will look at me with her sweet, open smile and tell me I'm beautiful. So what the hell is wrong with me?! Why can't I remember what lies beneath when T starts to channel Linda Blair in The Exorcist? And when G feeds me nothing but the four-year-old version of the middle finger all day?

I know that my actions and responses set the mood for my family and that the responsibility lies with me and only me. That's a heavy burden to carry and though I may be broad-shouldered in a literal sense, lately I haven't been strong enough to get out of my own way. What discourages me most is that I can be a really great mom. In fact, sometimes I even feel a little superior. Sometimes I impress myself with my ability to maintain a cool demeanor and refrain from internalizing the situation, or diffusing the uglies before they get out of hand. It makes me so sad when I lose that part of me, when I fail to live up to my own potential.

Last night I worked really hard to keep myself in check. I was silly and happy with the kids and exercised patience during the few moments it was needed. Not surprisingly, we had a great night. The best night I've had with my kids in months. I enjoyed every moment of our night together and found myself not wanting them to go to bed quite yet because I wanted a few more snuggles. There were no tantrums, no accidents, lots of giggling and some snuggling and I never had to raise my voice. They got through the bedtime routine without incident and said goodnight happily as I sang our Goodnight Song on my way down the stairs. All three of them slept late today; I'd hit the snooze button twice and was up reading my email before G came barreling into my room for a little snuggle before our day started. The kids woke up on their own, every one of them cheerful and sweet. The only incident came when it was time to get our jackets on G was arguing about shoes v. boots. He got it together and while I explained that I wasn't happy with his behavior I refrained from yelling and didn't escalate the tension further.

So, I did it. I got it together and my sweet kids came back. We had a great night, a great morning and all is well in the Schroeder house. But how do I keep it this way? How can I keep myself on this track and what do I do when I find myself veering off into Crappy Mom territory?


  1. I hear every word you say, and find myself tearing up due to my own guilt over my own mommy-nastiness. It's sooo hard to find a way to juggle the responsibilites of managing an entire house by yourself...single or married...and having a wonderful night/morning of cuddles and giggles and "forgetting" about all the other responsibilites hovering over your head. I think about my kids all day at work and think about how much I love them and miss them, and then I get home and I can't wait for them to go to bed due to the fighting, sassiness, "I wants", and them getting into EVERYTHING! I don't know how to make those wonderful, cozy nights and mornings continue every day, but last night and this morning were a wonderful start for you. I love you to the moon and back and I think you are a wonderful mommy. It really is the toughest job in the whole world.

  2. I'm certainly no master and often feel the way you do, Leah. Just KNOWING how you are feeling makes you a good mom--it means that you're doing you're best. I think you're doing what I try to do--practice mindfulness; being in the moment. I read it somewhere that kids can't push your buttons if you don't have any buttons to push. Easier said than done! But I do think that through mindfulness, the buttons aren't quite as easy to trigger.

  3. Well I thought I commented on this last week, but my paragraph is gone! Let me just say that I am totally right there with you! It's so hard to break out of being the crabby mom. I was 39 when I had Agnes and 40 when I had Ernie, and I truly thought I was going to be able to handle Motherhood -- thought I would be peaceful and calm and fun. I have my moments....