Parenting is tough work. Parenting in a pandemic? Harder.
Try these proven tactics the next time you’re are about to lose it on your kids.
You are a superhero. I know that, because you are mom. This work is not for the faint of heart, and most of us stepped into it not knowing what the heck we were getting ourselves into. Oh, we thought we knew, didn’t we? We thought about all the ways in which we would show up as a parent. The organic food we would make for our children that they would happily scarf down in gratitude.The parenting techniques we would abide by that would be sooooo effective that our kids would be the most behaved on the block. The sleep training we swore we would do (and the sleeping arrangements we swore we would never do) that left us feeling refreshed every morning.
We didn’t plan for the uneaten food, day after day. The heartbreak of seeing all of our efforts go to waste. The worrying about whether our kids were getting enough nutrients with so many uneaten meals. The dismay when our kids aren’t responding the way the books said they would if we spoke to them a certain way. The utter exhaustion and “bad habits” we are now into from rocking and nursing our kids to sleep, and finally just letting them sleep in our beds because, gosh darnit, we are too tired for anything else.
An Inconvenient Truth:
Superheroes without a cape.
(photo credit: Pexels/EnginAkyurt)
So here is what happens after a few weeks or months of motherhood: we realize the harsh, inconvenient truth: we have to be superheroes without the benefit of immorality. We are still, unfortunately, human, with all the limitations that a human comes with. Like the need for sleep. And rest. And alone time. And peace and quiet from time to time (is it really too much to ask?).
As human mothers working at superhero levels, we are tired AF (I’m sorry but there is no better term for it). There is only so much patience and poise we possess before we absolutely lose our minds. And when we are operating on little sleep and even littler patience, you know what happens with our littles: power struggles. They can smell our overwhelm from a mile away, and they react not by comforting us, because that’s not their job. They feel unsafe and then they throw tantrums, because they know no other way to operate.
(I’m suddenly reminded of a plaque at my cottage that read: “stress: the desire to kick the s*&t out of somebody who desperately needs it.” Accurate. Though I didn’t ever think I would feel that way about my child.)
The Truth About Pandemic Parenting:
The moms are not ok.
(photo credit: Pexels/KseniaChernaya)
So many days of the week – especially parenting in this pandemic, which should be considered an extreme sport, by the way – we get pushed to our absolute limit. Nay, beyond our absolute limit. Way beyond it. So what happens?
We snap. Our senses are overloaded (hear more about moms and sensory overload on this episode with occupational therapist and coach for busy moms, Brooke Weinstein). And when our senses get overloaded – boom – we snap at the closest victim, which is usually our children.
Suddenly you hear this voice coming out of you, one you don’t recognize, one that is angry and yelling and saying things in such a manner that you swore you’d never do or say all those years ago when you were reading those parenting books:
“BRUSH YOUR TEETH!! NOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!”
“PICK OUT A PAIR OF SHOES AND GET OUT THE DOOR RIGHT THIS INSTANT!”
“IF YOU DON’T TURN OFF THE IPAD RIGHT NOW THERE WILL BE NO SCREEN TIME TOMORROW!!!”
“YOU DO WHAT I SAY! WHY? BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
The Inevitable Aftermath of Snapping:
Guilt & Shame
(photo credit: Pexels/LizaSummer)
The moment you lose your shit, you feel that instant ping of guilt. Shame. Remorse. How could I yell at my sweet innocent little child? What have I become?
You apologize, which is good, because modeling an apology for our children is really important. Not only does it show them how to have healthy relationships, but it also shows them that people make mistakes, and that you can recover from them. It’s actually how life works. It’s how we grow. So yay for that.
But not yay for losing it in the first place. Because you don’t feel good about getting to a place where you felt compelled to snap in the first place. Think of how many times you got to the point of losing your shit before you became a parent. Did it happen every day? Multiple times a day? I’m going to guess that no, it did not.
The Days of Yore:
Life BC: Before Children.
(photo credit: Pexels/JonathanBorba)
Before I became a parent, I fancied myself to be one of the most kind, patient and understanding people on the planet. And by all intents and purposes, I was. But I was also rested. My needs were taken care of. Not just once in a while. But every day. I slept well. Ate well. Got time alone to rest and restore. Got vacation time. Reading time. Just…time.
