I sent my husband a text with the dancing lady emoji that said, “They won’t break me!”
Sometimes it seems that my children’s behavior is determined to break me down. Sometimes I let it. Because no matter how much work you put into your kids and how much you love them, you have those days when you are ready to call it quits, toss people off the front porch, head out on a run, and end up somewhere with ice cream instead.
That particular day we had scattered some well-sorted and stacked piles of paperwork that were in the office. We had flung pasta all over the kitchen during lunch (mama’s gotta go to the bathroom sometime!), we had poured water out of our cup into the van cupholder and splashed around in it with our hands, we had peed in the floor instead of the potty, you get the idea. (Notice I carefully left our any incriminating names.) You all have mornings, or afternoons, that you can line up similarly. It’s just one thing after another and you find yourself sitting on the table beside the fish tank asking for grace and more grace to not explode.
Regardless of what it seems like my little ones aren’t the enemy. They are little and they are learning and they need a lot of correction some days. I get to choose my reaction, my attitude, and my next step. But I get to choose whether or not it will break me. I refuse to give my children, or anyone else, that type of power over me.
It’s easiest me to blame these types of days on the children, like I never had them before I was a mama. Of course I did, but I like my pity parties occasionally. These days are part of life and if it weren’t the children, it would be something else. I don’t want to veer into the black hole of motherhood by determining that my children are the cause of my misery. There’s just misery in life sometimes; it will come from somewhere.
If I learn to respond well to these days they are making me more like Jesus (or at least they better be, because what a waste otherwise!). I cling to that hope when I want to pull out my hair and I try again to speak calmly through gritted teeth.
There are a few things I do to give myself a boost on these trying days.
Change the scenery.
Put on sweatshirts and tennis shoes, pop the toddler in the stroller and the baby in a wrap, and let the big kids ride bikes. We live in a rural area where we can just go down the road that way and we do, often. Go on a drive to McDonald’s for fries and listen to a podcast on the way. Text a friend and meet up at the park and let everyone burn off some energy before dinner.
Turn on cheerful music.
Just in time for cooler weather and starting my “how to survive the winter” list, I rediscovered my love for the Sound of Music soundtrack. It makes me happy. I like to turn it on in the afternoons when we’re finishing school and starting dinner and cooler air is coming in the back door. Find your happy music. When you are having a bad day, don’t listen to the music about bad days. That won’t help you. (Try JJ Heller or Johnnyswim on Spotify. Also, you can never go wrong with Norah Jones.)
Remind yourself of truth.
Pull your kids close and tell them you love them. Snuggle and read some stories. Fix a snack to eat outside or picnic-style in the living room. The work of motherhood may be trying but it’s also a privilege. The hard days are the reason that I can take my kids in public and enjoy it most of the time. The work will pay off.
Maybe head to bed early that night but pray for a heart that’s ready for the work in the morning. Or in a few hours when the baby is awake and ready to eat. The work matters and God has grace for you.
Share your struggles.
We like to preserve our self-image by pretending we don’t struggle. That only discourages other mamas. “Me too” goes a long way. Don’t believe me? Consider this- when someone seems to not struggle, I feel broken. When I see someone rise to the challenge and maybe even thrive in the struggle, I learn to fight well, to not give up, to endure the hard things.
We’re going to have hard days. Hard doesn’t mean bad. And we aren’t alone.