I was on the way home from a crazy day at the office and traffic was awful. I knew I was headed to a messy house and kids in the prime of the “witching hour,” so I spent the drive trying to prepare myself to be a good mom once I got home. Still, re-entry was tough.
“When you’re coming home from busy day, knowing everything’s going to be in chaos, be kind to yourself, says Tanya Feinberg, M.D., a Scottsdale child and adolescent psychiatrist. “Try to let things go as much as possible.”
Don’t worry about the mess, she says. “The kids need dinner and baths and then they really need to cuddle and read and they need a nighttime debrief about the day. Make that your focus. It’s hard to be peaceful when the place is a disaster but remind yourself that the difficult phases pass. In a few years you can call to tell the kids you’re coming home and tell them they need to have the playroom cleaned up [before you get there].”
If you do snap at your kids, don’t beat yourself up. We’re all human. Just go back later, apologize for losing control and explain that you were upset about something that wasn’t your child’s fault, Feinberg recommends.
“I tell my kids when I don’t respond with integrity that mommy had a fit,” says marriage and family therapist DeAnna Wahlheim, of the Family Resource and Recovery Center in Phoenix. “When I scream and yell I’m not using my words like I tell them to do. If I do lose my words and have a fit I can always repair. I can say, ‘Wow. Mommy lost her words. What you did wasn’t okay but that’s not how Mommy should handle it.”
Wahlheim offers the following insights to help parents handle stressful situations:
• View your kids’ behavior as a learning process. They are not intending to irritate you.
• In the heat of the moment, it’s okay to say “I’m going to have to do something about this, but not right now.” Deal with the situation when you are ready.
• When your kids’ behavior is escalating and they are setting you off but not hurting each other, walk away and let them work it out.
• Repeat to yourself: “When I feel like yelling, I will whisper.”
• Share your own feelings when you are frustrated, angry and upset so your kids will learn to do the same.
For a more permanent solution, take the stress level of your life down a couple of notches by cutting out activities and obligations that are not essential. Accept help when people offer and take some time each week to meet your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Because we all know, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”