Is it starting to make sense now? Imagine before children if we had a little gremlin running around the house, demanding food, drink, shelter, clothing, toys, pulling and pushing things all over the house, making messes abound, pulling and poking and prodding at you. All. Day. Long. Do you think you’d be calm all the time? OF COURSE NOT!!! (I’m sorry, did I just yell?)
Am I saying our children are gremlins? No. But they are kind of like the a**hole cat videos that are so popular on You Tube, knowing down vases off dressers for no good reason. It’s not cool!
Ok, so now am I saying that children are like asshole cats? Well, sort of! But they are much worse, because cats are quiet in their opinions. Children are very much not.
(I’m only half kidding).
Ok, enough comparing our children to gremlins and animals.
Let’s get to the good news:
If you’re losing your shit with your kids, you’re not alone.
(photo credit: Pexels/AndreaPiacquadio)
In fact, there is a very good reason for it.
Everyone has a breaking point, and depending on how old your kids are (and how many you have), you probably reached yours…oh about a week after you gave birth, and then again about two weeks into the pandemic when you realized there was no end in sight and you felt like you might suffocate.
What’s even better than the fact that you are not alone is that there are some real scientific tools we as mothers – and parents, really – can use right now to help lessen the occurrences of these often regrettable though completely understandable outburts. I’m here to share 4 of them with you here, right now.
1. Breathe, mama. Breathe.
But do it properly. Allow me to explain.
When you feel your anxiety rising throughout the day, and you are about to flip your lid at your kids, take a pause to breathe. It will reset your nervous system and instantly calm you down (more on the science of breath here).
Everyone responds differently to different breathing techniques and there are many you can do. We are all unique and what works for me might not work for you!
Step 1. Breath in to the count of four : 1…..2….3….4
Step 2. Hold that in breath for the count of four: 1…2…3…4
Step 3. Slowly release that breath for the count of four: 1…2…3…4
Step 4. Hold that there, don’t take a breath, just hold it for the count of four: 1…2…3…4.
Step 5. Now try this again but instead of counting to four, try counting to 5 or 6.
Here is a visual for reference:
2X Breathing from Ziva Meditation
If you’re looking for a guided meditation course that can teach you how to meditate anywhere, anytime, and without any crazy hand positioning of woo woo chanting, look no further than Ziva Meditation. The founder, Emily Fletcher, is a former Broadway dancer who cured her insomnia in one night after learning how to meditate in India. She has since shared her experience with thousands of busy working professionals, celebrities, moms and even children (they just released ZivaKids – a meditation course for children!) how to harness the power of breathing and meditation in order to make them more productive and less stressed. And she has the science to prove it.
Emily teaches a basic breathing technique inside the course called 2X breathing. Here is how it works.
Step 1: Breathe in for 2 counts.
Step 2: Hold it at the top and then try to sip in a little bit more air.
Step 3. Now breathe out for 4 counts. Try to hold out the air at the bottom for a second or two.
Step 4. Now breathe in normally.
Repeat this a few times, then breath in for 3 counts and out for 6, and then in for 4 counts and out for 8. Do this as many times as you need to in order to feel calmer. Even a minute will make a difference.
Did you try it? How do you feel? Did that make a difference in your mood at all? I hope so!
Okay mamas, let’s move on. And when I say move, I mean MOVE!
2. Move Your Body out of stress
How? By MOVING YOUR BODY.
I had a wonderful interview with occupational therapist and coach for busy moms, Brooke Weinstein, about how important it is to move our bodies, for kids and adults alike. Why? Because in order to move feelings through our bodies, we need to literally move our bodies! We need to move that energy through.
So the next time you want to lose your mind, try some movement first. You don’t have to get your workout gear on or go anywhere special to do it. Just move where you are! Drop down in the kitchen and do some squats. Put on a fun song and dance around the house with the kids. There are so many ways to move! Here are some other suggestions for you:
- Do arm circles and ankle rolls
- Do hip circles – for more about the beauty and benefits of hip circles check out my interview with Tandy Gutierrez
- Stretch – simply reach down and touch your toes, spread your legs and reach to one side, then the other. Let your head hang heavy in the middle. Shake your head yes and no.
- Shoulder rolls
- Take your dog for a walk (you can also take your iguana or goldfish too – whatever suits you)
- Play Tag with your Kids
- Do Crab Walk Races
- Do Alternating Lunges
- Run of jog
- Jump Rope
- Do a sun salutation (or a full yoga class if you can!)
