Are you like me?
I can hold it together pretty well with the chaos of my children for most of the day. But, come nighttime I end up snapping.
By the end of the day I crave—desperately need—think that I will die if I don’t get some–alone time. I mean “the quiet, please no one talk to me, let me engross myself into something other than children and chores” time.
Today is a perfect example. We went to the zoo. First we bought three buckets of popcorn, then we rode the zoo train, walked around the zoo, had lunch, fed the birds little containers of nectar, brushed the goats and pigs at the petting zoo, watched the crocodiles being fed white rats, got some ice cream, left the zoo, went to pick up a picture at the photographer’s studio, stopped by Grandma’s house for a quick visit, and then met Scott for dinner.
The day began at 7 am and ended around 9pm. And even though there were sibling squabblings along the way, it was in fact a great day and everyone had a lot of fun—including me!
But by 9 pm and after getting last minute snacks and wrestling everyone into showers and reading books and then discovering that one of the boys had had an accident the previous night and didn’t tell us. . .I was DONE. I mean I was ready to explode type of done. I–need-to-get-out-of-here-now type of DONE.
So, as I stomped to the laundry room to get clean sheets I did what I usually do. I exploded all over Scott, who was in fact right in the game helping to get everyone to bed. “I HAVE BEEN WITH THEM ALL DAY. I HAVE STUFF I NEED TO DO!” I yelled. “I HAVE A TON OF EMAILS, GIRL SCOUT REGISTRATIONS AND I DON’T HAVE ANY FRUIT FOR TOMORROW!” The list seems a little funny right now.
The bad part is that the children weren’t asleep yet. (Yes, you may cringe here.) Like a two year old who can’t hold it together, I began my tantrum. As I went back to kiss Marc and Maddie goodnight, Maddie said to me, “Mom, tomorrow I’ll watch Dylan so you can do some things.”
I felt awful.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend and she mentioned a website, The Orange Rhino in which this mom (known on her site as THE ORANGE RHINO or TOR ) started a challenge not to yell at her children for an entire year! (I would include my spouse in this because often he is the brunt of the end of the day melt downs.) She is now into her second year of not yelling. My friend commented on how much happier she has been since she adopted the no yelling challenge.
The Orange Rhino post today especially hit home. It was entitled, If I were a kid. . . and was all about putting herself into her kids’ shoes and, well, what she would want if she were a kid.
I’ll add my own to her list, “If I were a kid I’d want my mom to take me to the zoo and have fun with me and the family, and not melt down at the end of the day about what she didn’t get done by not staying at home—or how much money everything cost at the zoo. I’d want to know that it was just a great day!”
So, I’m joining the challenging. Believe it or not, I actually started today and while at the zoo Maddie said to me, “Mom, you haven’t yelled at anyone all day!” Part of me thought, “Yeah, I’ve got this down.” while the other part quickly asked herself, “Do I yell that much that a day without it is THAT noticeable?” Honestly, I don’t really consider myself too much a yeller–except that when I lose it, I really lose it.
I was able to hold it together today, but when the time night time came, I couldn’t do it any longer. I was fried.
In truth it is not that easy to stop “losing it” because yelling or getting angry is a response usually not inspired by the children or by the husband, but by something going on my head: tiredness (okay, let’s just call it exhaustion), being overwhelmed by everything, realizing that a perfect whatever (body, house, activities, birthday parties—somebody stop me!) isn’t going to be perfect because there just isn’t enough time or energy. It is often the realization that my best is so far short of what I want it to be. As a friend who is a mother of six children once said, “My standards are rock bottom. They can’t get any lower.”
The other half (or maybe it is the entire thing) of not yelling is to make sure that as a mom our needs are being met too—that we are getting what we need whether it is sleep, or quiet time, or time to totally lose ourselves in a project or exercise. We need to pursue activities that aren’t always related to our families. We need to also drink from the water fountain of fun from time to time.
It is the ability to recognize that getting what we need as an individual is what gives the balloon of our family life its lift. I really need to think about—pray about—what I need personally in order to be a good mom and wife. Those things I need outside of the family that make me a better person within it.
Connection. . .Community. . .Solitude. . .Creativity. . .Achievement. . .Assistance
This last one, assistance, is the hardest, but I also know that it is the one I return to and disregard. In my, “I should be able to do this by myself” mode of operation or “I’ll save more money if I don’t hire a sitter to watch the children for the afternoon” I tend to run myself ragged and I end up resenting my husband and my children for having what I consider I gave up: a chance to get away and just breathe.
I constantly tell new moms of multiples, “Don’t feel guilty about getting the help you need!” And, most importantly, “Don’t compare yourself with other moms.” So often moms feel guilty about not being able to do it all their own. When I hear this from a new mom I just want to hug her and say, “No, getting some help will make you a better mom–not show the world that you are incompetent.” Being a parent is hard. . .and without sleep for new moms it is damn hard. To all stay-at-home moms, I say, “Hire someone for at least one day a week so that you can go off and do something non-family related.” When Maddie and Marc were babies I did just that and it made a world of difference for me.
But lately I haven’t been following my own advice and everyone in the house has been feeling the affects. I need to step away in order to be a better participant. It is also recognizing that the family doesn’t fall apart if I’m not there for an afternoon or–here’s a crazy thought: for the entire day!
What is the line from Luke 4:23, “Physician, heal thyself. . .”
So, the challenge, two fold as it is: not yelling AND determining what “needs” need to be met. Maybe the third challenge is actually getting the help to make sure that the second part of the challenge actually succeeds.
At the end of the day, I don’t want my children to say, as Will has been saying to me lately, “Mom, I’m sorry that you have so much work to do after we go to sleep.” I want them to have memories of a mom who, because she knew what she needed, was happy and enjoyed her children and all of the gifts and challenges of being a mom. A mom strung out on stress and yelling as a pressure release valve is not a good childhood memory.
This will be hard. But the alternative is not a viable path to continue traversing. Will you join me in the challenge of not yelling for a year?