Handling Mommy Meltdowns and Getting Rid of the Guilt

mommy meltdown NAM picKrissy wrote about “Mommy Meltdowns” recently. She was honest with her feelings. I think most moms have felt the same feelings:

  • Needing moments to yourself
  • Having a rush of emotions (frustration, anger, guilt, exhaustion) all at the same time
  • Feeling ill equipped for the demands of parenting
  • Wondering what you’re doing wrong
  • Wondering what’s wrong with you that you feel “this way”

No one prepares you for the emotional roller coaster ride called motherhood. When you’re pregnant with your first child you have a lot of ideas about what being a mom is going to be like:

  • Kids playing in the backyard and coming to you when you call them
  • Children crawling on your lap and saying, “I love you, Mom”
  • Having a meal together full of fun and laughter
  • Magical moments with your kids filling you full of joy.

And then reality happens:

  • The baby screams non-stop through the night
  • You lack sleep spanning several years
  • Kids don’t come when they’re called
  • Mealtime is filled with spills, tears, and fighting
  • Kids don’t want to be held and won’t hold still
  • Your child says, “I hate you.”

Pregnancy books don’t’ have an appendix in the back for real motherhood.

In these moments, the meltdowns compound feelings of shame and guilt. I’ve talked to many moms of various ages and stages who whisper about guilt they feel for various reasons:

  • Feeling selfish for wanting “me” time
  • Feeling angry because they don’t like their child’s behavior
  • Feeling responsible for their child’s unruly actions
  • Feeling trapped in an endless cycle of frustration
  • Feeling hurt by their children’s words or actions
  • Feeling like a failure because they’re not meeting their husband’s needs like they should
  • Feeling “not good enough” because they can’t do what the other moms do
  • Feeling exhausted at meeting everyone’s needs
  • Feeling crazy because they just want to leave it all {in the moment}
  • Feeling disillusioned because motherhood wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When we have moments where we “lose it,” there are a few choices of how to respond:

  • Continue on the emotional “I can’t handle this” roller coaster, making ourselves and everyone miserable (Been there, done that).
  • Leave the situation to take care of your needs in the moment (Moms need time outs, too!)
  • Stay in the moment while taking care of your needs (This takes some practice and skill!)
  • Call someone you trust who you can vent to, who can pray with you, and give you empathy and perspective.
  • Pray.

Obviously the first response is not the best choice. Children take their cues from us. When they’re already cranky and whiny, adding more crankiness and yelling to the moment doesn’t help them or us. Valuable principles to manage your emotions when the parenting pressure cooker is about to burst includes:

  • Knowing your limits. When you feel negative energy begin to rise, decide what you need to do right then to simmer down. Go another room, park the car and walk around it a few times – all the while praying for God’s presence and calm in the situation. Whatever is happening can wait unless it endangers the safety of a child. Put a child in a crib if needed – even if he’s crying – so you can gain peace and composure.
  • Give grace to yourself. Every child will have meltdowns and a range of ugly emotions. Whininess, pushing the limits, disobeying and tantrums is normal in a child’s development. Tell yourself their behavior is normal and don’t put on the “guilt” t-shirt every time.
  • Pray and ask for God’s perspective and wisdom in the moment. There are times you feel like the moments you are in will never cease. When you don’t know what to do with your child’s behavior or your own, ask God what to do – He will tell you if your heart is open to listening. He knows our children even better than we do and He’ll help you!
  • Practice routine self-care. Commit to something that that feeds your soul as a woman apart from being a mom. Attend a bible study, a book club, or trade babysitting so you can get groceries and a Starbucks coffee by yourself. Guilt-free. It’s okay.

As a mom who just sent her oldest of four off to college for her senior year, I could say mommy-meltdowns go away. They don’t. I’ve had an emotional week of my own parenting middle schoolers and high schoolers in addition to college-bound seniors. The balance rests in giving grace to yourself and each other, asking for forgiveness when needed, and being proactive in taking care of yourself. And knowing that motherhood isn’t for saints, but sinners saved by grace.

How can we pray for you this week? Please let us know. Krissy and I love you – we’re all in this together!

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