- Do 30 minutes of Pilates (my favorite is this online studio with Tandy Gutierrez of Unicorn Wellness)
Move it or lose it, mama! For real!
3. Catch yourself in the act.
I recently interviewed Melinda Moyer Wenner, a parenting and science journalist about her book, How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes. Of the many nuggets of wisdom she shared on the show, one of them was about what to do when you’re about to snap at your children!
She shared about a book by clinical social worker, Carla Naumburg called How to Stop Losing Your Shit With Your Kids. Melinda tried to summarize one of the strategies Carla discusses in the book about what to do when you’re about to snap at your kids.
She reiterates the importance of first recognizing your triggers: too many noises, too many messes, too many things going on. What triggers you? Basically, what makes it impossible for you to think rationally? Try your best to control those. For example, I get triggered by too many noises. So if the radio is on and the TV is on and everyone is screaming, I’m more likely to lose it. So I’ll turn off the TV and turn down the radio and lessen the amount of noise I can within my control. That’s the first step: figure out what can you do to manipulate your environment to help you calm down.
This doesn’t make you immune from losing it, of course, but it helps. The next step is to be able to recognize the moment before you’re about to snap. There are often 2 seconds where you recognize you’re about to snap. You won’t always catch yourself, but with practice, when you’re in those 2 seconds before unleashing the primitive yell, stop and literally do anything else. Run into the closet and close the door. Do a crazy dance. Intentionally place your hands on the counter and take 3 deep breaths (do you see how all these techniques play into themselves?).
4. I’m going to say the M word:
Finding peace and calm inside yourself at the beginning and end of each day can be incredibly helpful. But it can also be a little intimidating. Who has time for a 40 minute meditation? Who even has time for 1 minute of meditation a day? I can barely pee without a child on my lap, much less sit in silence alone for a minute.
If you’ve got 40 minutes to meditate each day, good on you, mama. Do it! But if you’re more like me where finding even 5 minutes is a blessing, use that 5 minutes for all it’s worth. I aim to meditate for 5 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up. And even if they are up, if my partner is around, I’ll boldly request 5 minutes to myself to meditate, or as I like to call it, become an able bodied human, before starting the mayhem of the day (I have 2 young children. It’s mayhem).
And then before I go to bed at night, I take another 5 minutes to myself. I have watched this transform my life and my state of being ever so subtly into a calmer and more centered mother. It’s not foolproof, of course. Nothing really is (except for chocolate). But my gosh, it has been a game changer for me. I honestly don’t lose it as much with my kids, and I can compartmentalize all the moving parts of my busy days at home with the kids (the screaming, the messes, the cooking, the cleaning, the tantrums, the meltdowns, the chasing the kids around the house trying to get clothes and diapers on…you get the picture).
And bonus – meditating before bed has actually improved my quality of sleep, so even though I may not be getting the quantity I once got, at least I’ve been able to improve the quality.
The science is clear on this, mamas. When our mind is clear we are better at making decisions, and you know how many small and large decisions we have to make throughout the day. So if you can give meditation a try then do so for yourself and for your family.
If you’re wondering where to start, try just sitting in silence for 5 minutes. If you’d rather have a guided meditation, there are plenty of free options on You Tube, or you can get an app like Calm or The Tapping Solution. You could also try the meditation course I referenced earlier from Ziva Meditation.
Another option is Meryl Arnett’s 10-15 minute guided meditations found here.
Any option is a good option if it gets you meditating, mama!
We aren’t going to stop losing our shit with our kids. We’re just not. As moms, we are operating on sensory overload most of the day, and there is only so much any human being can handle before they break. So normalize it and stop guilting and shaming yourself about it. But do something about it too. If you do nothing else, remember to breathe. How many times a day do you catch yourself holding your breath? I promise you, it’s adding to the stress. And fun fact: breathing is free and you can do it anywhere. So it’s a pretty effective strategy for managing stress. So is dancing and moving your body! You can do it anywhere! Meditating is a little harder, I’ll give you that, but my gosh is it ever worth its weight in gold (or rather, measured in the moments that I don’t end up losing my shit with my kids).
You’ve got this, mama.
Thank you for reading this post! It was written among brain fog and sleep deprivation, so please forgive any typos and run on sentences. If you aren’t already listening to our podcast, go ahead and check it out here and subscribe if it resonates!
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